Taming the tongue

A postcard from the 16th Sunday after Pentecost 09/12/21

A bit and bridle are more about communication than control.

I was lucky growing up that I get to spend part of my youth riding horses. I did three-day event competitions, which involved jumping and flatwork. My summer would be spent in riding lessons, hanging out with my friends at the barn, and tending to my horse. If you spend anytime on a horse, you learn quickly that you really can’t make a horse do anything. The saddle, bridle, and bit are not there for control, but for communication. All of the equipment helps you have a nonverbal conversation with the horse that requires trust so the rider can direct where to go and what to do.

We typically interpret James’ image of the bridle and bit as one of control [James 3:1-12] as he advises the reader of the importance of taming the tongue (or speech). In addition to warning us of the dangers of unbridled speech, James also reminds us of the creative power of words. Our being was spoken into existence by God and we were tasked to name the other living creatures.

Perhaps this passage from James is less about our control of our speech, and more about how we are encouraging communication with each other and with God. It is not enough that we just keep our mouths shut. When we are quick to listen, and slow to speak, it is about improving communication. We are better able to hear the stories and needs of those around us. We are better able to hear the nudgings of the Holy Spirit, to experience the transformative power of the Word of God.


A sermon from the the Church of the Messiah in Heflin:

“So, for James, we again have a choice between God and the world. We can allow ourselves to be turned around and twisted by the world, to bearing wrong fruit and offering a curse instead of a blessing. Or we, who are saved in Christ, can offer up our power of words and language so that they can be blessings. So that our words can bring life and healing, not death and division.”

Audio only available here

You can learn more about Father Mychal Judge in this short video:


Coming next

Next week, we continue our exploration of the Epistle of James, which challenges the belief that faith is something that should be kept private and challenges a culture that sees very little value in religion at all.

  • September 19 – Messiah Heflin / “The Good Life” James 3:13-4:3, 7-8a
  • September 25 – Off the Road / “Powerful Prayer” James 5:13-20

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