“If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.”–James 1:26
Appraisals give an accurate estimation of what something is really worth. Many factors affect how worth is determined. Experts use criteria such as quality, craftsmanship, scarcity, authenticity or composition to gauge an items real value.
Many people place a high value on their religious life, but have never used God’s criteria to determine its genuine worth. James writes to tell about an important criterion by which every person’s religion should be appraised-their words! He warns that the tongue has the potential to ruin any religious works.
Performing good works will make a person feel religious. Religious acts include going to church, giving money to charities, carrying a Bible, wearing Christian tee shirts, having a gospel oriented bumper sticker on a car, teaching a Bible class, serving as a church official, being a witness for Christ, going on mission trips, listening to Christian music, or praying in public. Yet, in spite of one’s feelings, all religious work is totally vain if the person’s tongue is not bridled.
A bridle is a harness for a horse. Reins are attached, enabling the rider to control the animal. A horse is powerful, but with a bridle, it is restrained. James uses this illustration to teach a lesson for the tongue.
Like a horse, the tongue is powerful. If it is not controlled, it can do a lot of damage. It must be reined in by anyone who wants to have a religious life that is meaningful. Cussing, lying, backbiting, gossiping, taking God’s name in vain, belittling, mocking, angry outbursts, dirty jokes, prideful boasting, and blasphemy are all sins of the tongue. Verbal sins produce a religion that is vain. These sins destroy any witness a person has to the redemptive work of Jesus.
Religious people with unbridled tongues are deceiving themselves. They tell themselves that they can speak like a demon, and still walk with God. They convince themselves that their works are worth much, but in reality, they destroy the value of their works with their mouth. Sadly, instead of facing the truth and fixing the problem, many continue in self-deception.
If you have come to realize that your tongue is a problem, there is help for you. God can fix this. He loves you and wants to help you live a life of value, purpose and meaning. That is why He put this passage in the Bible. He does not want your works to be in vain. You want your life to matter, and God does too!
How is the damage caused by the tongue repaired? First, begin by asking God for forgiveness through Jesus (1 John 1:9). Second, repent of your sin. Do not continue to use your tongue sinfully, but let the Holy Spirit control it. Ask God to help you with this. Finally, apologize to anyone you have hurt with your tongue, or to anyone who has heard you say bad things.
God is able to offer forgiveness of sin because of the work of His Son Jesus. God punished the Messiah for all sin when Jesus died on the cross (including verbal sins). God raised Jesus from the dead, because he had never sinned. Because Jesus is alive, and because He is God, he is able to hear your prayer for forgiveness. If it is your desire to repent and turn to Jesus, then right now, ask Jesus to save you. This prayer may help you: “God, I believe Jesus is your Son, and he died to pay the penalty for my sin. I believe Jesus is alive. I ask Jesus to come in my heart and save me right now. Jesus, I surrender my life to you. I want to serve you from this day forward. Amen.”