v 9. Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God.
How lustily we sing some of the praise-songs in Church or hum them as we listen to an album being played through. And we really mean what we are saying or thinking, it’s not that we are being hypocritical or thoughtless! It might mean however that we are being inconsistent. Hence James’ firm but gentle rebuke ‘Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right!’ This adds to his earlier comment in v 5 that ‘the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches’. This points to the inconsistency between humility and the selfish pride that occasionally rears its ugly head in our conversations.
This is the thing that really stands out for me in these verses – the issue of ‘Am I consistent’ – ‘Is there a good match between what I say and the kind of person I really am’? It is a matter of closing the gap between my standing as a child of God, wanting to live and speak to honour Him, and the nature of my life and speech in the world I live in. It is this inconsistency, that we all experience at times, that damages our credibility as honest Christians. If only I could learn to eliminate the ‘.. sometimes … sometimes..’ and become a person who is ‘ .. always.. ‘ This is what James is perhaps driving at when he wrote in v 2 ‘For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way. ‘ It is not the perfection of being utterly faultless, but rather the maturity of consistent living – and having to repent and apologise when that is called for.
The whole point is rammed home by James in vv 11-12, ‘ Does a spring of water bubble out with both fresh water and bitter water? Does a fig tree produce olives, or a grapevine produce figs? No, and you can’t draw fresh water from a salty spring. ‘ He really wants us to get the point doesn’t he!