Taming Our Tongue (Article 20-3)
An evil tongue is a weapon of an evil heart and taming it is one of the most challenging things one can undertake. So, how bad can our tongue be or damage can it cause? James tells us that “the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; … which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell.” (James 3:6). Wow! The point about our tongue is clear – the tongue is a deadly source of evil that can corrupt every aspect of our person. Therefore, we must be mindful of our tongues and the words that spring from it. If we're not mindful of our tongue, it will, whether intended or not intended, light destructive fires. We not only are harmed by its fiery effects in the course of our life, but the course of others from which the sparks land. Over time, these fires can cause widespread destruction.
Being Accountable for Our Tongue. When James talks to the “untamable tongue,” he is not saying that it cannot be tamed. What he is saying is that we can not tame our own tongue. Only God, by way of the Holy Spirit, can tame it. Equally, important to understand is that we will be held accountable for what we say and the words we use in our speech. Jesus states, 36 But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. 37 For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matthew 12:36-37, NKJ). Christ states the above because He wants us to have a clear understanding of the fleshly-based evil we must battle, and the consequences of not doing so.
Significance of the Tongue. So, what is the significance of controlling our tongue when considering God’s will? James gives us the answer by making a comparison between controlling our tongue in relation to our whole body. Specifically, he tells us that although the tongue is a small member of our body, it provides direction to our behavior and actions. Although physiologically speaking, the tongue does not really control the body, it does have a disproportionate influence. James points this out when he extends his cautions to teachers of the Word, “3 Indeed, we put bits in horses’ mouths that they may obey us, and we turn their whole body. 4 Look also at ships: although they are so large and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires. 5 Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things” (James 3:1-5, NKJ).
Another way to look at at the power of our tongue is like this. An evil tongue is like exploding a feather pillow into blowing winds. Once the feathers are released, the wind carries them off into different directions. Now imagine trying to gather every feather up to put them back into the pillow. You won't be able to do so, nor can you control where the feathers will land. The damage is already done, and it's immediate.
Power of the Tongue. Most can appreciate the power of a horse, and the fact that it can be very useful in doing work if it is bridled and directed according to the user’s will. We also can appreciate the importance of ships, and the significance of its rudder in transporting of people and cargo to its proper destination. The main point is that although both the bridle and the rudder are small instruments in comparison to the mechanisms they control, its significance its influence is disproportionate with the size of the mechanisms they are attached. As such, we are not to underestimate the power of our tongue, for if we do, there is no hope of taming it. Also, if we don’t control it, we’re not able to do God’s will nor arrive at the destination assigns to us. Instead we will end up in a storm of trouble, heading to a destination of destruction.
Conclusions. To accomplish good things, we must control both bit and rudder, and it must be done so with a strong hand that knows how properly use them. However, if know that we cannot tame our tongue, then what can tame it? It can be tamed by way of the Holy Spirit’s power. This point underscores the importance in establishing a daily walk with the Holy Spirit through our abidance in Christ (John 15). When I refer to a “daily walk,” I’m referencing more than just going on a stroll with the Holy Spirit. I’m eluding to our need to firmly embrace His hand, by way of prayer, submission, and allowing Him to lead us along the path God wants us travel, just as the Holy Spirit led Christ through the wilderness to the Mount of Temptation (Matthew 4). It is only by way of allowing the Holy Spirit’s guiding power that we are able to receive the fruits of the Holy Spirit, which empower us by way of love, patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control, to control the tongue. In short, to tame our terrible tongue, we must walk daily with our hand in His, so all our thoughts, thus our words are captive to the Holy Spirit, which is the Spirit of Christ.