If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. James 1:26.
If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does. James 1:6-8.
Funny that this latter statement comes right at the beginning of James letter to the believers. It’s almost like he’s setting up his theme for the book or something, for later he speaks about heavenly wisdom.
Here are the facts that jumped out at me last night as I read this passage:
1) Those who are not self-controlled with their words are self-deceived about their religion and it is worthless.
2) If we ask for wisdom, God will give it.
3) If we doubt when we ask, God considers us unstable in everything we do and we will not receive anything from Him.
4) A person who doubts is double-minded.
Object though we might like, these are pretty stable facts. As I said in the previous entry, I have been known to speak my mind without censorship, which hurt some, offended others and generally lacked wisdom. The only place I haven’t been unstable is in the doubt department, at least about this specific issue. On the one hand, I’ve never doubted God; on the other I always doubt me.
Some reading this might think self-doubt a good thing, and I would agree to some degree, but sometimes it acts as a backdoor means of circumnavigating God’s purpose for our lives, and that cannot be tolerated. If we ask God for wisdom, it usually means we want it for a specific issue in our lives. If He gives us a answer, following through with what we know is vital to continuing in the faith and His promises. Faith, as James makes clear, is an active pursuit of God’s will and purpose. For us to say we have faith yet be inactive, is the same as having no faith at all. Faith which accomplishes nothing is useless, like a tree in full bloom of summer with no fruit.
James doesn’t say we should just be careful about what we say, but that we should keep a tight rein on our verbal output, period. There is no negotiation room for us to wiggle out of this: A person who is not self-controlled and full of faith is unstable and double-minded, therefore untrustworthy with the things God would give them.
Most of us have been this person. In fact, I’m pretty sure I can say with confidence and complete accuracy that all of us have fallen short of faith in our walk with God.
Grace covers our failures. Love covers a multitude of sins.
We don’t have to despair because we don’t measure up for God knows our makeup, since He made it, and realizes that we are but dust. He never treats us like our sins deserve but gives us grace to fulfill His good purpose. How many of us haven’t been of two minds about which direction we should take? I know that I’ve struggled to understand how to approach my life with clarity and confidence. I failed God and myself (not to mention many other people) so many times in my pursuit of His plan for me that humiliation has made me quite cautious.
And thus the lesson in faith is complete.
What does James say is the sign of true religion? A tight rein on one’s tongue. If I have been humbled to the point of caution, taking care about what I say, reveal or give away, I am being wise in God’s eyes. At the same time, not speaking what God intends for us to say is also faithless. Jesus said, “If any man is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of man will be ashamed of him in the presence of God and the holy angels.” (Slight paraphrase there.) To be afraid to speak the Scripture without censorship is just as much a lack of faith as not controlling our tongue.
Paul warned Timothy in both his letters to refuse to argue about words or quarrel over the Word of God. This means keeping a tight rein on our tongue where we know it will not accomplish anything. It also means that anyone who is argumentative or quarrelsome about the message of the gospel or disputable matters in the Bible, is a double-minded person, not acting in faith or in harmony with the Spirit.
A prudent man keeps his knowledge to himself, but the heart of fools blurts out folly. Proverbs 12:23.
We can squirm and avoid this truth all we want but the Bible is quite clear that if we don’t control out output, we are not godly. A person growing in righteousness will learn what is good to say and what should be avoided. A person bathed in the presence of Jesus’ Spirit will learn to trust that check in their heart when the circumstances raise the yellow or red flag.
Our God is a consuming fire, who will burn away the dross from our lives, break the stone surrounding our hearts and give us hearts of flesh that will feel the needs of others. We must move forward in faith without doubting His provision, learn self-control and become wise in the heavenly understanding. If we fail in our pursuit of His will, He is merciful, full of love and grace towards His children and will forgive us if we confess and repent. It’s so simple to serve this Father God that anyone who complicates it must have a love for obscuring the truth. Jesus said that the kingdom of God was given to such as these, meaning children. I believe when we understand self-control in the context of growth in righteousness through Christ, our thinking grows more and more balanced. Our ability to grasp the love of God becomes unlimited when we place our faith in His provision for even our failures.
Yes, I’ve been foolish with my tongue, yet I’ve seen God cover my mistakes so many times that I know He’s with me. I’ve said things that made me cry out in despair and chagrin only to find out later that my Lord and Savior stopped the ears of those listening so that they only heard the message He wanted them to hear. If my words today have made you afraid to speak at all, please don’t be. Grow in the knowledge and grace of God realizing that He loves us with an everlasting love and as long as we are willing, He will grow us into His image in ways beyond our ability to understand or even imagine, for His love covers over our stumbling, bumbling and clumsy attempts to imitate Him.
No father watching his son or daughter attempting to walk as a baby punishes the child for failing. I mean, if the baby stands up for the first time, what do the parents do? Well, in the modern age we grab a camera and take pictures, laughing and crying with joy over this unstable little bundle of joy doing what a few days ago was completely out of their reach. A dad doesn’t come over to a child who falls on its diaper and say, ”You clumsy little cretin! Look at all I’ve done for you and you can’t even learn to walk properly?!! I should never have had you, you’re not worth the trouble!”
No, a good parent swells with pride when their child walks, grabs their little hands and helps them along, shouting for the camera or people to come look. The baby, of course, doesn’t get all the noise or interest in their shaky stance by that couch or whatever, he or she just knows that daddy is happy.
God is pleased when we trust Him, do our best to imitate Him and, in our fumbling, bumbling, clumsy and probably scary way, do our best to walk in His will. Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed–not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence–continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and act according to His good purpose. Philippians 2:12, 13. We work in concert with God’s presence in our hearts to live out loud His nature and purpose. Remember what I said before, according to James, faith which is inactive is not faith but mere belief.
Go in the knowledge that failure is a pretty sure thing for us while we grow in grace and knowledge, but also know that God will hold us up if we let Him be our Father in fact as well as in claim and is proud of us if we act in faith.