Daily Devotional

"For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body." James 3:2

Off the South-Eastern coast of Massachusetts sits Nantucket Island. In 1641, the Earl of Stirling deeded the island to man named Thomas Mayhew who then sold 9/10 of the island to nine other individuals “for the sum of thirty pounds…and also two beaver hats, one for myself, and one for my wife.”  In today’s dollars, this would be around $1,000 each.

My family line can be traced back to one of the original owners of Nantucket Island. Today, my family owns exactly 0.0% of Nantucket Island. Why? My ancestors didn’t think the island was a lucrative investment, so they simply left it and headed out West.

Some of the original families still own portions of the island and are doing quite well for themselves. In just the first quarter of 2018, home sales on Nantucket Island were over $1 billion. I wouldn’t mind owning even just a tiny portion of that island, but since my ancestors gave up control of their share, the closest I can get is visiting, and paying for the privilege.

Control is an important thing. James states that self-control is extremely important. If we are to have a working faith, then we must have a faith that is self-controlled. Self-control literally means the ability to control oneself.

One way that we ALL stumble is when it comes to our speech. James places such a huge emphasis on controlling speech because he knows that we will stumble LESS often if we are able to control our speech. Sins of speech are hardest to control and easiest to slip into. Sins of speech also go beyond mere words but actually deal with the content of our hearts. Jesus says in Luke 6:45, “…out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” It’s easy to think our words are no big deal, but James and his big brother Jesus both say we need to take our speech seriously.

James goes on to use the example of a horse and a ship. Both are powerful things that are more effective when under control. Just as a horse’s bit or a ship’s rudder are used to direct things larger than themselves, our speech can also be used to direct others either towards Jesus or away from Him. Controlled speech can do great things.

At the same time, uncontrolled speech can cause great harm. James also uses the example of a great forest that can be set ablaze by a small fire. When fire is controlled it’s great, but when it’s out of control it can be devastating.

While I was thinking through this topic, my daughter Melina asked me what I was working on. I told her I was writing about the topic of self-control. Her reply to me was, “Dad, do you know what the Bible says about self-control?” She then quoted to me one of her recent AWANA verses, Proverbs 25:28, “A person without self-control is like a city with broken-down walls.” In ancient times walls were hugely important. A city with broken-down walls was vulnerable. In the same way, if we don’t have self-control, especially with our speech, then we too are vulnerable.

Proverbs 18:21 says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue…” I would increase the scope of this verse to say that it’s also in the power of our laptop keyboards and thumbs and smartphones. All kinds of speech should be under control, even the speech we use on social media. Harsh words, sarcasm, slander, jokes at someone else’s expense, criticism, judgmental speech, gossip, and so many other types of negative . Words matter, what we say matters. We don’t want to give up control of our speech because in so doing, we give up a lot more.
English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.