James 1:26 "If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless."
I don't know about you, but the entire book of James slaps me between the eyes. It challenges me to have genuine faith that matches the actions in my life. It consistently speaks on how my faith produces good works. This week's verse talks about controlling the tongue. The Bible spends a lot of time talking about this little body part! I know from my own life how the tongue can get me in more trouble than anything else. I would imagine that is true of many people.
Let's break it down.
If anyone considers himself to be religious...
At first glance, I didn't think this applied to me. I don't go around telling people to "look at me - I am religious!" There are a lot of people in this world that consider themselves to be religious. Most, unfortunately, don't have a personal relationship with Christ. Yet others do have a personal relationship with Christ. If we were answering a survey question, "Do you consider yourself to be a religious person?" --and our only answer could be affirmative or negative, for me, the answer would be yes. So this verse does apply to me.
Yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue...
The King James Version uses the word "bridle." A 'bridle' is a harness, consisting of a headstall, bit, and reins, fitted about a horse's head, and used to restrain or guide the animal.
In 1988, I went into the Outback of Australia on a mission trip. While there, we saw some several packs of wild brumbies. I remember a national telling us to watch how they ran free. He said no one dared try to put a harness on them, because they could not be tamed. Sometimes, I think my mouth is like a brumby. No matter how hard I try, without the help of the Holy Spirit and my willingness to obey, that's exactly what it is. God wants us to rely on His Holy Spirit to restrain the words we choose. If we have a relationship with Him, His Holy Spirit moves into our life, but the choice is still mine to obey.
He deceives himself and his religion is worthless.
I have to ask myself the question again...do I consider myself to be a religious person, yes or no? If the answer is "yes" and yet my mouth runs like a brumby, the Bible says I'm lying to myself. My 'religion' is worthless. Ouch. My relationship with God is the most important thing to me. One of the biggest insults you can give me is to tell me that it's worthless...yet, that's what the Bible says. If I don't control my tongue, it has no value.
I would imagine the tongue is the most used and exercised muscle in each of our bodies. Maybe that's why God spent so much time talking about it. My challenge this week as I memorize this verse is to ask God to keep me silent when I want to give my opinion on certain situations. I'm asking Him to not let me flippantly say things that will hurt others. I'm asking Him to control my temper. I'm asking Him to use my mouth to tell others about Him, not to bring shame to Him. I want to be accountable for the words I choose to say. And when I mess up, I am asking Him to show me that, and forgive me, like He is always so faithful to do.
I want to remember that old Sunday School song: "Oh be careful little mouth what you say. Oh be careful little mouth what you say. For the Father up above is looking down in love, oh be careful little mouth what you say!"
(If you're on Facebook, you can watch a video that corresponds with this verse on the Groupies4God group page.)