“If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.” James 3:3-5 (ESV)
I have ridden horses my whole life. I started when I was about three-years-old, and when I turned six, my parents bought me a pony for my birthday. I know what you’re thinking – spoiled much? But in my defense, my pony’s exceptionally naughty behavior compensated for my parents indulgence. One of her favorite tricks was pulling her head down to loosen my grip on the reins and she would then take off at a gallop across the field. In an attempt to address this issue, my trainer suggested that we use a different bit – a kimberwick. This bit was stronger and gave me more leverage so that when she tried to pull the reins from my hands, I could stop her. The bit made all the difference! Before, I was timid about riding in the open and on trails, but my new-found confidence in my ability to control my pony enabled me to be excited about riding through the fields and forests! It opened up a new world of possibilities for me and gave me a sense of freedom that I hadn’t experienced before.
In the verse above, James compares the influence of a horse’s bit to the influence of the human tongue. The image he paints is a vivid one: a small bit in the mouth of a horse enables us to control their whole body. Similarly, our tongue has great influence over our hearts and behavior. Much like how I was able to alter my pony’s behavior by changing her bit, we are able to experience change in our hearts by altering what comes out of our mouths. As James points out, despite the fact that our tongue is a small part of our body, it carries great influence and impact. Our words affect our mood and attitude, but they are also a reflection of what is in our heart. Do our words reveal that we are resting in the goodness of Christ? Or do they reflect a prideful, dissatisfaction with God? Do our words uplift and encourage others? Or do they pass judgment?
Praise the Lord that this struggle is not apart from Him! God is with us, and He longs for us to invite Him into our words. Dear friends, pray to Him today, and ask Him to guard your tongue so that your words would be filled with praise for His goodness and grace. Sing of His mercy and glory! We have every reason to glorify Him with our mouths, so let’s praise Him! Like the freedom I experienced by changing my pony’s bit, we can experience freedom in Christ, when we use our mouths to speak of His great love.
Lord, please help me to use my words for the good of Your Kingdom. Please guard my mouth and my heart so that everything I say is glorifying to You and pointing others to Christ. Help me dwell on Your goodness so that my thoughts and my words are aligned with Your character. Amen.