James 016 – Taming the Tongue, Pt. 1James 3:1-8 • Dr. Andy Woods • February 10, 2021 • James
James 16 — Taming the Tongue — James 3:1-6
James 3 — James is a book written by James whose name is actually Jacob. He is the half-brother of Christ, writing from Jerusalem to the scattered Hebrew Christians outside of the land of Israel. He is writing to them about how to live for Christ. The key point of this book is not how to gain positional righteousness, the assumption is that they already have that; it is practical righteousness — now that you are saved, how do you live?
The first part of the book, James 1:1-3:12, so you will notice that we are getting near the end of the first half of the book, is basically talking to them about how you keep trusting God as a Christian through life situations — that is how you achieve a practical righteousness that is pleasing to God.
What does that look like?
Number 1, you adopt God’s perspective on trials, and these people were in trials as they had been kicked out of their country, city, homes, Temple, and they are in these far-flung places. James explains to them that what God’s perspective is on trials is and how He wants us to rejoice in the midst of trials, and he explains why. And that we are not to in the midst of trials to charge God foolishly, saying ‘God, You brought this into my life to destroy me.’ So, trials are not there to make us bitter but make us better.
And from there, a practical righteousness that pleases God is to become obedient to God’s Word. How do we do that? We are slow to speech and to anger, and when we aren’t talking, we are in a position to receive. Most people want to talk all the time, and there really isn’t a lot of sitting, as you remember with the two sisters? Who was the busy sister, Martha? Jesus said that Mary has chosen the better way.
A practical righteousness that pleases God is not talking and not being quick to anger but rather simply taking in God’s Word, and then as we do that, we aren’t to just be hearers of it but doers. So that is what James 11:19-27 is about.
Then another way to manifest a practical righteousness that pleases God is to not show favoritism in the assembly; not to treat people differently because of their wealth or something like that. So, James 2:1-13, we see a command not to show favoritism. Then he described a situation where favoritism was existing in the assembly, and he explained the reasons why showing favoritism is contrary to God’s character and purposes.
When we reconvened after Christmas break, we spent all of our time, five weeks, on James 2:14-26 where we manifest a practical righteousness that pleases God when we allow our faith to manifest itself in good works. When good works accompany my faith, my faith becomes useful, or a serving faith. He isn’t saying here that you must have works accompanying faith to prove your faith exists; that is a false interpretation. Works accompany faith to make existing faith useful faith. Five weeks on that, and we have worked through the five illustrations that James gives to prove his point that works have to accompany useful faith.
Tonight, we are totally switching gears and moving into James 3:1-12, which is all about taming the tongue. So, it is kind of interesting as you look at the progression in the book of James, and by the way we all know that the chapter divisions are not put there by the Holy Spirit; man put them there. A lot of times, the chapter division unnaturally bifurcates the content of James 3 from James 2. But I would like for you to see James 2 and James 3 as flowing together because at the end of James 2, it is all about works proving that our faith is useful.
That moves right into James 3 where he talks about the ultimate work we can do as Christians.
What is the greatest work I can do as Christian? To prove that my faith is useful. The greatest and hardest work to prove the usefulness of our faith is to control the 2×2 slab of mucous membrane between the gums called the tongue. I think this is why James introduces this here because it is the ultimate good work, so if you are a Christian who knows how to control their speech, you have achieved a level of spirituality in terms of practical righteousness that most people never achieve in Christianity. It is the ultimate good work that a person can do, and you see that if you get rid of the chapter division. If you keep the chapter division, you just think he is onto a new subject. He is onto a new subject, but it flows beautifully out of what he had just said in the prior paragraph.
