Listen, open your ears, harness your desire to speak, and don’t get worked up into a rage so easily, my brothers and sisters. (James 1:19 VOICE)
Sometimes the hardest thing we are called upon to do is just be quiet long enough to hear somebody else share their worries, intentions, fears, or ideas. We "scroll ahead" in our minds, coming up with the right answer, catchy come-back, and the like, often totally missing what the other person is actually saying. To "open our ears", some might say we have to shut our mouths, but I don't think simply shutting the mouth opens the ears. We have strong winds here in Arizona at times, but closing the door doesn't keep the wind from blowing - it just stops the wind from getting in. We can shut our mouths and still have our minds working a mile a minute to come up with that come-back, or the idea that will "one up" the other guy!
Look what our passage implies: We have to "harness" the desire to speak. The purpose of a harness when made for horses is to actually distribute the weight which the animal will pull when hitched to the wagon or plow. It isn't actually a controlling device as much as it is a device to "assist" the horse and the farmer. When we wear harnesses while doing some work higher up on a ladder, in a tree, or on a telephone pole, it is designed to catch us should we lose our footing. Is it possible the harness our writer refers to is actually one designed to allow the words we say to become "even" and assistive; or perhaps to keep us from falling into something we may not want to be into in the end?
The "desire" to speak isn't bad, but to do so in haste, or without the proper consideration of what another might actually think is definitely not a desire we want to exhibit. We want to stop long enough to actually "hear" what the other guy is saying - not just the words, but the heart behind the message. I know all kinds of people who say all kinds of good things, but the actions behind those words are just plain not there. I also know people who say things kind of foolish at times, but their heart is so right on that even these foolish words speak volumes! The purpose of the harness is to simply "direct" that which it is attached to - if it is attached to our mouth, our words are to be directed toward a purpose, keeping us (and others) safe in the process.
I saw a post this morning, taking a pretty significant "swing" at women in the pulpit. The gentleman was ranting on about how certain prominent women who do more than teach an occasional women's Bible study are just operating outside of God's intended "purpose" for women. His premise is that women have to be "under the authority" of a man - so preaching the Word is not their "calling" in life as this would mean they are not "under the authority of a man". Lest I draw all manner of comment on this topic, let me just say I bring this example up ONLY to point out how "quick" we can be to judge others, say things which hurt, and even react to them in ways I know do not bring honor to God. The comments which followed this post were along the line of calling the fellow an "idiot", telling him he was a "loser", etc. The rantings of those who responded were definitely "less than kind" and certainly didn't reflect much love. Let me just say that I think a woman can be "under the authority" of a man while preaching (isn't Jesus a man, after all). I don't think this gentleman quite captured the scripture as he should have, being pretty limited in how he saw the ministry of some prominent women as "being out of line", but he didn't deserve the unkind words of others.
Even when someone is "misguided" in their words or intent, we owe an obligation of kindness toward others - because this is how Jesus modeled life to us. I think this might be the "harnessing" effect God desires - to allow some things to not be said, especially when they will be unkind or argumentative or inflammatory in nature. There are certainly lots of other times in life when we need to "apply the harness", but if we'd start by leaving "unsaid" what doesn't really serve a purpose to build up, bring wisdom to the situation, or reveal the love of Christ to others, we might go a long way toward actually creating an environment in which God's love can multiply. We don't always need to show our disagreement - we could just scroll on! Just sayin!