“With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.”
Several years ago while engaged in an intense inspection of the Gospel of Mark and of the Book of James one thing became increasingly clear. This was that the Bible is a book that calls us to become disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. Mark seems to be describing the process by which the disciples became faith filled followers of the Lord. Their hardness of heart is exposed, and the way that the Lord led them to faith is described for us in great detail. James outlines for us the vital place that discipleship plays in our lives as believers. In fact it is possible to argue that without such a living, vital walk with the Lord Jesus Christ we cannot make a claim to be a Christian. Saving faith according to James bears fruit.
As James explores this he tells us that there is fundamentally wrong with us when we live apart from Christ. This is that we are double minded. We focus our lives, and the affections of our hearts upon the things of this world. We are not pursuing the purpose for which God has created us, which is to love God with all of our hearts, souls, minds, and strength. We do not live in order to glorify God. Our glory is ourselves. This is what we find ourselves seeking.
As James looks at this reality he explores it by looking at our speech. He tells us that what we say is a direct reflection of what is in our hearts. Just like the rider controls the horse through the bridle, a very small thing, and the pilot controls the ship through the rudder, another small thing. The body is controlled through another small thing, the tongue by the heart. What is in our hearts is manifested to the world around us by the things which we say. In writing this James is really only quoting his older half brother, the Lord Jesus Christ. In Matthew 12:33-37 we read these words of our Lord.
“Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognised by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. But I tell you that men will have to give account on the Day of Judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”
What James leads us to understand here is that we need a new heart. It must be transformed by the grace that God has given to us in the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ. We must come to Him asking for His help. We must ask in faith, believing that God will give to us what He has promised to give. We believe this because we have come to believe that God is faithful and just to fulfill His promises to us. This is how we become disciple of Jesus rejoicing in the grace that He went to the cross to purchase for us.