So, if there is ever a chapter in the Bible that is for us in the 21st century in the United States of America, it is James 3 because we are a nation of talkers. We love to talk; we have entire industries of talk shows, talk radio, talk this, talk that; everyone is talking…. Sometimes the person who wins the argument is the one who talks the loudest; the loudest in the room wins, and that is where American culture is. We are also living in this time period with all of these gadgets where we can take our carnal wicked thoughts and either audio or video record them, post or write something, and I can push a button, and my wicked thoughts with the push of a button, just go all over the whole world. And I get my ten seconds of fame. We talk all the time, and the issue is that God is in favor of language as He created it, but the believer who is living under the sanctified control of the Holy Spirit knows how to temper his language. So, that is the significance of James 3:1-12. Taming the tongue, the ultimate good work that a Christian can ever do.
With that being said, here is our outline as we start moving into James 3:1-12 (see slide on Taming the Tongue 3:1-12). You have the tongue’s influence 3:1-5. The main point there is that the tongue has disproportionate influence relative to your whole being even though the tongue is a very small part of our anatomy. It wields an influence that is disproportionate and because that is true, 3:1-5, it has the potential for great good or for great evil. The tongue’s evil potential is described in 3:6-12.
Let’s start here with the first part of the outline: The tongue’s Influence and the first thing that he mentions is the tongue relative to teaching. Take a look at James 3:1, “Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, [when he says, my brethren there, who is he speaking to? Christians. An unsaved person is never going to be able to control their tongue; only a person who is indwelt by the Holy Spirit would have any hope of that, so this is all the middle tense of salvation. He is dealing here with the practical sanctification of the Christian. Continuing on, he says in James 3:1, “… knowing that as such we…” [James as the pastor of the Jerusalem church, puts himself in the category of a teacher] … “will incur a stricter judgment.”
The first thing mentioned here is the tongue in relation to teaching, and I know something about this because the Lord, for whatever reason, has made me a teacher, and the gift of teaching, I wouldn’t change it for anything, it is wonderful, but here is the thing to understand as a teacher: a teacher has the ability to direct the thoughts of men and women. That is what teaching is. You have the ability to influence the thoughts of people. Therefore, you can influence those thoughts in a correct way but with the ability to influence those thoughts of people in a correct way, comes the equal ability to influence the thoughts of people in a wrong way. With the ability to do much good is the ability to do much evil. That is why James starts out this discourse on the tongue by talking about the tongue in relation to teaching. With teaching, you must understand that if God has given you that gift and placed you into that position, it is a wonderful thing, but you must understand that you’re in a position of greater accountability because you are directing the thoughts of many, many people. It isn’t like the gift of mercy or the gift of administration, of giving, or of helps; it is an ability to influence the thinking of a lot of people. As I mentioned before, we are living in this technological age, where your teaching is now accessible to the whole world, and you start to understand the high accountability for that. You can use it for good, but with that comes the equal ability to use it for evil.
I am reminded of Luke 12:48 where Jesus said, “…From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more.” So, to whom much is given, much is expected. So, when God makes you a teacher or puts you in a position to be a teacher, you must understand that God will hold you far more accountable for the use of that gift than many other gifts in the Body of Christ because of the capacity that you have to direct the thoughts of large numbers of people. With the ability to influence them positively is the ability to influence those thoughts negatively.
Now, it is very interesting that in the life of Christ, Jesus gets along as best I can tell, with everybody, even the tax gatherers and the prostitutes; in fact, they challenged Him with why He was hanging around with those people. It is like Jesus is open and accepting to everybody; to children, but there is one group of people who He just tees off on — the Pharisees. All you have to do to get a different glimpse of Jesus is to read Matthew 23; it is all in red if you have a red-letter edition that colors the words of Christ. I used to think, as a new Christian, that His words were red because He was mad, and He sure looks mad in Matthew 23. He says some of the harshest things you can find him ever saying about anyone there. He is like that when it comes to the Pharisees and the Sadducees who were teachers, but they were teaching falsely. He talks, in Matthew 23, about how they sit in Moses’ seat, in other words, their position gives them ability to in fluence vast numbers of people, but they’re influencing everyone in the nation in the wrong direction, and He is excoriating in His criticism of them. That is the kind of thing that James is talking about here — let few of you presume to be teachers knowing that the teacher will incur the stricter judgment just by the nature of the gift.
