The Tongue is Untamable
James continued addressing the subject of the tongue in 3:7,8 - "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." I believe that there is a big difference between controlling something and taming it. You can control a wild animal by putting it in a cage, but you haven't tamed it. To tame an animal is to control it and then to train it so that it will never lash out at you or hurt you. James says that every type of animal is able to be tamed by man. But, no one can tame the tongue. James' point is that once you tame an animal, there is no need to keep it chained up, but we must always keep our tongues on a leash for safety. We might restrain our tongue successfully for years, but it can still leap out and cause great harm in a moment if we're not guarding it. We must give ceaseless attention to controlling our tongues.

The inspired record declares that our tongues are full of poison. If there was a snake loose in the room with you right now, what would you do? What if you knew that that snake was the most venomous kind in the world and that if it bit you you'd die in less than a minute? Would you be able to pay attention to what I'm saying? No. You'd be watching that snake and concentrating on it to the best of your ability. You don't want that snake to bite you, so you are exceedingly careful; you watch it so very closely! We need to think about our tongues in the same way. They are full of poison and are just waiting to be used. All one has to do is let his guard down and his tongue will strike and release its poison! Friends, we need to watch our speech as closely as we would watch a venomous snake that is anywhere near us!

3:9,10 reads - "With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so." To bless God is the best use of the tongue possible, but when we curse our neighbors and associates by wishing evil upon them, then we are being hypocrites! How so? Well, James, like Moses, states that man is made in God's image--not physically, for God is a spirit being. All humans are made in God's image spiritually and morally (Gen. 1:26,27). Now, since all humans are made in God's image, when I swear at my neighbor or curse at a relative, then I'm really swearing and cursing at God indirectly, because that other person is made in God's image just like I am.

3:11,12 concludes the theme - "Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening? Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh." James gives this last illustration to drive home his point. All springs of water are either good or bad. It's simply not possible for them to be pure one moment and then polluted the next according to nature. A salt-water fountain cannot bring forth fresh water; such is impossible. The same is also true with the tongue. It's not natural for a tongue to be divided. A mouth that curses cannot properly praise God because it is tainted. If you can't control your mouth on Saturday, then your praises to God on Sunday will be impure and worthless. Praise that is given to God is defective and hypocritical if that same mouth is used for filth at other times. Nature illustrates this point very well; may we all learn this lesson.

Let us summarize these powerful verses before closing. Teachers of the gospel have a greater responsibility before God than their students do. It is very difficult for any of us to control our tongues. The tongue is powerful and capable of great evil even though it is small. Any person who curses others and praises God with his tongue is hypocritical and lacking in true wisdom.