One small bit can bring a horse to obedience and turn it in the direction we want it to go, one small rudder can turn a large ship in a new direction, one small spark can set an entire forest ablaze. These are the words that James pens at the start of the third chapter of his epistle. He is masterfully painting a picture, skillfully giving us objects that despite their stature have a great impact on things much larger. Then he drops the pen [mic] so to speak, when he continues to write that the tongue is no different.
3 When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. 4 Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. 5 Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. 6 The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.
7 All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
9 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.
The tongue, as James writes, is a fire that corrupts the whole body, setting the course of our life and itself on fire by hell. He definitely is not mincing words here. He is now showing us the great power in the tongue. He continues by telling us that creatures of all kinds have been able to be tamed by man, but that no human being can tame the tongue.
For an animal to be tamed or broken it has to give up the fight; the fight of independence, freedom, individuality, it gives up on the very nature that made it what it was. The tongue according to James, however, is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. All hope is not lost and there is always a way with Jesus! After all, no mere human can ever tame the tongue, but Jesus did, and He gives us that same power and ability to not just tame the tongue but render it powerless to destroy. Instead, we will harness the power of the tongue to speak life.
20 From the fruit of their mouth a person’s stomach is filled;
with the harvest of their lips they are satisfied.
21 The tongue has the power of life and death,
and those who love it will eat its fruit.
The tongue holds within it the power of life and death. It was by God’s words that the heavens and the earth were created. God spoke by saying let there be light and the power that flowed through His words brought forth light. In retrospect, satan through the serpent used the same words God spoke and twisted them to tempt Adam and Eve, “Did God really say?” (Genesis 3). There is a reason why the serpent was used, and it is found in its description: it was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made.
Crafty – clever at achieving one’s aims by indirect or deceitful methods.
The aim of satan in your life is to use your tongue to achieve his aims: kill, steal, destroy. He achieves this via two other body parts of ours: our brain (mind) and our heart. If he can poison our thoughts and fill our hearts with bitterness, the tongue will be eager to let death and destruction just roll off of it, stealing hope and love from us.
45 A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.
2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
2 Corinthians 10:5
5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
But we are more than conquers through Him who loved us (Romans 8:37). Jesus, gave us the Holy Spirit, the same Holy Spirit that strengthened Him when He was in the desert. The same Holy Spirit that brought the Word of God to Jesus’ lips when satan tried to tempt him and twist God’s words. We have that same Hoy Spirit dwelling within us and moving through us. He will give us the strength and ability to hold every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ Jesus. The Holy Spirit will transform us and renew our minds and only store within our hearts all the goodness of God. Then will be able to fill our stomachs with the goods fruits spoken from our mouths and delight in the great harvest of our lips.
Let us begin to declare war on the restless evil of our tongue, by dwelling on things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—let us dwell on Jesus (Philippians 4:8). Let us begin to strengthen, build up, encourage and comfort ourselves through the words that God has spoken over us. These words reveal the character and power of Jesus over us. They will help us keep our eyes and focus on Him.
Then, when we are strengthened by His joy over us, let us get up, put on the full armor of God and set others free by the power of His word rolling off our tongue—giving life, hope, and strength to those in need of it. Let us only speak life into others, let us only use our tongues to draw out the very best in each person we encounter. Let us build others up, encourage them, and comfort them so that all may come to the knowledge of the character and person of Jesus!
Forgive me for taking eyes off of you. Forgive me for allowing bitterness to enter my heart and allowing my thoughts to be polluted. Holy Spirit bring to mind all the words spoken over me, the promises God has made to me, the dreams He has placed in my heart, the visions He has planted in my thoughts. They give me strength because they show me the character of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ: faithful and true! Dress me with Your armor and send me to those who need Your freedom. I yield my tongue to You. I give my heart to You. I surrender my thoughts to You. AMEN!
Your servant in Christ,