I run into a lot of people in ministry who say that they want to get into a position and teach this group, and who want this size of church and audience, and I am always wondering in the back of my head if they really know what they’re getting into. Not only do they know what they’re getting into, but have they studied the Word of God to show themselves approved, because if they haven’t studied, and they aren’t very deliberate and careful about what they are saying, and they don’t rightly divide God’s Word the way they should, then they are accountable to God for that.
So, if I sometimes go a little long-winded, and if I’m a bit more detailed in my explanations, and if we never beat the Baptists to the cafeteria on Sunday mornings, and I see everyone out there squirming, wondering when we will get out of here, you must understand that I’m thinking about my accountability to God. As much as I want to make everyone happy in terms of short attention spans, I have a far greater accountability than answering to people; I have to answer to God, not only for what I say, but what I leave out. See that? That is what James is dealing with here: “Let few of you presume to be teachers knowing that the teacher will incur the stricter accountability.”
The tongue is very influential; it wields a disproportionate influence in this area of teaching. Of all the spiritual gifts, it has the ability to influence more people than any other spiritual gift than God has put in His church.
He moves on to James 3:2, where he talks about what the tongue is like in relation to all of life. Look at 3:2, “For we all stumble in many ways, …” [and to that, I say, Amen!] …”If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well.” What he is saying here is that the hardest thing in your life as a Christian is controlling your tongue. There isn’t anything more difficult than that, and if you can master that, you can master anything. If you can control your speech, the hardest thing to control, controlling anything else in your life is rather easy by way of comparison.
It is kind of like the way they used to teach, which I don’t think they teach it this way anymore, sex education in schools. When I was coming of age, they had sex ed, and I got some of the best advice ever in the school system that I was going through. They essentially explained that the sex drive is the most powerful thing in my life right now as a young person. Yet, if I can control that and discipline myself where sexual expression only takes place within marriage, if I can discipline myself there, then I can discipline myself anywhere. I can become an A+ student; a star athlete; whatever I want to become because I understand discipline, and I am able to bridle the sex drive, and since that is the hardest thing to control, then controlling everything else is easy, see that?
That’s the point that James is making, not related to the sex drive, but to the tongue. He is saying that the tongue and speech is so difficult to control, that once you gain mastery over that area of your life, showing up to work on time is easy. Persevering through a graduate program is easy. Handling your finances is easy; I don’t know if I want to say easy, but easier, because you have mastered the most difficult thing there is to master.
So, show me a person who is undisciplined in the area of speech and in the area of sexuality, and I will show you a person who is undisciplined in basically every area of life. But the opposite is true, show me someone with disciplined speech and in sexuality, and I will show you someone who is probably an achiever in countless other areas of life because they’ve learned to master what is most difficult. That is another example of how the tongue is small, yet it wields a disproportionate influence.
Well, James, do you have any illustrations of this idea that the tongue is disproportionate; that it is small but that it wields a disproportionate influence? James says, ‘I am glad you asked; I have three illustrations for you.’ One is in James 3:3, the second one is in 3:4, one is in 3:5, and all of these are comparisons between something small and something big. The tongue is a little tiny part of us relative to our whole beings, yet it wields a disproportionate influence. Just like the bit in a horse’s mouth, illustration #1, just like the rudder of a ship, illustration #2, just like a spark in comparison to a fire, illustration #3. All of these are weighing something tiny versus something big, and James is communicating the point that this is what the tongue is like.
Notice his first illustration there in 3:3, “Now if we put the bits into the horses’ mouths so that they will obey us, we direct their entire body as well.” Think how big a horse is, yet what controls that horse is this tiny bit in the horse’s mouth.
