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. (James 3:7-9)
Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me! We have all heard that saying as we were growing up and some may have believed it. However for most of us we would be like Barney on Andy Griffith and say, “Whoever wrote that must have been some kind of nut!”
While the results of our words may not be seen physically, they do hurt. They are often used as a quick way to wound someone and cause them great pain. Besides being hurtful, they are also permanent. Once words come out of our mouths, they are out for eternity. We can apologize for them and try to take them back, but they will always be out there and can be used against us.
It is no wonder James said the tongue was an unruly evil and full of deadly poison. It is definitely a weapon which can be used against others. James tells us no man can tame the tongue, so what hope do we have? How are we expected to do the right thing when James tells us we can’t control it?
We have a couple of options here. First, we all need to practice allowing only good things to come from our mouths, for they are permanent also. If we encourage others with our words and say good things about people, they are out there forever too. Encouraging others can become a habit just as saying harsh things to others can become a habit. This is not an easy thing to accomplish, because good habits are hard to develop and maintain, while bad habits form easily and come natural to us. It takes time and effort to train the tongue to be an instrument of encouragement.
This is one of James’ concerns when he writes, that we use the same tongue to praise God and curse men. The reason we have such a hard time controlling our tongue is because our tongue is controlled by the heart. We have all had times when something just flies out of our mouth and we think, “Where did that come from?” The reality is it came from our heart. Jesus said, what is in the heart eventually comes out of the mouth. If our hearts are harboring bitterness and resentment, that will be the poison the tongue uses when it lashes out.
Another option to help with the tongue is choosing the option to say nothing. Doesn’t it seem more logical if we keep our tongues behind the cage of our teeth and lips the chances of controlling it are much greater? The problem comes once we begin to talk. When we untie the beast, not many are capable of putting it back in the cage before it does its damage. The old saying of, “If you can’t say something good about someone, don’t say anything at all” really are words of wisdom.
We need to turn our tongues into instruments of praise for God and encouragement for others instead of weapons of destructions. Remember we are to glorify the Lord in not only what we do but also in what we say. The reality is for most of us; our words will last far longer than our actions!