I was reading the other day through the book of James when a verse that I've read many times before suddenly shot straight to my heart like an arrow. I was reading and studying early one morning in my living room and when I read this verse, I literally said out loud: "Ah crap!"
James 1:26 says "If anyone thinks himself to be religious and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man's religion is worthless."
Wow. Worthless. That word hung with me for the rest of the day. Anyone who knows me knows that I sometimes have trouble bridling my tongue. The question, "Is my religion worthless" plagued me throughout that day.
I became a little more intrigued the next day as I read through chapter 3 of James. In that chapter, James once again deals with the tongue, this time in a little more detail and depth.
James 3:8 says, "But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison."
"Well," I asked myself, "if it can't be tamed then what hope is there? Is my religion doomed to remain worthless." In chapter 1, James tells me that if I don't bridle my tongue my religion is worthless. In chapter 3, he tells me that it is actually impossible to tame the tongue. WHAT THE HECK??? It was meditating upon these passages and this predicament that I remembered what Jesus said about what comes out of our mouths. In Matthew 12:34, he said that it is out of the overflow of the heart that the mouth speaks.
This is why you can't tame your tongue! It's not possible! In verse 4 of chapter 3, James compares the tongue to a ship:
"Behold, the ships also, though they are so great and driven by strong winds, are still directed by a very small rudder, wherever the inclination of the pilot desires."
The rudder, of course, is the tongue. The point of the verse is that although the tongue is small it boasts great things. But here's something I haven't noticed before. If you want to steer a huge ship (like an ocean liner) you don't go down to the rudder and try to move it directly. That wouldn't work! You can control it from there you have to go the the source of it's direction: the helm. The helm easily controls the rudder.
It's the same with the tongue and the heart. The heart is the helm of the tongue. You can't tame the tongue. It's like trying to manually turn the rudder of a huge ocean liner. You have to go to the helm: the heart. If you have a filthy mouth, you don't have a tongue problem, you have a heart problem. If you gossip a lot, you have a heart problem. If you insult and put people down all the time, you have a heart problem. If you brag a lot, you have a heart problem. You have to fix the heart issue. If you try to tame the tongue, it will never work. Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.