But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening? Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh. (Jas 3:8-12)
Perhaps this should be a warning to us. I honestly have to ask if it the case that man cannot tame the tongue or chooses not to tame the tongue. It probably makes little difference in the long run; the fact is that we need to bring even the tongue under control and by doing so, we bring ourselves under control.
God’s word offers us many instructions on the proper use of the tongue. We, of course, have to be willing to put it into practice. Again, we see the need to have action in our walk of faith. We need to bring the “want to” into line with The Faith. “So speak and so act as those to be judged by a law of liberty.” (James 2:12)
That the tongue is full of poison and can cause lots of destruction was discussed in the last post. In this one, James gives us an example of the characteristics that the tongue has: Inconsistency, hypocrisy and even a lack of love.
Here James gives us an example of a great truth: You cannot Love God if you do not love your neighbor. This time he shows it by the improper use of the tongue. Who is your fellow man? A soul created in the image of God. In the case of those who are Christians, he is a saved soul and an heir of the promises of God (2:5), in the case of the unsaved; he is a lost soul in need of the Gospel (words of Good news-not curses).
James is astonished. All this comes from the same mouth: Blessings and Cursings? A question you might hear asked after a profanity laced tirade is “Do you kiss your wife with that mouth?” or something like it. James says these things “ought not” to be. “Ought” carries with it idea of moral requirements. Phrases like ‘speaking out of both sides of your mouth” or “forked tongue” all hold the idea of a tongue that says one thing one time and different the next time.
Even nature shows this principle. In Ashland, Oregon there is a park called Lithia. There are drinking fountains there that tap into the sulfur/mineral water at Lithia Park. When I lived there during my 3rd grade school year, I would go there for a drink (it was a novelty) and the water was always awful. Every time I tried it, it tasted the same-an awful mineral taste. It never changed. You couldn’t go one day and get sweet refreshing cool water and the next day rancid, sulfur tasting water.
After 20 years, I went back for a visit. I went to try the water (the inner child calling I suppose) and guess what? It was just as awful. It hadn’t changed. In the same manner, you don’t go out to the grape vines and pick figs, nor collect olives off of a fig tree.
What God has created has a purpose. The tongue was created by God and has a purpose too. When used for its purpose God receives Glory. Things that are good to do with the tongue are praise God, bless others, encourage others and speak words of grace seasoned with salt. Speaking truth in love is what we are supposed to do. We are to speak in the name of the Lord, speak forth the oracles of God.
When things are not used for the purpose God made them problem result. In the case of the tongue, we have corrupted it’s purpose. We ought not to turn what God has meant to be used for good into a tool for tearing people down: Gossips, slanders, curses, words that tear down and don’t build up. Paul tells us
“But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds,” (Col 3:8-9)
Question: Since James started out this chapter by talking about teachers, how does this section of tongue use apply to them?