He moves on to a second illustration, the rudder on a ship in 3:4, “Look at the ships also, though they are so great and are driven by strong winds, are still directed by a very small rudder wherever the inclination of the pilot desires.” So, here is a giant ship and what is directing that entire ship is a tiny rudder in the back of the ship, and one man is directing the direction of an entire ship based on what he does with that tiny rudder. So, the rudder is tiny, the ship is huge. The bit is tiny, the horse is huge, yet from the rudder or the bit is from where the influence comes. So, the tongue is tiny relative to your whole being, yet the influence comes from the speech or the tongue.
Then he gives a third illustration, a spark versus the fire (3:5), “So, also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things. Illustration #3. See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire!” I am from California and when I was growing up, I saw countless forest fires. In fact, we would suddenly get a lot of smoke in our area because of a forest fire. Forest fires on the news, a couple of summers ago or maybe last summer, central California was aflame, and it is interesting to follow the stories of whodunnit? Was it an arsonist or what? When they finally figured out, and I don’t know how they figure this out, but they’re able to figure out that it is some guy who didn’t listen to Smokey the Bear, and he didn’t put out his little campfire when he left for the weekend. That one little action causes such huge problems where property, lives, the environment, etc, area destroyed.
So, a little, tiny spark, one guy is irresponsible with his campfire and it sets a whole forest on fire. That is his third illustration, and this illustration is in the same way — the tongue is a tiny part of it, yet it wields a disproportionate amount of influence. But the saying goes, ‘Sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will never hurt me.’ I have heard that for my whole life, ‘Sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will never hurt me.’ That whole statement is a total lie. I don’t know who came up with that, but the tongue and words that are spoken against someone can completely destroy them. It can completely dismantle them; it can destroy their self-image. In fact, a lot of people, myself included, here I am in my fifties, having to constantly battle angry words spoken at me as a very young person. Here I am in my fifties, still having these angry words floating around in my head. So, the idea that the tongue and speech really doesn’t hurt anyone, nothing is more unbiblical than that way of thinking. It does not comport at all with James 3. Words have tremendous power. You can edify and build up with a word; with that same tongue you can destroy, tear down and injure. That, by the way, in our legal system, we have a tort. A tort is a personal injury that you can sue someone for, and one of those torts is slander. If you do it in written form, it is libel, but it is basically disseminating to another party or an audience, something about someone that isn’t true. If you do it in writing, it is presumed that the party who is injured is automatically injured. Damages are presumed. With slander, damages have to be proved, but the fact of the matter is, think about it, you can say something negative against someone’s business that isn’t true and keep customers away, and destroy someone economically. So, this idea that ‘Sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will never hurt me,’ is unbiblical thinking. It doesn’t even fit with our own legal system and the tort of slander.
A verse that you need to have on your wall at home if you are into that, is Proverbs 18:21, which says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue,” …. We are made in God’s image. When God spoke, things leapt into existence. Obviously, contrary to what you hear from the prosperity preachers who say that you can command wealth into existence, obviously, we don’t have that kind of power but at the same time, we are made in God’s image. God’s words have power, and if I am made in His image, then my words have power. What I speak to my wife, destructive or edifying, has power. What I speak to my daughter, edification or destruction, has power. What I speak in this Church, edification or destruction has power. That is what Proverbs 18:21 means when it says that life and death are in the power of the tongue. So, this idea that ‘Sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will never hurt me,’ is absolute bogus, nonsensical unbiblical thinking at any level that you analyze it.
That is what James is getting at in these three illustrations. The bit moves an entire horse; the rudder moves a whole ship, a spark causes a whole fire; that is what the tongue has the ability to do. It wields a disproportionate influence, although it is a very small part of the body.
