James 3:8, “But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison”
It has been said that the “tongue” is one of the most exercised muscles of our body. It has been estimated that in a typical week, the average person will speak enough words to fill a 500 page book! I’m sure you would agree that an uncontrolled tongue can get us into a ton of trouble without even trying. How many times have you engaged your mouth before your brain and have inflicted deep and lasting wounds from the words you spoke to your spouse, children, friends, co-workers and neighbors.
Oh, how necessary it is for God’s people to eliminate from their conversation all thoughtless words that would prevent many of the fires that ruin relationships. We all have said things we wished we hadn’t! The battle to control our tongue can seem like a losing cause. No wonder James called the tongue “an unruly evil, full of deadly poison”.
So, given our natural tendency to get into trouble with our tongue, what can we do to gain tongue control? In order to extinguish a fire, you must remove one of the essential elements needed for combustion. Eliminating what is fueling the blaze is a method often employed in fighting a forest fire. A controlled backfire is started from a cleared line ahead of the advancing flames. When the two fires meet, no timber is left to burn. The Bible tells us that for lack of wood “the fire goes out” (Proverbs 26:20). This refers to extinguishing something much more devastating than the combustion of physical elements. It’s the fire of an irresponsible tongue and the resentment and pain that burn in the hearts of those who have been seared by its heat.
I have to confess that many of the troubles I’ve encountered in the past, I brought on myself, because I opened my mouth at the wrong time. Think back in your own life and consider how much heartache was caused because you were not “swift to hear, slow to speak” (James 1:19). Psalm 141:3 tell us, “Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips.” You can tame a tiger, lion, leopard, cheetah, and other wild animals, especially if you work with them from birth. However, according to the apostle James, you cannot tame the human tongue (James 3:8). I like the book of James because he used other vivid analogies to illustrate the enormous power of this little member of our body.
(1) A bit in a horse’s mouth can turn the animal to the right or to the left (v. 3).
(2) A ship’s rudder can steer a huge vessel in a raging storm (v. 4).
(3) A single match or even a small spark can start a fire that can destroy an entire forest (v. 5).
(4) So too is the tongue which is such a small organ, but can do great harm.
Even under the strictest self-discipline and constant monitoring, the tongue’s unruly nature lurks dangerously below the surface. You can tame a tiger. Only by prayer, watchfulness and a dependence on Christ Jesus to guide what we say will we be able to control our tongue. Thus, if you realize your tongue is out of control, seek Christ’s forgiveness and allow Him to change the attitude of your heart and mouth, so they will be pleasing to Him and edifying to others.
Psalm 19:14 puts it this way, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, 0 LORD, my strength and my Redeemer.”
It is far better to bite your tongue than to let it bite someone else.