Summary: A study in the book of James 3: 1 – 18
James 3: 1 – 18
The thing that cannot be tamed
1 My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment. 2 For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body. 3 Indeed, we put bits in horses’ mouths that they may obey us, and we turn their whole body. 4 Look also at ships: although they are so large and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires. 5 Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles! 6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell. 7 For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. 8 But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. 10 Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so. 11 Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening? 12 Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus, no spring yields both salt water and fresh. 13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. 15 This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. 16 For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. 17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. 18 Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.
There is something that is so vicious that it cannot be tamed. It is tiny yet can cause great damage if let out of it cage. I am referring to our tongues.
The concept of taming the tongue is found in the book of James chapter 3 where our Holy Spirit God declares, that “no one can tame the tongue” (3:8). The lengthy discussion about the tongue in this chapter is both convicting and illuminating.
Among the things this chapter reveals about the tongue are:
. it is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts (verse 5)
. it is a fire and a world of evil that defiles the whole person (verse 6)
. it is set on fire by hell (verse 6)
. it is an unrestrainable evil and full of deadly poison (verse 7).
Is it any wonder, then, that our Holy Creator God declares that taming the tongue is impossible?
When Adam sinned, God imputed that sin to mankind, so, whether or not we want to believe it, every human being is born with a wicked heart and an evil sin nature (Romans 3:10–18). Lurking within each of us are varying degrees of hatred, bitterness, jealousy, and pride, and the tongue takes hold of these and other destructive tendencies and strikes out, like a snake. We see this every day among strangers, friends, siblings, and, worst of all, among husbands and wives, the very people who, next to their love for the Lord Jesus, should have the most love for each other (Ephesians 5:22–33).
What is to be done, then, to tame the tongue? If God has declared that “no one” can tame the tongue, how can we even begin to do so? While many people have quit smoking or drinking by the power of the human will, the problem of the heart and tongue cannot be solved by human will power. It takes the power of the resurrected Christ within us to control the tongue, and that power is available only to those who turn their lives over to Him (Romans 8:10–14). As with so many things in life, “with men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26).
There Is only One who can control the tongue. Only by God’s Precious Holy Spirit living within us can we hope to gain control over our tongues. He convicts us when we sin with our lips, and that conviction drives us to repent and pray for more filling of the Spirit, so we can avoid further sin. As we cling to Him and yield to Him in obedience, He controls us more and more, including our tongues.