‘Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless’ (James 1:26).
In the letter of James, the tongue seems to be a problem (James 1:19; 2:12; 3:1-3, 14-18; 4:11-12). The words we use are a testimony that we are or are not followers of Jesus (Mark 7:15-23).
Whether our religion is true or not depends on what comes out of our mouths. The words “tight rein” here refer to those of a horse’s. During James’ time, much like today, the horse is used for transportation and also for labour work. To be able to ride a horse and to use it effectively, we have to be able to control it, or else it will go in different directions than where we intended. To control it, the rider keeps a tight rein on the horse. The reins is attached to the head of the horse, if we hold on to the rein tightly, we can control where it goes. Likewise, we need a tight rein to guard over our mouth.
What are the words we choose to use? What words come out of our mouths when we are frustrated? When we are angry? Our tongues can do great damages if we do not put a rein over it. I have seen the damages the tongue can do to the community of faith when people are not careful with their words. Once careless words are spoken in anger, whether in anger or without thinking, it will hurt others, and sometimes a relationship can not be repaired to how it used to be.
Jesus Christ also said, “For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” (Matthew 12:34). What comes out of our mouth is an indication what is in our hearts.
In this coming week, let us listen for words that tears down, belittle others or are hurtful. May be you can spot them in conversations on the television or even in our conversations with friends and family. May we be careful with the choice of words we use. We can either build up or tear down. Let us also consider it as a part of our spiritual discipline to watch over our tongues.