James 1:26 - If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person's religion is worthless.
Isaiah 29:13; Matthew 15:6-9 - These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.
Over the past several posts, we have been talking about worship. One important way in which we serve God is through our mouth. The Bible has a lot to say when it comes to how we should control what comes out of our mouth. The Book of Isaiah noted God's displeasure with the the people's vain praise because their hearts were adulterous. Jesus then quotes this passage in his teaching on how the tongue defiles.
The book of James specifically does not mince words when it comes to controlling our speech. In essence what he is saying is that if someone considers himself to be religious, but they do not actively hold their tongue in check, they are in essence deceiving themselves by thinking that their "religion" is real when, in actuality, it serves no purpose. The word for "worthless" is an adjective that describes something that has no use at all.
So why is this principle so harsh? James goes on to explain more on the subject. In James 3:9-10, he states that "with the tongue we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God." He states how blessing and cursing should not come from the same mouth. He further expands on this idea through rhetorical questions to which the obvious answer is, "no". The first illustration is that a fresh water spring does not produce both fresh water and salt water. He then states that a fig tree cannot bear olives and a grapevine cannot bear figs. He ends the framing by returning to the illustration that a salt spring cannot flow forth fresh water. The point the author is making is that you cannot have two things of contrary natures coming from one source. This applies in the Christian life as well.
Jesus' teachings in Matthew 15:18 says that, "the things that come out of a person's mouth, come from the heart." Luke 6:45 states, "a good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of." Therefore, our words are a reflection of our heart. If our words are full of hate, rage, malice, slander, gossip, etc., then that is what our heart is full of. These are not the things of Christ. These are not honoring to God and certainly not be considered acceptable acts of worship to Him.
So practically, what does this look like? As Americans, we have the freedom of speech, but as Christians we are called to exercise restraint. We do this because the words we speak are to represent the change Christ has made in our lives. If we utter words of disgust and deceit, that is not representative of Christ. This also applies to the words we write. Thanks to technology, it is quite simple to "voice our opinions" on a global platform. Facebook, Twitter, blogging, etc. can be a great tool to encourage and edify one another. Yet, it can also be an outlet for slander, hurt, and gossip.
The Challenge today is to examine your words. Are they indicative of the differnence Christ has made in your life or are you simply fooling yourself by acting religious when in reality, your words give evidence that there is no change in your heart? It may be time to ask for forgiveness, take some postings off the internet, and start anew by actively controlling what you say. Then, you will be valuable to the kingdom of God, spreading his message of love. The result is that your life will be an act of worship that is well-pleasing to God.