When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. [James 3:3-8, KJV]
This is quite an indictment of James, the brother of Lord, upon the tongue. How many times have we spoken words out of our mouth, then later wished we would have kept our mouth shut? I don’t know about you, but I think I’ve had to repent for the things I’ve said more so than the things in the past I have done. Speech is the single most important part of our daily life. Without communication life becomes a distant, uninhabited island, or a vast desert. Someone has said that the average person speaks over 30,000 words per day. It makes me wonder what I’ve actually said in those 30,000 words, don’t you?
James tells us that the tongue, left undisciplined, is a ‘deadly poison’. Why is that so? Every human being is born spiritually separated from God; our fallen, human nature is inherited from our fathers, and our father’s natures from their fathers, and so on going all the way back to Adam. Evil is in the world because of our fallen nature; we just don’t do the things we should, but we wind up doing the things we shouldn’t do. It seems we have an inherent ability to destroy others and to self-destruct ourselves. How in the world do we extricate ourselves from this melee? Through Jesus Christ and the New Birth! This God offers to every person born of a woman. The Lord Jesus, when we are drawn to Him and place faith and trust in Him, gives us a new heart and a new pattern of life. This life is called ‘zoe’ life; Life as God lives it; a higher life; a Spirit-Controlled life; an Eternal Life. This life is placed at the very center of our being, and being life, in an absolute sense, begins to permeate through our outer being, transforming our mind and the thoughts and intents of our heart. And this life, if looked and yielded to, will teach our lips and change our speech into a pattern of blessing God, and others, instead of cursing Him and those who are made in His image.
We can tame our tongues! I didn’t say it is easy, and taming our tongue will not happen overnight, but the more time and attention we give ourselves to the things of the Spirit, the more rapid our transformation into a well of sweet water will be, instead of remaining a bitter well that tastes sour to ourselves, and to those around us.