Who Can Tame the Tongue?

Day 17 | Today’s passage: James 3:7-8 | Historical context of James

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.

I told myself I wouldn’t speak ill of a colleague when I heard others talking about her. But curiosity got the better of me one day, and I jumped in on the conversation. I told myself I would only listen to what they had to say and wouldn’t add anything to it. Though this colleague was sometimes impossible to work with, I was determined to keep my word. Unfortunately, my resolve faltered, and soon, I was chatting about the said workmate.

Yes, my tongue got the better of me.

I love watching animal performances at zoos or circuses—be it a lion jumping through fiery hoops or sea lions waving on command. These aren’t animals I’d approach out in the wild, yet they have been tamed by humans to obey instructions.

Unlike most wild beasts, however, the human tongue is hard to tame or train. The Bible has called the tongue an untamable animal and a “restless evil, full of deadly poison” (vv. 7-8). It’s restless because it is always itching to pass on the latest gossip. It tries to disguise this as an innocent “Did you know. . . ?” or “Have you heard that . . . ?”, but each tale it spins is a deadly poison to someone’s reputation. It turns a little venting into a huge hate spiel, and kills its victims even before they can defend themselves.

But that is not how we are to live. Realizing this hard but sobering truth about the nature of our tongue and its effects should drive us all the more towards the grace of God. When we see the possible damage we can do to another human being through our words, it should lead us to cry out to God and ask Him for the grace and help to control our speech.

It’s never easy to be nice to a person who has wronged you or rubbed you the wrong way, but we can ask the Holy Spirit to help us speak graciously, avoid “unwholesome talk”, and say “only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4:29).

May we continue to depend on God, for He alone has the power to tame our tongues and guide our every word.

—Michele Ong, New Zealand

Questions for reflection

1. How can you speak positively about someone today?

2. How can you be more mindful of the words you speak?

3. How will you season your words with grace?

Hand-lettering by Rachel Tu


Michele has an accounting degree but believes God has called her to write, and had spent many years persuading her parents to allow her to pursue a career in journalism. Writing is as essential to Michele as breathing, and knows words have the power to transform lives. She spends her free time buying books but ends up not reading them, chilling with her friends, and lazing at the beach in summer. Every now and then she would push herself out of her comfort zone by agreeing to take part in an outdoor activity like hiking but often with disastrous consequences.

 

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