This moves us away from the influence of the tongue to the tongue’s evil potential. So, if the tongue is that influential; if it wields such a disproportionate influence, then I have the ability with this tongue, to do incredible good. But what James is focusing on here is that you correspondingly have the ability to do incredible evil or destruction. As he is dealing with the tongue’s potential for evil, the first thing he talks about is the tongue’s potential for satan to use it. This is very important to understand. Satan can use an unbeliever any time he wants to. That is no challenge for satan at all. Satan’s goal is to actually use a Christian and his speech for his agenda. That happens in families, in marriages, in businesses, in churches all of the time. It is just that we are not attuned enough to the things of the spirt to understand when our mouth is being used for destructive purposes. This is what he is getting at in James 3:6, “And the tongue is a fire [that fits very well, by the way, with the forest fire analogy that he just finished], the very world [think how big the world is, that is what our mouths can destroy] …of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body”… [even though it is just a little, tiny part of us], “…and sets on fire the course of our life, [look at this last part here] “…and is set on fire by hell.” Or, ‘is set on fire by hell itself.’
Satan can take this little tongue and use it for edification or for destruction. Here is the deal: the more God uses you for edification, the more Satan works overtime in your life to use that same tongue that was used for edification for purposes of destruction. You don’t have to look very far in church history to see this. There was one of my heroes, still is a hero of mine even though at the end of his life, things didn’t end so well for him, Martin Luther, the leader of the Protestant Reformation. Anne and I actually, on the 500th year anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, had a chance to travel to Wittenberg, Germany, where Luther nailed the 95 Thesis on the cathedral door. We saw the room he was in when he was translating the Old Testament and New Testament into German, and he was a wonderful man of God. It is hard to imagine what the church would be like without the influence of Martin Luther, yet at the end of his life, he became very upset with the Jewish people because they did not respond to the offer of salvation the way he thought that they should have responded. At the end of his life, and you can track it right on into the end of his life in my little book, Ever Reforming, I have some documentation on this, but at the end of his life, he became very, very angry, to the point where he published about an 80- page tract that you can online for free for download to the Kindle. The title of the tract is called The Jews and Their Lies. Talk about people going on a rant. He goes on a rant for 80 pages against the Jewish people. In my little book, Ever Reforming, I quote several historians who say what Luther said became a blueprint for what Adolph Hitler would later do. In other words, Hitler called Luther his favorite theologian. A lot of the Nazis who were defending themselves at the Nuremberg trials following World War II, would simply say, ‘Well, we were just doing what Martin Luther said.’
My point is that Luther’s speech unleashed incredible good. You wouldn’t have the Protestant Reformation without Martin Luther. I believe that is why satan began to work on this man because his same speech, from the exact same tongue, later in his life, unleashed horrific evil. So, seeds were planted for good and for evil from the same mouth of Martin Luther.
This is what James is talking about when he says that the tongue has the ability to be set on fire by the powers of hell itself. Remember the apostle Peter in Caesarea Philippi up north in the land of Israel? Jesus says to the disciples ‘Who do men say that I am?” Matthew 16:13-23. Peter coughs up the right answer. And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.” It says here that Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus drew attention to that and talked about how this was a revelation from God that Peter just spoke. Then he talked about giving Peter the keys of the kingdom and all these amazing things. Then in the same paragraph, Jesus also says, ‘Oh by the way, I need to to go to the Cross and die.’ Peter, I don’t know, I think he was a little bit full of himself at that point, as ‘Look at me at what I did for the Lord.’ If you can imagine this, the text says and is mind boggling every time I read this when Jesus starts talking about His death in Matthew 16:22, “Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him,…” ‘Wait a minute, you just called Him the son of the living God. ‘All right, come over here Son of the living God, I need to give you a piece of my mind.’ And you know how that story ends, Jesus turned and said to Peter in Matthew 16:23, “Get behind Me, Satan!” So, with the same tongue that just declared the proper identity of Christ, I think satan hates it when God uses us. So, he works overtime to make sure that satan is the one using Peter the next time, where Peter actually rebukes Christ and tries to talk Him out of His life’s mission, which would be His death, burial and resurrection and ascension. The same tongue that boldly declared the proper identity of Christ. That is the duplicitous nature of the tongue; that is exactly what happened with Martin Luther, in my humble estimation. If it could happen to Luther and to Peter, who else could it happen to? I have the same sin nature as anyone else. It could happen to me, and you have the same sin nature everyone else has, so it can happen to you. That is the power of the tongue. It has the ability to being set on fire by hell itself.
