For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. (James 3:7-8)
In James chapter 3, he spends most of his time talking about the tongue and how it needs to be controlled. Yet he is not just talking about cursing people, though he is certainly including that (v.9). He is also talking about using our tongue, our speech, our words, to lash out at people, to hurt people, to gossip about or slander people. He rightly says “the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness” (vv.5-6). The tongue is a volatile, dangerous, and powerful weapon. In fact, much of the chaos and turmoil we are witnessing in the world today is the result of an untamed tongue. All wars in the history of the world, and all social and cultural unrest have been brought about by the communication of ideas—ideas which cause division, create enemies, and promote violence. Thus, James says that “every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison” (vv.7-8). This deadly poison has become even deadlier in the age of social media and the internet. Now every person with a smartphone has the potential to reach millions of people with their divisive and hurtful words and ideas. But before we think this blog post does not apply to us because we don’t ever get on social media, how often do we hurt those closest to us, those within our own family or homes, with our tongue, our hurtful words and ideas? We need to keep in mind what James is reminding us of, that when we hurt others with our words, we are hurting those “who are made in the likeness of God” (v.9). To insult or hurt with our words those who are made in the image of God is to insult God himself.
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