Single-Minded Speech

From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so” (James 3:10).

- James 3:9–12

As we struggle to put the presence of sin to death in our daily lives, we sometimes find that we display double-mindedness in our actions. We pray to God because we know that we should but sometimes have little faith that He will do what we ask. Often we treat those outside our households well but pay less attention to our own families.

Such double-mindedness is not as things should be. We are called to be single-minded in thought, word, and deed — always concerned to bring glory to God in our treatment of other people. James, the brother of our Lord, reminds us that if we are double-minded we shall be “unstable” in all our ways (James 1:8).

In today’s passage, James again discusses the issue of double-mindedness. In concluding his exhortations concerning the tongue, James shows us that our crooked speech can betray evidence of a heart that is not single-mindedly focused on the things of God. For with the tongue we can bless God but also curse other people who are made in the image of God. This should not be (3:9–10).

We cannot think that it is acceptable to bless God with our tongues and then use these same tongues to curse others. For all of us, male and female, are made in the image of God (Gen. 1:27) and reflect His glory and dignity, however imperfectly. Thus, when we curse others, we actually curse God. John Calvin says that God ought to be blessed in His works, especially His work of creating humanity, for in humanity His glory shines forth. Thus Calvin wrote that “there can be then no calling on God, and his praises must necessarily cease, where evil-speaking prevails; for it is an impious profanation of God’s name, which the tongue is virulent towards our brethren and pretends to praise him.”

In concluding this section, James reminds us that our speech can reveal the state of our heart. Springs can bring forth only one type of water and a plant can only bear one kind of fruit (James 3:11–12). Therefore, Christians must likewise bring forth only good and holy speech. If we do not, we may not really know the Savior but possess a heart unrefined by the streams of His Living Water (John 4:14).

Coram Deo

James’ complaint that the tongue is untameable demonstrates that even the “best” Christian will never in this life perfectly control his tongue. Still, if we continually curse others with our words, then we must question the presence of God in our lives. In cursing others, we curse God, and God does not allow such to come from the lips of His people. Ask the Lord in prayer to make you always bless others. Then, go and make amends with those you have cursed.

Passages for Further Study

Ex. 20:7
Lev. 20:9
Prov. 3:33
Luke 6:43–45
Rom. 12:14

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