“If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.”
The NT book of James speaks to the importance of controlling the tongue. Earlier in the book it tells us to be quick to listen and slow to speak, and now it tells us that the person who does not bridle his tongue has deceived his heart, and his “religion is worthless.” As we will see, in chapter 3 James will go into even greater detail on the topic of what and how we talk.
Why such a strong emphasis on controlling the tongue? The answer comes from what Jesus said in the gospels: “For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thorn bushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Luke 6.43-45)
How we talk reveals what is on our heart. Sometimes our new nature controls our heart, and that is when we speak with wisdom and effectiveness. Other times our old nature controls our heart, and that is when we speak in ways that are neither pleasing to God nor helpful to others.
New nature = discipline-driven
Old nature = default-driven
The battle is the default-driven behavior of the old nature vs the discipline-driven behavior of the new nature. It is a continuous struggle, and there are no days off. Sin is produced when we operate below the line and are directed by the default impulses of the old nature. The righteousness of God is produced when we operate above the line and are directed by the disciplines of the new nature.
People who fail to control the way they talk deceive themselves about the reality of their faith. They are mere ‘hearers’ of the word, and by failing to put the truth of the word into practice with regard to the way they talk, they demonstrate that their faith has a minimal impact on that area of their life. Because what we say is connected to what is on our heart, the way we talk reveals much about the extent to which we honor Christ as Lord.
It bears repeating: “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.“
The way you talk matters.