Wednesday, August 4, 2021

The Tongue Is Impossible to Tame

 Thursday, August 5, 2021  

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. James 3:7-9

The Tongue Is Impossible to Tame 

In the second warning about the tongue, James changes his imagery and speaks of wild animals.  He repeats the verb tame in present and perfect tenses so that we make no mistake about how commonplace it is for men to tame wild animals.  Why is that so? To explain, in quick succession James adds two phrases referring to the tongue. 

1.    First, the tongue is a restless evil, untamable because it is inherently unstable and therefore, even when brought under some control, always prone to further evil.

2.    Second, with a sudden change in imagery, the tongue is full of deadly poison. 

Again we are compelled to be continually watchful; to keep the lid on the poison because we know the power to destroy with our tongues is present as often as we speak. 

From all three images--wild animals, restless evil and deadly poison--the application is the same: self-discipline. Self-discipline is to be practiced actively and diligently in recognition of the constant danger. It takes discipline to be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. James 1:19

The Tongue Makes Us Liable to Judgment (James 3:1; 9-12)

Judgment is not mentioned in 3:9-12, but it is the unspoken implication still being explained from the beginning of the passage in 3:1.

The products of the tongue are the contradictory statements of praise and cursing. The three phases of this paragraph make this evident. 

·      First, if we praise God and then curse our neighbors, our praise to God is contradicted. James's logic is important to trace. The one we praise is no less than our Lord and Father.  The one we curse is made in the likeness of that Lord and Father. Therefore, to treat people with contempt is to treat God's own greatness with contempt. 

·      SecondJames 3:10 declares such inconsistency unthinkable for those changed in heart.  The tone of James' summary in the first part of the verse is amazement that such praise and cursing should come from the same mouth. "Praise and cursing from the same mouth? It can't be!"  Adamson describes James's language as "the strongest possible Greek . . . spoken with all the force of protesting condemnation". 

·      Third, the examples from nature in James 3:11-12 are intended to describe situations that never happen. Oddities of nature do not negate James's point. He is stating the obvious, normative facts that one spring does not pour forth two kinds of water; a plant of one kind does not produce fruit of another kind; a salt spring does not produce fresh water. 

Jesus teaches about words in Matthew 12

For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned. Matthew 12:37

Jesus made the divine judgment explicit: But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the Day of Judgment. Matthew 12:36

The implication is that a Christian will not make a practice of unchristian speech unless their heart has been compromised by evil. 

Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.  James 3:10-12

Devotional Archive