“If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.”
James 1: 26
James 1: 26-27
‘Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.’ These are words from an old English language rhyme that is intended to help children when facing bullying. The reality is that words count, they can and do hurt. As President-elect Joe Biden has recently expressed the words a President uses matter.
The Church is called to be a place where words are used wisely, lovingly and graciously (Colossians 4: 6); obscenity and gossip should not be present (Ephesians 5: 4). James has been taking us through the ‘senses’ in our life as God’s children. We are to be quick to listen, slow to speak. Our listening should result in understanding that transforms our doing. In today’s verses he moves onto the tongue; what we say. Three times in this opening chapter he talks about self-deception. We deceive ourselves if we do not understand that temptation can be found in our hearts. We deceive ourselves if we only listen to God’s Word without putting it into practice. Today he tells us that once again we deceive ourselves if we do not control our tongues. More than that though our faith, ‘our religion is worthless.’ James is truly calling for authentic living as God’s children; a life that imitates Jesus Christ.
This authentic living is meant to be pure and faultless; this is what God our Father accepts (vs. 27). As we considered on Monday obedience is not forced upon us. Obedience however IS transformational. As we listen to God and obey His Word we become more and more like Jesus, purity grows and faults reduce. This way of life has a practical outpouring of love to those in need, to the vulnerable (the orphans and widows of James’ day – the definition of ‘vulnerable’ seems to encompass many more today!). Of equal importance is the need to truly be God’s Children and not to live by the standards of the world (vs. 27).
We are therefore called to demonstrate love practically to those in need, to control our senses especially our tongue and to live as God’s children in this world without being polluted by it. In chapters 2, 3 and 4 James goes into greater depth on each of these areas.
This way of life is the calling God gives to us in Jesus Christ. It is where true freedom is found and where our lives bless others and glorifies God.
To Ponder: Do you have knowledge of God’s Word rather than obedience to it? If you look at your life, what you say and do, do you see the fruit of His Word or the ways of this world?
Pray: Heavenly Father we give thanks for the new life that you bless us with in Jesus Christ your Son, our Saviour. As we live this life transform us from our faults to the purity your ways. Keep our tongues from evil and our lips from deceitful speech. Let the words we use be transparent and honest, let the lives we live reflect your love to those in need. In your strength may we so bless others and glorify your name. Amen.
Praise: The Meditations of my heart by Elaine Hagenberg
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In 2023, each week's blog is a follow-up reflection written by the preceding Sunday’s preacher to dig deeper into the sermon topic and explore engaging discussion questions.