Taming the Tongue: James 3:1-18 ESV English Standard Version
3 Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. 2 For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, fable also to bridle his whole body. 3 If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. 4 Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. 5 So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! 6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life,1 and set on fire by hell.2 7 For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. 10 From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers,3 these things ought not to be so. 11 Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and saltwater? 12 Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.
Wow! That is sure a mouthful, isn’t it? Can anyone tame the tongue? We all say things we absolutely should not say even if we don’t mean the very thing we said. Our tongues are pretty convicting now, aren’t they? That tongue in our mouth might be small but it sure can do a lot of damage. Things people say to us can deeply hurt, but what about the very things we say to another? Do we realize that our words hurt as much as the words people can say to us?
In the Garden of Eden Adam and Eve sinned. We might not understand but they were human as well. God had to do something with that sin so God assigned 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 sinful nature.
Romans 3:10-18: 10 as is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; 11 no one understands; no one seeks for God. 12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” 13 “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.” 14 “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.” 15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood; 16 in their paths are ruin and misery, 17 and the way of peace they have not known.” 18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
As we look at our own lives we need to realize that under certain circumstances we can and do, mess up sometimes. Each of us has varying degrees of meanness, hate, envy, pride, jealousy, and so on in us. It can be under the surface for a long time, but under the right circumstances and events…garbage comes out. We all, per the Bible, have destructive tendencies in us lurking for an opportune time to pounce.
What about within your own family? Does anyone come to mind here? Those we should love most; at times we treat the worst of all. We can say some pretty harsh and mean things. This goes on between siblings, parents, and spouses. Pretty sad, but people do this all the time.
All of us have tamed things in our life. Some drugs, alcohol, and sex addictions, but when it comes to the tongue…we are not very good with that one, and the Bible said this. Yet, there is help in this. The Bible tells us what will help us.
Romans 8:10–14: 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus 4 from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. Heirs with Christ 12 So then, brothers,5 we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.
We need Christ living in us and we do that when we ask Jesus to come live in us and when we make Him our Lord and Savior. Our power to overcome things in this world only comes through the resurrected Christ and that also “helps” us control our tongue.
There are a lot of powerful weapons in this world. However, the greatest we face is our tongue. (Yes, there are horrific weapons of destruction out there, but our tongue is pretty darn powerful. It can bring love, encouragement, joy, peace, and good things, but then take that same tongue and lash out and it can destroy lives. Our weapon of choice is our tongue. That little thing in our mouth can bring and destroy people’s lives. It can cause unimaginable scars that never heal. The Bible tells us the tongue has power. Power to heal or destroy, bless or curse…let us learn to control it way more than we do. We can do that with the help of God.
Proverbs is full of verses that have to do with taming your tongue and the results of what happens when you don’t tame your tongue. Sometimes when you speak impulsively or when you speak unthoughtfully or even when you speak thoughtfully but we say the wrong thing, they are disastrous results of the tongue. In one of my lessons lately, I mentioned a story about when my son was killed and a person made a statement that crushed my soul. I am 100% convinced that they meant no harm and thought what they said would somehow help. It didn’t help. So no matter what we say, or how we say it…we need to think first if what we are about to say can hurt the one we are talking to. If you think it might hurt them then don’t say it or reword it.
Our tongue is like a little fire that grows into a forest fire destroying everything in its path. Our words can encourage others, or they can deeply hurt others. I am not saying here not to ever not tell the truth. God’s word/truth needs to be said no matter what, but say it in a good way. We will always offend those not living for God. Truth is truth and you can’t cover the truth with a lie to not offend them. We can’t go along and tell them that what they believe is right even though we know God calls it sin. Most won’t listen anyway. We can’t compromise God’s word to make someone feel better, but we can choose our words wisely.
So in saying all of this just remember that words can build up or hurt. Don’t deliberately hurt others when you can choose to reframe what you say. Non-Christians don’t usually want to hear anything we say. They have that right just like we have the right to say what we believe. We have all said mean things in our life. We can’t take them back either, but we can from this moment forward, stop before lashing out…think about what you intend to say, and ask God a nice way to say whatever “it” is. Even if and when others talk trash about us…we can stay within the boundaries of God’s word and still be a godly people. Let us each try to do and be better. Take it one day at a time. Now, may God bless you, keep you, provide for you, and may He give you His peace. May He walk with you and comfort you in times you need it, and may you also comfort others in their time of need as well.