Correcting the Tongue

A Few Cups and Plates to CleanYesterday in my Christian Preaching class we had someone preach on James 3:1-2. The sermon was good. There was only part that I wondered about. Later another student brought it up and desired to know more of it. It concerned the section of “But if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man”. It seemed the preacher and my fellow student both took this to mean that we should strive not to stumble in what we say which will then align our hearts.

I’ve been thinking about this and doubting that it is correct. Is James’ instruction really for us to clean the outside of the cup and plate as a means to clean the inside? Unless I misunderstand the context, Jesus says just the opposite in Matthew 23:25-26,

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.

We begin with prayer that the Holy Spirit would work in us and faith that Jesus is giving us grace to refine our hearts and as the inside is cleaned we will later see the outside become more clean. In James the tongue is an indicator of the condition of the soul.