Note: Devotional taken from last Sunday's sermon on James 3:6-13:
James 3:7 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. 8 But the tongue no man can tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.
James begins by describing the mastery that God has given to man over all the other creatures (v. 7). This takes us back to the dominion mandate given to man on the sixth day of creation (see Gen 1:16-27). Genesis 2:19-20 even describes how God brought the animals to Adam and had him name them.
“But,” James continues, in v. 8, “the tongue no man can tame.” Massive animals, elephants, rhinos, giraffes man can subdue. Fierce animal, lions, tigers, and bears (Oh my!), man can subdue. But he cannot tame the tongue. I imagine a lion tamer standing with his whip and chair before the tongue, but not able to tame it!
Notice James does not say it is very difficult for a man to tame the tongue. Nor, it takes a lot of work and practice and patience and humility and discipline to tame the tongue. No. He says that no man can tame the tongue. That is, no sinful man will be able in this life fully to manage his tongue.
He adds two more very, very vivid metaphors:
First, the tongue is “an unruly evil.” The word unruly (akatastatos) can mean restless or disorderly. Imagine an incorrigible child running around in a grocery store knocking items off the shelves, taking bites out of fruit, upsetting shopping carts. The tongue is like that. It is an unruly evil.
Second, the tongue is “full of deadly poison.” It is lethal. It can bring about the ruin of a man’s life.
James description is strong, vivid, and foreboding. Little help is offered men, apart from God’s grace, in the management of the tongue.
But there was one man who perfectly tamed the tongue.
This is best exemplified when he went to the cross, fulfilling Isaiah 53:7, “as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.” That took perfect self-control.
Peter says he did not sin and no guile was found in his mouth (cf. 1 Peter 2:21-25). When he was reviled, he did not revile in return. When he suffered, he did not threaten, but he committed himself to the one who judges righteously.
Christ controlled the tongue so that we, as his followers, might be conformed unto his image (cf. Rom 8:29).
Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle