As we have seen throughout our study of James, it is abundantly clear that as Christians we should not be overrun and defeated when we face difficult trials and hard times. If after inspecting ourselves for sin, we find that we have a clean conscience before God, then our difficult times are coming from one place: the hand of a loving, kind, wise God who is seeking to sanctify us. Instead of being discouraged by the trouble, James tells us that our response should be joy, because God is seeking to accomplish something very important in us.
For believers, the temptation is to respond in any way other than joy. Unfortunately, often the first way that we react is by sinfully forgetting that trials come as a gift of God’s goodness to grow us and conform us into being more like Jesus. After we have forgotten God’s goodness and wisdom, we often turn to a second sin: complaining. Failing to see that God is working things for our good, we instead think that difficult circumstances have come from misfortune, or accident, or even that they have merely originated in the heart of those who do evil. Instead of realizing that all things are being woven together by God for our good, we turn to murmuring and complaining.
The tongue that should be rejoicing in faith and hope turns so quickly to accusation and cursing. This should not be the case. As believers, we should be different. It should not be our natural disposition in trouble to lay out a verbal platter of sympathy inducing delicacies. Neither should it be our response to fling putrid and rotten words or feelings on those around us drawing them into fury or anger with our disgusting words. But too often we fail to allow God’s work to be completed in us. Too often we turn our mouths towards sin instead of rejoicing in the good work of God. Too often we find comfort in the sympathy of others or the empathetic rage of others instead of the goodness and wisdom of God.
The mark of a “perfect man,” or a mature Christian, according to James 3 is that he is able to control his tongue. Instead of viciously unleashing a vitriolic diatribe, the mature Christian is able to bridle his tongue. James makes a direct connection between those who bridle their tongue and those who exercise self-control and temperance through bridling their whole bodies. Conversely, the comparison that Scripture is trying to get us to see is that the person who cannot control their tongue more than likely does not find regular victory over sin.
The tongue is a tattle-tale. It reveals the heart. As Christians, it should be our goal to count it joy in the midst of God-sent trials, not to turn to complaining and other sinful uses of our tongues. If our hearts are not trusting in God in the midst of trouble, then our tongues will reveal it. Similarly, if our tongues naturally default to complaint and frustration in the midst of trial, it is probably an indication that our hearts are not trusting God’s goodness and wisdom.
Food For Thought: In what way is the tongue a “tattle tale” when it comes to our attitude in trials?