Bridling the Horse and the Tongue
“The horse is something prepared for the day of battle,” said wise King Solomon of ancient Israel. (Proverbs 21:31) Mounted troops have long played a vital role in winning battles. From ancient times armies have used the bridle to control the spirit and strength of the horse.
The bridle, explains the Encyclopædia Britannica, “is a set of straps that makes the bit secure in the animal’s mouth and thus ensures human control by means of the reins.” Ancient bridles do not differ very much from modern ones, and they proved invaluable for taming and riding horses.
Solomon’s father, King David, alluded to the importance of the bridle when he wrote: “Do not make yourselves like a horse or mule without understanding, whose spiritedness is to be curbed even by bridle or halter.” (Psalm 32:9) Once a horse was tamed, it could become a faithful companion. Alexander the Great so appreciated his mount Bucephalus that he named a city in India in the horse’s honor.
Although men have successfully tamed horses for millenniums, bridling our imperfect nature is another matter. “We all stumble many times,” observed the Christian disciple James. “If anyone does not stumble in word, this one is a perfect man, able to bridle also his whole body.” (James 3:2) Indeed, who of us can claim that he has never uttered a thoughtless, cutting, or angry word?
Why, then, struggle to bridle our unruly tongue, which ‘not one of mankind can get tamed’? (James 3:8) Well, people are prepared to spend time and effort breaking in a horse because they know that the trained animal will prove useful. Similarly, the better we train, or control, our tongue, the more useful it will be.
Considerate words can soothe and encourage our friends, workmates, and relatives. (Proverbs 12:18) Such words can make life more enjoyable for those around us. An unbridled tongue, however, spells trouble. “Keep a guard over your . . . tongue and keep yourself out of trouble,” the Bible warns. (Proverbs 21:23, The New English Bible) To the extent that we succeed in bridling our tongue, we help both ourselves and those who listen to us.*
Interestingly, the Bible reminds Christians that their speech cannot be separated from their worship. It says: “If any man seems to himself to be a formal worshiper and yet does not bridle his tongue, but goes on deceiving his own heart, this man’s form of worship is futile.”—James 1:26.
[Picture on page 31]
Alexander the Great
Alinari/Art Resource, NY