Over in the book of Ephesians 4:26-27, it says, “BE ANGRY, AND yet DO NOT SIN; do not let the sun go down on your anger…” [That’s why I always thought moving to Alaska might be a good thing, because then I can stay angry longer. No, that is not a right understanding of the Bible] … “and do not give the devil an opportunity.” Or a foothold. So, if I am a bitter person because I’m unforgiving as a Christian, and I don’t forgive others the way God has forgiven me, then what happens in my heart is that I get very angry; bitter, and as I get angry and bitter, Satan says, ‘Ok, I can’t possess you but I’ll take whatever part you will give me and I’ll go ahead and put a stronghold in your life in the area of bitterness and anger.’
So, the next time you open your mouth at your husband, wife or kids or parents, employees, social contacts on social media, and put something out in an angry tone, or say something in an angry way, Satan just took your tongue which may have been used a month ago to lead someone to Christ. He just took your tongue and used it for his own purposes.
That is what happened in a certain sense with Peter, I am convinced that is what happened in a certain sense with Martin Luther, and that is why Ephesians 4:26,27, ‘do not let the sun go down on your anger lest you give the devil a foothold’ is followed by a few verses later Ephesians 4:29, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.” Why would that follow Ephesians 4:26-27? Because it is an example of what James is speaking of here. That the tongue can be set on fire by hell itself. You become angry because you have been treated wrong, and let’s just be real — all of us get treated wrong in this life by somebody because we are living in a fallen world. So, what happens is that you may be treated wrong in your church or by another Christian, etc, and rather than forgiving as you have been forgiven, you want justice, and that makes you an angry person. The moment that happens, bitterness wells up and Satan takes ground in your or my life.
So, the next time I open my mouth at my kids, wife, parents, co-workers, staff members here at the church, I am speaking in angry manner, so Satan is using my mouth. That is what James 3:6 is getting at.
Ephesians 4:29, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth.” I used to think that meant that as long as I didn’t use profanity, I was okay. No four-letter words, or we have substitute four-letter words, as long as I wasn’t using profanity, I was okay. The more I am studying this, the more I am convinced that this has nothing to do with profanity. Obviously, we are all against profanity as Christians, but I don’t think this is talking about profanity. It is talking about earthy type speech that comes out of our mouths that doesn’t build anyone up. It is destructive. It is tearing someone else down. So, that is what James is getting at here. When we talk, we ought to only utter things that are based on the need of the moment which will build up.
When you look at the emails I get, I can go from an emotional high to an emotional low just by changing emails. I got a wonderful email today from someone, and I was so encouraged, and it was so different than what I had read earlier in the day of something that someone said, not from anyone in here, of course, that was destructive. So, my whole mood of the day alters based on words that are spoken to me in written form. That is the potentiality of the tongue; that’s what it has the ability to do. That is why the Bible says that there is life and death in the power of the tongue.
One of my favorite Bible teachers who is with the Lord now, Chuck Misler, and I didn’t agree with every little thing he said, but I appreciated his Bible teaching, a lot of it, and he had a name for the Antichrist. He used to, when teaching on the Antichrist, would call the Antichrist Mr. Big Mouth. I started listening to that and wondered why he called the Antichrist Mr. Big Mouth. Have you read the passages dealing with the Antichrist? Whenever you get a passage in the Bible almost anywhere, dealing with the Antichrist, it speaks about his words. In this case, his satanically motivated words. The Holy Spirit brings up the words of the Antichrist repeatedly. Let me give you a few examples:
Daniel 7:8 of the Antichrist, “…a mouth uttering great boasts.”
Daniel 7:11 speaks of his boastful words.
Daniel 7:20 speaks of his mouth “uttering great boasts.”
