Keep Your Hand on the Tiller

Read: James 3:1-12

When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent. (Prov. 10:19)

Have you ever wished you could take back something you said to someone too hastily, without thinking of the consequences? Have you ever regretted words you spoke without realizing who could hear them? Of course you have. So have I.

Another of Proverbs’ themes, echoed by the New Testament wisdom book of James, is the power of the tongue, both for good and ill. Some examples: “There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing” (12:18). “The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouths of fools pour out folly” (15:2). “A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit” (15:4). “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits” (18:21). “Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble” (21:23).

So how do we learn to control our tongues, to restrain our lips as Proverbs says? It takes a steady hand on the tiller! Perhaps the first step is recognizing the importance of our speech. Our words can be powerful, powerfully good or powerfully bad. Then we might also remember that restraint is a sign of true wisdom. And if we want wisdom, James tells us what to do: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him” (James 1:5). —David Bast

As you pray, ask God for wisdom.

About the Author

Rev. Dave Bast retired as the President and Broadcast Minister of Words of Hope in January 2017, after 23 years with the ministry. Prior to his ministry and work at Words of Hope, Dave served as a pastor for 18 years in congregations in the Reformed Church in America. He is the author of several devotional books. A graduate of Hope College and Western Theological Seminary, he has also studied at both the Fuller and Calvin seminaries. Dave and his wife, Betty Jo, have four children and four grandchildren. Dave enjoys reading, growing tomatoes, and avidly follows the Detroit Tigers.