“For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind: But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.” (James 3:7–8, AV)
When I was a young boy, my grandmother moved to the country where she owned some property and had about a one-acre garden. She loved the country. One of the things about the country was that there were dogs that sort of ran wild. One day a border-collie showed up at her door step. There was not collar or any identification on the dog. So, the stray became our outside pet. I spent a lot of time in the summer at grandmom’s place and this dog and I became great companions. When I walked around the three and a half acres, checking out the stream and the wooded areas, the dog that we named Skipper would always follow. I began to teach Skipper tricks. Things like lay down, sit, sit-up, etc. No, Skipper was not a wild dog, but had been tamed and, being very smart, learned new tricks easily.
James, in speaking about the tongue, indicated that man can tame wild animals. Man can teach animals to do productive things. A border-collie can be trained to work a flock of sheep. A horse can be trained to carry a rider or pull a wagon. In certain parts of the world, huge elephants are trained to do heavy tasks. Yes, man can tame wild animals. However, James tells us that while this is so, no man can tame the human tongue. He goes even further to explain that the human tongue is “an unruly evil.” The word unruly, akatastatos, literally refers to that which is not held back (Vincent V.1, P750). It is uncontrollable. He is literally telling us that the human tongue has an uncontrollable nature bent on evil.
Further to this, James adds that it is “full of deadly poison.” The tongue is of a deadly poison. I remember while serving in the Army and attending the Army Ranger School in Fort Benning Georgia, one of our Ranger students sat on a coral-snake in Florida. The snake did not bite him, and this was fortunate because the bite of a coral snake was deadly. The poison was so lethal that there was little chance that one bitten by this particular snake would survive. The tongue can put out a poison that is just as deadly. It can injure others easily and it can lead a person on a path to destruction. The untamed tongue can lead a person to ungodly directions that will result in death.
The problem is that no man can tame the tongue. However, the good news is that God can tame the tongue. It can be changed from a powerful poison for destruction into a tool of blessing that leads to life. Take for example the Apostle Paul. Paul, formerly Saul of Tarsus, was a rising star of the sect of Pharisees. He was a persecutor of the church bent on accusing Christians of blaspheme and forcing them to renounce their faith or having them imprisoned or worse. Yet, Paul met the resurrected Lord Jesus while going down a road to Damascus to capture fleeing Christians and take them back to Jerusalem for punishment. Yet, after his encounter with the Lord, his countenance changed. From his lips now sprung forth words of blessing and life to those who would listen. Paul spoke to others of Christ, His death, burial and resurrection so that they could be saved from death by faith in Christ alone.
God can tame the wild human tongue and transform it from a deadly poison to a spring of life. Do you have a problem with the tongue? Do words of blessing flow forth to others or does it spew deadly poison? There is a solution. It is faith in Christ alone and yielding to the work of God’s Spirit in transforming your tongue from a deadly poison to a life-giving spring.