Daniel 7:25 the fourth time in this same chapter says, ‘He will speak out against the Most High…”
Revelation 13:5 of Antichrist, “…. speaking arrogant words and blasphemies…”
This is what James is getting at when he talks about the ability of the tongue to be set on fire by hell itself. You think of the destruction that Adolph Hitler did; of his ability to sway the masses with his oratory. I’m convinced that it was the devil doing all of that. Erwin Lutzer, in his book, Hitler’s Cross, talks about one of Hitler’s childhood friends, Ernest Pretzsche, introduced him, Hitler, to a psychedelic drug that produced clairvoyant visions and heightened spiritual perceptions. “In this way, he was empowered to perform the deeds that he believed fate had decreed. Even those who knew Hitler from his early days were well aware of his occult powers. August Kubizek, [a friend, someone’s testimony who knew Hitler, and that is who Erwin Lutzer is quoting in this book, Hitler’s Cross said, ‘It was as if another being spoke out of his body… It was not a case of a speaker carried away by his own words…. I felt as though he himself (Hitler) listened with astonishment and emotion to what broke forth from him.”
In other words, when Hitler spoke, and you see all of the black and white reels and movies and the amazed crowds, chanting ‘Heil Hitler,’ and giving the Nazi salute, and it is obvious that these people are under a lot of hypnosis from the speaker. Here is Hitler up there orating, speaking all these things, and Hitler himself was probably astonished by what he was saying. So, that is the desire of satan to influence the tongue. Obviously, Satan has an open door with Hitler because he is an unbeliever. He can possess anyone he wants to; he can’t do that to you or to me, but he will sure take an inroad if you let him, and he will use bitterness. How does that saying go? ‘Hurt people hurt people.’ Is that not completely biblical and true? If you are hurt and you allow that injury to well up into bitterness, satan says, ‘This is great. I’ll use that.’
He moves away from the tongue’s evil potential to the last thing we will look at here before we close, James 3:7,8, the tongue’s inability to be tamed. You cannot tame the tongue; mankind has never been able to tame the tongue, although mankind has been able to tame almost everything. If you look at 3:7, he talks about what man can tame (verse 7), and then he talks about what man cannot tame (verse 8). “7For every species of beasts and birds, of reptiles and creatures of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by the human race.” Notice these categories here: every creature on the earth or the sky or the sea has and can be tamed by mankind in mankind’s existence. The abilities that God has given us as image bearers of God to tame creation is amazing. Man can tame in Sea World, and they’re swimming with these giant dolphins who have the ability to kill the people swimming with them several times over. Tragically, that sometimes happens. Generally, the norm is that this giant sea animal is under the control of a human being. We can put people on the moon; it is just unbelievable the abilities that God has given us in terms of being able to tame creation. That is what he is getting at in 3:7, but there is something that mankind has never been able to tame. What would that be? His tongue. He can tame everything else, but he can’t tame his tongue; he can’t control it.
James 3:8, “8But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison.” ‘Sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will never hurt me.’ Then, why is it called poison? What do you do with poison? Don’t you kill? I can kill someone’s emotions, someone’s finances if I speak disparagingly of their business, someone’s health if I create anxiety in them through uncontrolled speech. This idea that the tongue doesn’t hurt anyone is absolutely unbiblical. It has the potential for poison, and James’ point is to look at all of these things man can do in his 6,000 years of human existence in terms of taming and controlling the animal kingdom; technology, but here is something that mankind has never been able to do. They’ve never been able to keep their mouths shut, and maybe that isn’t the best example, because I don’t know if God wants us to keep our mouths shut, but He wants our speech to be edifying, and mankind has never been able to do that. They can control everything else, but they cannot tame the tongue.
So, when we reconvene next time, we will see the tongue’s inconsistency in James 3:9-12, and we will see James describing that inconsistency through three illustrations from nature.
Notice that James is a nature guy; he talks about fires, fish, he likes, I don’t know what it is, he was an outdoors type. He liked the outdoors; nature, he keeps using nature examples, ‘Your life is like mist, it appears for a little while and then disappears.’ The book of James is filled with these kind of nature examples.