Jas 3:5-8 “Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell. 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.”
Little things can often have large consequences. In verses three and four, we have been reminded that an animal as large as a horse is turned in the desired direction by a small bit in its mouth. Large ships are steered by a comparatively small rudder even in high seas. These are great things done by something small.
The tongue is a comparatively small member of our body. If we do not have control of this little member, we will boast of great things (be arrogant). Self-importance is not a good look on we who would teach the riches of God’s grace and mercy. We do not love our neighbor as ourselves when we “boast great things”: we love ourselves ahead of everyone else. We become guilty of laying burdens on others that we ourselves are not willing to bear (Mat 23 3:4).
The words we speak coupled with our actions can stir things up in a big way, which can be good or bad. James is warning us very vividly about the need to bridle our tongues. If the tongue is not controlled, the matter it kindles will be very destructive. In the right condition, a single match can destroy acres of land, homes, and lives. Remember that the tongue is a fire.
The Greek word rendered as “fire” in these verses means ““fire” (literally or figuratively, specifically lightning)” according to Strong’s. It should give us great pause when we consider that the fire of the tongue is specifically like lightning. Most of us have stood in awe at one time or another as we observed a thunder storm. The lightning comes quickly and brilliantly; it can be momentarily blinding in its intensity. Lightning has demonstrated its ability to kindle great fires, to destroy livestock, and to maim and kill people.
The tongue is a world of iniquity (unrighteousness). Proverbs 23:7 tells us as a man “thinketh in his heart, so is he.” Words are thoughts with a voice. We use our tongue to tell people what we think. If our words are evil and we do evilly, then we have spoken from the heart. If our words are good but our actions are unrighteous, our tongue has still testified of our hypocrisy. The unbridled tongue is a torment (hell) that God’s people need to be very much concerned about.
It is amazing to hear and see stories of how people have tamed all the various creatures in this world. There are videos that show people befriending everything from bees to great whales. Men have lived among gorillas and made pets of crocodiles. There are people who romp with lions and play with giant snakes. We are often amused at the antics of birds that people have tamed and trained to talk. Yet, for all this wondrous testimony of man’s ability to tame, there is one thing that no man can tame. We do not have the wisdom, the patience, or the power to tame our unruly, deadly venomous tongues.
Seeing all that James has written about the tongue, it is not hard to understand why some men would be willing to take a vow of silence. However, we are not being taught in any of this to silence the tongue, but rather to bridle it. It has been plainly demonstrated in God’s word that we don’t have the power to do this. When we face those things that we don’t have any power over the scripture tells us to look to God and rely on Him.
I don’t want my tongue silenced. I want to be able to speak of God’s greatness. I want to tell people of His mercy and love. I want to tell people of His righteousness and judgment. I want to declare the great price that was paid for our salvation and that we are not bought with corruptible things. I pray that my speech and my actions may be turned to giving God glory instead of hurt and destruction!
May we be given the grace to acknowledge our need of Him in how we think, what we say, and what we do!