Summary: Everything we say and do should be consistent with who we are.
Being all wet ... and admitting it
When, as a kid, I was obviously ignorant and wrong, my dad used to say I was "all wet." I guess that is something more than being wet behind the ears. He saw some of the weird things I said and decided I was more wet than just around the ears. And I spoke consistently with just how wet I was.
Either living water is in us and flowing out of us in words and deeds to others or we are:
A. lying about having living water in us or
B. lying in our words and actions about who we are
Everything we say and do should be consistent with who we are.
In this passage, James is speaking about how uncontrollable the tongue is. One of the important ways he is discussing the tongue is a warning to teachers, who will be held to a stricter standard concerning what they say. It is better to be silent than to be a teacher without control over what you say.
The central point of James’ discussion in verses 9-13 has to do with what kind of speech and action is appropriate for believers.
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. Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. (James 3:9-13 NIV)
It is a matter of expectation
We dug a new well out back in our yard. Because of where we are, we expected fresh water. And that is what we got.
There are places in Florida, that a person would expect to sink a well and find bitter sulphur water. In that place, they sell water filters as a mater of course. Nobody expects anything else. In some places down in Louisiana, near the bayous a person would expect salt water. That is what is in the water table.
What a person does not expect, is to sink a well here and find salt water. There are specific minerals in the water and that’s what we find.
We had an apple tree in our yard when I was a kid
We got apples off it, not pears
When I was older, we had pecan trees
It grew pecans, not peanuts
James is telling us that
• Just as we can expect consistency between a well and its water
• Just as we can expect consistency between a plant and its fruit
• Everything we say and do should be consistent with who we are
James is not being overly demanding by insisting on consistency in speech. This was a well accepted idea in Greece and Rome of the ancient world. Their poets, politicians and philosophers also talked about the importance of consistency between belief and action. Plato actually said if you say you believe something, but don’t do it, you don’t actually believe it.
In some ways we could say, "if even the world expects this kind of behavior, how much more should we as believers be consistent?"
The idea is not very hard