My dad grew up on a farm. From listening to his stories, I sometimes wish that I could have. I love the outdoors and even the smell of pastured animals. I love the integrity and work ethics of farmers and their families. I used to discuss this longing with him, but my dad would always remind me of the hardships that come with farming. Of how he had to rise before dawn to milk the cows before heading to school, and long before milking machines came about. He had fond memories of his upbringing, but always insisted that farming was often more difficult than pleasant.
As a city slicker, I am not accustomed to farm animals, such as horses. I have ridden them a few times; mostly, with the help of trail guides, but once from a close friend who owned some.
During a visit with her in Florida one summer, I got more exposure to horses than I wanted. One morning while there, she tried to teach me how to ride bareback. What happened instead was a near miss with major injury. Without warning, the horse reared, throwing me underneath him, and then hoofed me firmly on my shin. From that point on, I opted out of an equestrian pastime. However, I did learn much from my week-long adventure, especially of the importance of a bridle.
A bridle is a piece of equipment used to direct a horse. Without it, the horse has free rein, and all sorts of unruliness can ensue. Our mouths need bridles, too. If left untamed, they can wreak much havoc.
In Scripture, God relates that the tongue is a member of the body that no man can tame. Apart from Christ’s help, man is unable to successfully block its propensity toward wrong or to control the torrential flood that flows all too easily off one’s tongue.
Damaging criticism, harsh comments and poisonous gossip are but a few of the harmful effects of an unbridled mouth. While most Christians avoid the use of foul language, the same ones see nothing wrong with ripping someone apart. Yet, God finds this appalling and even describes it as forward or perverse. We trivialize things like gossip or sowing discord, yet God finds such sin an abomination.
Unfortunately, there is another use of the mouth, which if left untamed, brings trouble. Chronic overindulgence of food also damages. Whereas forwardness of the tongue causes damage to others, habitual gluttony ruins our bodies, God’s temple. Both are displeasing to God, and typically trivialized. However, both have negative, even messy, consequences. One messes up our relationships, the other our health.
In reality, how do we justify something like gossip when God considers it an abomination? Or how can we permit unbridled gorging when it causes such bodily ruin?
I wish that I could boast of having it together in these areas. I do not. However, a connection does seem to exist between allowing God to bridle both what comes in and what goes out of one’s mouth. Both involve choices, and both are difficult to control, but with God’s help, taming them both is possible.