It’s an issue he wants us to think about.

3. The Problem With The Tongue.

Did you notice it throughout his words? You might not catch it with the bit in the mouth of horses nor the rudder, but it comes through loud and clear in the other pictures he paints. When he compares the tongue to fire it is not something that you warm yourself beside on a January evening. It is a raging forest fire, out of control. He uses words like corruption, evil, set on fire by hell. This is not a pretty picture here.

When he talks about taming animals, the contrast is the wildness of the tongue, “full of deadly poison.” When he mentions praising God, he contrasts it with cursing men. There is the image of an unreliable spring that one time you get a drink and it is good fresh water and the next time it is bitter salt water. This tongue that is so powerful and privileged is also wild and bitter and deadly. And we all know what he is talking about. The tongue with all its great potential for goodness in praising God, teaching godliness and encouraging people is more often than not used to destroy and embitter and tear apart.

It wasn’t too long ago that I caught myself in just that position. In a group of people my sharp tongue ran rampant. I buried a verbal dart or two in a friend of mine in front of several other people. It wasn’t really anything intentional. That person is someone I love dearly, and if I thought about it, I wouldn’t want to hurt them for anything. I was trying to be cute. Originally when the words came out they were meant as a joke, but there was too sharp an edge on them. Before I knew it the words were out and there. You know as well as I do that there is no retrieving them once they leave your mouth. The fire was lit, the wild animal was loose and it was doing destruction to the spirit of another one of God’s children, a person I love dearly.
Now I apologized later, and they accepted, but those words and the hurt they caused cannot be retracted. After that incident, I spent a lot of time considering what James said in this passage thinking about that incident. How can I say that my tongue is devoted to God, teach and preach His Word, and then use that same tool to verbally assault someone? And as I considered it, verses 9-11 really struck me. (read vv. 9-11) You see, the type of water that comes from a spring is determined way below the surface of the ground. Down deep in the heart of the earth that water is drawn from a source that is either sparkling and fresh, or it is salty and bitter. And the same is true with wild, deadly and bitter tongues.

The problem isn’t in the mouth. The problem is in the heart. Down in the deeper recesses of our being, where we don’t like to let people see what really exists, that is where the wild, bitter, deadly tongue gets its power. Listen to what Jesus said in Matthew 12:33-37. (Read) Did you get it? “Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.” You see, after some real