James

by Douglas Estes

Day 18

Read James 3:9-12

The logical end of James' warning about the tongue is this: just as Christians cannot be double-minded, we cannot be double-tongued either. With our tongues ″we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings″; when both good and bad come from our lips, it makes us duplicitous (James 3:9; see also Proverbs 10:32).

If we are believers, our tongues must not emit both blessings and curses; instead, they should produce crops in accordance with where our hearts lie

″My brothers and sisters, this should not be″ (James 3:10)! But it is much harder to keep our words single-minded than we think.

Praising God is perhaps the supreme thing a person can do with the lips. We can speak directly to-and worship-the creator of the universe.

Cursing others, on the other hand, is perhaps the foulest way to use our words. Since people are made in the image of God, cursing them is cursing something that God created. When we are out and about, and some random person does us wrong, it is tempting to speak ill of them-but we would be speaking ill of a creation patterned after God himself. We must always keep God's perspective of people in mind, not reacting out of anger or hurt.

James offers two illustrations of why good and bad speech are irreconcilable in the life of the Christian. First, he asks his readers whether it is possible for fresh water and salt water to come from the same source (v. 11). Second, he asks his readers whether it is possible for a fig tree to produce olives, or for a grapevine to yield figs (v. 12). The answer he wants his readers to arrive at for each of his questions is: ″No. It is not possible.″

James' point is that a water source can produce either fresh water or salt water, but not both. If we are believers, our tongues must not emit both blessings and curses; instead, they should produce crops in accordance with where our hearts lie. Here, James is reflecting the words of Jesus (see Matthew 7:16-18).

Just as there are two kinds of wisdom that can flow out of our lives-that which comes from heaven and that which comes from earth-there are two kinds of talk that can come out of our mouths. We must choose one and avoid the other. They are not compatible, and cannot co-exist in our lives.


Think through:

Why do you think the tongue is so duplicitous, speaking both good and bad?

Why is it difficult to see other people as made in the image of God?

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About Author

Douglas Estes (PhD, Nottingham) is Associate Professor of New Testament and Practical Theology at South University. He is the editor of Didaktikos: Journal of Theological Education, and is a regular science contributor at Christianity Today. Douglas has written or edited eight books, as well as numerous essays, articles, and reviews for both popular and scholarly publications. He also served in pastoral ministry for sixteen years.

Author of Journey Through Series:

Our Daily Bread Journey Through® Series is a publication of Our Daily Bread Ministries.

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