Today we close our exhortations from James regarding the tongue. James offers a stirring rebuke of hypocrisy and asks a series of rhetorical questions driving home the same point again and again – we must control our tongues. Simultaneously his comments illustrate the point he has already made – that this control of the tongue is not something we can conjure up by mere will power but that it must proceed from a heart that has been transformed by the grace of God. By nature we are full of cursing and deceit. We need the Spirit of God to come and transform our hearts in order that we might use our lips to bring glory and honor to our Savior.
Our Lord Jesus explained the source of sins of the tongue in this way:
“For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, 22 thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within and defile a man.” [Mark 7:21-23]Note carefully that Jesus states that sins of the tongue – deceit and blasphemy as examples – come out of the heart. And James, with his series of illustrations in our text today, makes the same point. “Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh.”
So here’s the important question – what is coming out of our lips? Because whatever is coming out of our lips reveals what is in our heart. That which comes out of our lips doesn’t emerge willy nilly. Rather, it reflects what is inside.
Some years ago I illustrated this point with my children by having them fill a glass full of water – so full that the water was cresting at the top - and put it on the table. Then I told them, “Bump the table,” which, of course, they were only too happy to do. Then I told them to bump it again and they did. Then I asked a simple question – “When you bumped the table, what happened?” “It spilled,” came the intelligent reply. “Good! But what came out of the glass? Did dirt come out? Oil? Shampoo?” “No,” they reply, “water – because that’s what was in the glass.”
So James is challenging us – what is in your glass? Is it joy, gratitude, thankfulness, and contentment? Or is it cursing, bitterness, and deceit? What comes out of our lips is a reflection of what is in our heart. And so Solomon urges us, “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.”
Reminded that we are often full of cursing and deceit, full of blasphemy and complaint, full of slander and lies, let us kneel and confess our sin to the Lord.