Taming the Tongue

William C. Brownson

READ : James 3:7-8

. . . but no one can tame the tongue—a restless evil, full of deadly poison. (v. 8)

James highlights for us the power of small things—a bit in the mouth of a horse controlling the mighty stallion’s movement, a small rudder directing the course of a great ship, or a little spark setting a vast forest ablaze.

But those are simply illustrations from the world around us. James really wants to speak about the tongue, which he calls “a little member, that boasts of great exploits.”

Human speech can sometimes be a source of incalculable blessing. Just think of the wonderful effects when God’s servants proclaim the gospel. But James focuses on the tongue’s destructive power. He calls it “a world of iniquity . . . set on fire by hell.” We’ve all seen the devastating effects of bitter, hostile speech. I remember listening once to a tape of Adolf Hitler’s speeches. I couldn’t understand the words, but I could feel their power to kindle fear and hate.

James also contends that no one can tame the tongue. He builds on the words of Jesus that “out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.” We can’t tame our tongues because we can’t change our hearts. But what we can’t do for ourselves, Jesus offers to do for us—new hearts for old, with “tongue-control” a sign!


Lord, renew our hearts, that our speaking may honor you and bless others!