James 3:3

Friday, 26 July 2019

Indeed, we put bits in horses’ mouths that they may obey us, and we turn their whole body. James 3:3

James just spoke of not stumbling with our tongues, which leads to being able to bridle the whole body. He now will give a few examples which convey this same type of idea. The first is in line with what he just said, that of bridling a horse. In this, he exclaims, “Indeed.” Some manuscripts (and thus some translations) exclude the word and replace it with a less exciting “but if.” However, assuming “indeed” belongs to the original, James excitedly pens the thought, knowing that it is a beautiful metaphor to convey his intent. As he continues, he says, “we put bits in horses’ mouths that they may obey us.”

The word “horses” is in the emphatic position showing the greatness of the beast. It is large, swift, powerful, and it is most difficult to restrain. So majestic and filled with strength and bravado is the horse that the Lord joyfully called out its noble characteristics to Job –

“Have you given the horse strength?
Have you clothed his neck with thunder?
20 Can you frighten him like a locust?
His majestic snorting strikes terror.
21 He paws in the valley, and rejoices in his strength;
He gallops into the clash of arms.
22 He mocks at fear, and is not frightened;
Nor does he turn back from the sword.
23 The quiver rattles against him,
The glittering spear and javelin.
24 He devours the distance with fierceness and rage;
Nor does he come to a halt because the trumpet 
has sounded.
25 At the blast of the trumpet he says, ‘Aha!’
He smells the battle from afar,
The thunder of captains and shouting.” Job 39:19-25

James places the horse in the emphatic position for this reason, but then notes that a mere bit in the mouth can bring these splendid creatures into submission so “that they may obey us.” A teeny little thing can subdue these marvelous beasts, and in this state “we turn their whole body.” The obedience of the whole body is brought about by one small item which is contained within the mouth. As this is so, then the obvious connection to our tongue is made. If we can restrain it, then the whole body can be restrained by that action.

Life application: Watching our mouth is an important aspect of our lives in any situation, but as a teacher it is even more so. Parents who don’t watch their tongues around their children are going to have children with evil mouths. Teachers who flippantly talk about misguided subjects will only produce misguided students. And Bible teachers and pastors who make faulty analyses of biblical passages are going to produce students and congregations with faulty doctrine.

If you don’t think this is so, just examine your thoughts on any touchy subject from a biblical perspective. Either it is acceptable or it is not acceptable, but what you were trained is what you believe, regardless of what the truth really is.

Now, go do a study directly from the word and check it out for yourself – without presupposing the outcome. Continue this pattern with every doctrine you have learned. Don’t blindly accept what you are taught. Your teacher is more responsible, but you still bear responsibility in the matter.

Glorious heavenly Father – we can see that just as a large horse is moved about by a small bit in its mouth, so is the tongue in our Bible teachers’ mouths. Their tongues may not be fitted perfectly and their doctrine may be lacking. Help us to check out what we are taught. Please keep our doctrine pure by opening our eyes to what is correct. Amen.

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