Taming the Tongue


Taming the Tongue. The Bible says that the tongue is a fire that is filled with unrighteousness. That is certainly evident in our culture where most do not even feel the need to attempt to use any self control in what they say.





See how great a forest a little fire kindles! 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. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. 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.

James 3:5-12, NKJV



Taming the Tongue. The Bible says that the tongue is a fire that is filled with unrighteousness. That is certainly evident in our culture where most do not even feel the need to attempt to use any self control in what they say.


Taming the Tongue - Bridle the Tongue

James' lengthy treatise on the tongue begins in verse 1 of James, chapter 3. James begins by saying, "Not many of you should become teachers." Why does James begin with this bold statement? He continues by explaining himself. "We who teach will be judged with greater strictness." Then comes the support of this statement. "For we all stumble in many ways."


From these statements, James begins to speak about our tongue--"Such a small member, yet it boasts of great things."  In verse 3, the tongue is compared to the bits that we put in horses mouths so that they obey us. Then in verse 4, the tongue is compared to the rudder of a ship. It is such a small thing and yet it guides the ship.


The key to James 3, verses 1 through 5, is found in verse 2. "For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body."


Taming the Tongue - A Forest Fire

James' language is so picturesque that it is very easy to understand the lessons he is trying to teach to believers.


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.

James 5-6, NKJV


Growing up in Door County, Wisconsin, I remember reading a book about the Peshtigo fire. Here are some quotes from the National Weather Service about that fire.


On October 8, 1871, the most devastating forest fire in American history swept through northeast Wisconsin, claiming 1200 lives. . . 

The story of the Peshtigo Fire, gleaned from survivor accounts and conjecture, is that railroad workers clearing land for tracks that Sunday evening started a brush fire which, somehow, became an inferno. . . .

The fire also burned 16 other towns, but the damage in Peshtigo was the worst. The city was gone in an hour. In Peshtigo alone, 800 lives were lost. . . 

"What most researchers find so fascinating is the effect it (the Peshtigo Fire) had on people's lives. It was so horrific," Anderson said. "Some people thought it was the end of the world."


I remember reading that the fire was so intense that great balls of fire literally shot over the waters of Green Bay and destroyed parts of Door and Kewanee Counties.


James uses the example of a forest fire and declares, "it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell."


Once the fire starts, who can stop it? Who among us can control our tongue? None! Only by a work of grace from God can we even begin to control our tongues. What a fierce enemy is our tongue, and Satan uses it to destroy millions.


Taming the Tongue - Deadly Poison

James continues with a solemn warning in verses 8 through 10. 


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.


I must hang my head in shame as I consider these verses. How many of us have done the very thing about which James is chiding us? How many of us bless God on Sundays and then go about our lives gossiping or even cursing those we do not like, forgetting that they, too, have been made in the image of God? They, too, need a Savior! 


Taming the Tongue - An Impossibility?

Dear reader, what are we to do? As James has pointed out, we are all guilty of lacking control over our tongues. How quickly the poison comes out, and once it is out, it cannot be taken back.


As believers, what are we to do? Is taming our tongues an impossibility?


If you will remember, this portion of Scripture follows chapter 2 where we were told that true faith is evidenced by good works. Does that include taming the tongue? Yes! How, then, can we do what is impossible?


None of us will reach perfection on this side of Glory, but, like with other sins, we have a Savior who has paid the debt of our sins, and we have a Holy Spirit who lives within us guiding and directing our lives. As with all sins, we need to fall before the Lord Jesus Christ and ask Him to help us to tame our tongues. Ask Him to help us to think before we speak. Is this teaching on taming the tongue new? No!


Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.

Proverbs 13:2, ESV


And my favorite:

Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding.

Proverbs 17:28, KJV


As believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, go today in the strength and power of the Holy Spirit, guard your tongue, and hold your peace!


God Bless You,

Linda




James 3 Devotionals

Taming the Tongue - verses 1 - 12

Wisdom from Above - verses 13 - 18



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