My Slippery Tongue

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There is no nice way to say it. I have a problem with obedience. I always seem to be aware of its imperfection.

But, as I thought about it, I decided that surely there was at least one verse that I do well. Perfectly, in fact. And indeed, I found one. The verse?

The first part of James 3:2: “We all stumble in many ways.” 

To ensure that my testimony is verifiable, I turned to the dictionary. “Stumble |ˈstəmbəl|; verb [ intransitive]; to trip or lose one’s balance; almost fall; trip repeatedly, make a mistake or repeated mistakes in speaking.”

Perfect. That’s me, all right. Especially as it related to the last phrase. The Apostle James goes on to say that, “If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man” (James 3:2b). Even hundreds of years earlier, the writer of Proverbs had several stern warnings regarding our speech:

  • “The one who guards his mouth saves his life” (13:3)
  • “He who guards his mouth and his tongue guards his soul from troubles” (21:23)
  • “Don’t talk too much. You keep putting your foot in your mouth. Be sensible and turn off the flow.” (10:19 TLB)

We would do well if we started each day handing our tongue over to the Holy Spirit. “We put bits into horses’ mouths so that they may obey us,” so why not ask the Holy Spirit to bridle our tongues? (James 3:3)

In the mouth of a horse, a bit acts with a combination of leverage and pressure. Because equine animals have a significant gap in their front incisors and the back molars, bits rest comfortably in this space. It is connected inside the mouth with rubber or stainless steel and sits upon the horse’s tongue.

A bit isn’t painful, but when used correctly, simply a pressure connection between the rider and his animal. A horse who knows and trusts his rider is guided with a simple shift in the reigns and body position. A trusting horse willingly receives the harness from the gentle hand of his master. Could it not be that God desires that we open up to receive our daily bit and bridle?

Holy Father,

I say I trust You, but I am nervous about receiving your bit. My mouth can be pretty undomesticated and is used to running free. Yet, I know that I must keep my tongue from worthless and deceitful speech (1 Peter 3:10). I desire to give blessings in return for insults (1 Peter 3:9), but my tongue is in a wet place and often slips. Will you bridle me gently? 

Teach me to recognize the nuances of Your Spirit so that I can sense when Your bit is holding my tongue in place. May I come to know You so well that Your slightest shift signals my immediate obedience. And when You do loose my tongue to speak, may I do so with utterances straight from Your heart (1 Peter 4:11).

Thank You that Your yoke is easy and Your burden is light (Matthew 11:28). As I open my mouth, please slip on Your bridle. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.