to obey is better than sacrifice / obedience is better than sacrifice *
December 23, 2019 – Monday
James 3:3 NIV
3 When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal.
It’s Monday, two days prior to Christmas and believe it or not our verse of the day is part of a discussion on taming the tongue. The discussion or more properly the teaching on taming the tongue is not the entire chapter, but only the first twelve verses. So what does putting a bit into the mouth of a horse have to do with taming the tongue and why do we need to tame the tongue? Let’s read a bit further to gain some context.
3 When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. 4 Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. 5 Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. 6 The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.
And then we have
7 All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.
Thus the bit in the horse’s mouth is an analogy to the tongue in our mouth that will take us places we should go and places we should not go. We should use our tongue to praise our Lord and Father but not to curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. How do we achieve this control over our tongues so that it does what it should, but not what it should not do? Insight and the answer is provided in the next two verses.
11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 12 My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.
Our questions are answered with three questions followed by a statement that answers the first question, a question where we knew the answer. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? No, of course not which is very similar to the answer given by scripture Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water. Thus if we spend our time focused on praising our Lord and Father and that means most of our time, then we will have little or no time to even consider cursing curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness.
There will be much celebrating the birth of Jesus over the next few days and much praising our Lord and Father. If we continue with this into the new year with a focus on what Jesus has done for us we may have no time left over or any desire to curse other human beings and we may remember to pray for them as they have been made in God’s likeness. Jesus gave explicit instructions in Mark 11:25 when He said And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” Notice there are no ‘ifs, ands or buts’ in this command. We are to be forgiving, not cursing or holding a grudge or anger. [I]f you hold anything against anyone, forgive them (emphasis added). There is no wiggle room there for us. None.
The baby Jesus would set the example for us when as Paul tells us in Romans 5:8 God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. While we were still living a life of sin, God’s sinless Son died for us. Thus we are to forgive others even if they are not sorry. Merry Christmas!
(to obey is better than sacrifice /obedience is better than sacrifice)
* To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams. (1 Samuel 15:22)