James 3:7, 8

James 3:7‑8  •  3 min. read  •  grade level: 7
ANOTHER consideration is now urged, and not a little humiliating to set souls on their guard in the allowance of the tongue, and to hinder surprise at the extravagance of its outbreaks.
“For every nature of both wild beasts and birds, of both things that creep and things in the sea, is tamed and hath been tamed by the nature of man; but the tongue is none of men able to tame: an unsettled evil, full of deadly poison” (vers. 7, 8).
Here the inspired writer alleges an indisputable fact. What savage brute has not yielded to the dominion of man? What has not been subdued and become his pet or playmate? What bird of the air fierce or timorous has not bowed to his superiority and obeyed his will? Serpents even, however wily, powerful, or venomous, have been often taught harmless familiarity; while creatures of the sea have made friends and rendered homage or service to him.
But where is the man that has truly tamed either his own tongue or another's? Here one can appeal to universal observation, though not less forcibly and painfully to personal experience. It may and ought to be a heart-breaking confession; but is it not most true? Who does not know how rapid and ready is the tongue to break bounds; how slow to seek or keep the peace? How vehement its invective, how irritating its insinuations, how bitter and unmeasured its revilings? Is any one too obscure or feeble to escape its assault? Is any so venerable or exalted as to overawe its audacity? What piety or godliness can suffice to shame its insolence, or to silence its malice?
It is indeed, as it is here called “an unsettled” or unstable “evil, full of deadly poison.” Nor is the poison ever more attractive and dangerous than when administered in a gilded pill. Good words and fair speeches to make the worse appear the better reason is a favorite device of the enemy, and peculiarly fitted to deceive the hearts of the guileless.
Does this seem a too highly colored picture of the tongue? It is from One Who knew what is in man, and needed none therefore to bear witness of him. And He Whom James served in this Epistle as in his life-ministry knew what it was to have a human heart and tongue, both bearing good and sweet fruits continually to His God and Father. It is to Him that the believer looks and on Whose grace he counts. For underneath the gloomy description of a still gloomier reality, there is a streak of light divine. Is it written that absolutely none is able to tame the tongue? By no means. None “of men” can tame it. Ah! we can thank God. He is our desire, our expectation, and our strength. It were a wholly unchristian thought to subjugate our own tongue. It is our confidence to look up to God for that which is altogether beyond our capacity. And He works His wonders in everything through Christ our Lord. If all the rude men of Nazareth bore Him witness and wondered at the words of grace which proceeded out of His lips, does not our God and Father use these to humble and to transform and to invigorate, so that the tongue, that once was our shame, should be by His grace truly our “glory,” according to the Hebrew phrase? Christ indeed was here perfect. “Never man spoke like this man,” said the officials who were no friends, to their superiors who were His foes. But we are His; and as He is our life, may we learn of Him in this respect as in every other.