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Now, if we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we also guide their whole bodies. (James 3:3)
Here James offers his readers an example or comparison that helps to clarify or explain that the gift to control the tongue is connected to the ability to achieve, with difficulty, control of the entire body. With a set of leather straps fitted to a horse’s head, incorporating the bit in the horse’s mouth, and the reins, even a young child can control these powerful animals. Even a higher-spirited horse can be controlled with a bridle. In fact, within the English language, we have the idiom of “reining someone or something in,” which means “any means of guiding, controlling, or restraining somebody or something.” Of course, the horse is a mighty creature. Thus, it requires a firm grip on the reins that are attached to the bridle. In the same way, Christians can control their body, even with our leanings toward sin, if they can control the tongue. Within the boundaries of imperfection, this will require an accurate understanding of God’s Word, being applied in a balanced manner within our lives.
Albert Barnes writes. “The meaning of this simple illustration is, that as we control a horse by the bit—though the bit is a small thing—so the body is controlled by the tongue. He who has proper control over his tongue can govern his whole body, as he who holds a bridle governs and turns about the horse.” Kurt A. Richardson makes this observation, “Created things of size and greatness must never be the source or object of Christian faith. Wisdom from God, however, provides the capacity for bringing usefulness out of these things, whether they be the physical body, institutions, or movements of people. Only if the Word of God is actively applied to the situation will there be the guidance required for virtuous action and beneficial results.”
 Albert Barnes, Notes on the New Testament: James to Jude, ed. Robert Frew (London: Blackie & Son, 1884–1885), 56.
 Kurt A. Richardson, James, vol. 36, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1997), 149.
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