James 3:9

Verse of the Day Devotion: James 3:9  

“With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God.” – James 3:9 

James here is this section is speaking of the tongue, specifically regarding the speech of men. He starts off with two analogies. First, he uses the illustration of a bit. “For we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well. Now if we put the bits into the horses’ mouths so that they will obey us, we direct their entire body as well.” James 3:2-3.  Theologian Albert Barnes interprets this as follows. “The meaning of this simple illustration is, that as we control a horse by the bit – though the bit is a small thing – so the body is controlled by the tongue. He who has a proper control over his tongue can govern his whole body, as he who holds a bridle governs and turns about the horse.” And the second analogy refers to ships. “Look at the ships also, though they are so great and are driven by strong winds, are still directed by a very small rudder wherever the inclination of the pilot desires.” James 3:4. A ship is a large object. It seems to be unmanageable by its vastness, and it is also impelled by driving storms. Yet it is easily managed by a small rudder; and the one that has control of that, has control of the ship itself.

Now, James takes these two pictures and applies them to the human tongue. “So also, the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things. See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell.” James 3:5-6. Essentially, the bit and the rudder, small though they may be, are comparable to the tongue, a small part of the body that nevertheless makes great boasts. In verse 3 we see the tongue analogized and it’s impact on a community when the teachers use it wisely, just as a bit has an impact on the horse.  Now, in verse 6 we see the teachers impact as a spark loose in a forest and sets the focus on the destructive impact of loose and destructive words.  Now, as we see today, the tongue can be a world of iniquity as noted in verse 6.  We use the term in the same sense – a world of troubles, a world of toil, a world of anxiety, for great troubles, oppressive toil, most distressing anxiety.

How can so small an organ be great trouble? By the words we speak. Remember verse 2. “For we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well.” James 3:2. James here is saying that if we do not sin through what we say, we are perfect because we are able to bridle our complete self.  However, if we say things we should not say, we are igniting a fire, as we see in verse 6. This begs the question; can we tame the tongue? “For every species of beasts and birds, of reptiles and creatures of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by humans. But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison.” James 3:7-8.

Now our focus verse is an example of, “With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God.” James 3:9. Here, James points out two contrary ways we use our tongue; to bless God and to curse people. It is such a common human thing to “curse” another person that we tend to dismiss it as not that big of a deal. “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me” is a common English proverb. And yet, James explains why abusive speech is a big deal: We are cursing a being made in the image of God! Going further, “from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way.” James 3:10. We are called to love God and our neighbor as ourselves. Cursing and insulting people or gossiping about them behind their backs is not love, it is evil and destructive. Unfortunately, these actions have become natural to people, including some who are Christians.  

One last thing, in verse 8 we read, “But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison.” James 3:8. No man on his own can tame the tongue. For the tongue to be tamed, so must the heart. Jesus uses the following analogy regarding the Pharisees to bring out this point. “Either make the tree good and its fruit good or make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart.” Matthew 12:33-34. The only way we can change our heart is to ask God to make the change. David prayed the following prayer when dealing with a transgression he was dealing with. “Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10. We cannot tame the tongue unless our heart is changed.  Therefore, if we find ourselves speaking hurtful or harsh things to someone, call out to God and submit to His ways. He can change anything in us if we are willing to be changed.

William Funkhouser MDiv, ThD, Founder and President of True Devotion Ministries. 

Luke 6:27-28

Verse of the Day Devotion:  Luke 6:27-28

“But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” – Luke 6:27-28

This is probably one of the most difficult requirements Jesus gave to His disciples, and ultimately us who are His modern-day disciples.  He tells us in many places to love others, but here He specifically says to love our enemies.  Matthew records it in his gospel as follows, “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Matthew 5:44. It is so easy for us to hate those who hate us or those who do us harm or steal from us.  Or we may not hate them but will have no desire to do any good to and for them.  However, He requires us to do much more.  He says we are to bless those who curse us and pray for those who mistreat us.  We are not to think badly of them, but to pray that God will turn their hearts to Himself and be willing to be used by Him for this purpose.   

The attitude we are to have is not one of anger or hatred.  God loves everyone and desires all to be saved.  “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9.  And this is the main reason He desires us to love our enemies.  Both to bring salvation to the lost and to bring correction to the saved who struggle in sin and think badly of others.  In fact, in the next verse he goes further.  “Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also; and whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either.” Luke 6:29.  We are to be patient under injuries that are being put upon us and benevolent toward the unthankful.  Matthew adds the following in his version.  “If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two.” Matthew 5:40-41. The basic idea here is that we are not to return evil for evil, but if possible, show your love by going beyond their demands. 

He then again takes it a step further.  “Give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back.” Luke 6:30.  Whatever sense we put on the Lord’s precepts, not by force, but by consent, having either lent them, or sold them to him: for if they were taken away by force, the person so taking them was to be deemed a thief and a robber, and to be treated as such; but one that takes them by agreement, and is not able to make a return of them, or to give a valuable consideration for them, of such an one ask them not again: do not exact or demand them, but give him a release, as the law requires.  This law is found in Deuteronomy 15:1-2, “At the end of every seven years you shall grant a remission of debts. This is the manner of remission: every creditor shall release what he has loaned to his neighbor; he shall not exact it of his neighbor and his brother, because the LORD’S remission has been proclaimed.” Deuteronomy 15:1-2.  I know this is a part of the Jewish Law, however the idea has also been told by Jesus to His disciples.

Jesus then continues this idea with the following.  “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.  If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners in order to receive back the same amount.” Luke 6:32-34.  Jesus is saying here if we only love those who love us, do good to those who do us good, or only lend to those we expect to have it returned, how different are we from what the world does.  Our love for others should go far beyond what the world expresses. 

He then concludes as follows.  “But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” Luke 6:35-36. He lays it out clearly.  We are to be merciful to all just as God the Father is merciful.  We are to be kind to ungrateful and evil people just as He is.  What is more important, getting our way or letting God have His way?  He desires us to be a light in the darkness,  shining out to the world the truth of the gospel and the love and salvation God has for them.  We may be wronged or taken advantage of but look what lies ahead in the new heaven and earth.  Really, there is no comparison.

William Funkhouser MDiv, ThD, Founder and President of True Devotion Ministries.