20 February 2020
A Daily Devotional from OPC.org
Are You For Real? (James 3:7-8) (2020-02-21)
Scripture for Day 52—James 3:7–8)
7c2;a0;For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, 8c2;a0;but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
Either you control your tongue or your religion is phony. "If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person's religion is worthless" (1:26). The problem is, "no human being can tame the tongue."
This is so ironic! We're able to tame all sorts of creatures. "Every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankinde2;Pa6;" We "tame" some creatures in the sense that they become so domesticated that we make pets and friends of them. But we "tame" other creatures in the sense that we exercise dominion over them. When the dolphin at the zoo leaps through a hoop for fish, it hasn't been tamed in the same sense as a pet dog. Still, it clearly has been brought under human dominion. Last summer, I discovered a colony of yellow-jacket wasps in my back yard. But—with some doing—I was able to get the problem under control; you might say that they were "tamed."
Since James wrote this, mankind has advanced its technology so amazingly that we harness even the great forces of nature. I'm writing this on a computer in a house that is heated in the winter and air-conditioned in the summer. We exercise tremendous control over nature. But "no human being can tame the tongue."
Why not? Because the tongue is "a restless evil." It is unstable. James 1:8 uses the very same word of "a double-minded man." He is "unstable in all his ways." It is disorderly. James 3:16 also uses this word when it says that wisdom of this world produces "disorder and every vile practice." It is "a restless evil," constantly looking for trouble.
At the same time, the tongue is like a rattlesnake or a cobra, poised to strike, "full of deadly poison." Whether by means of slander (spreading false stories about people) or by means of gossip (spreading true stories about people to those who have no business hearing them), how many churches have been split by the poison of wagging tongues? How many marriages have been wrecked? How many careers have been ruined? How many friendships ended? How many wars started?
No mere human being can tame the rebellious, deadly tongue. But Jesus can! Look to him for the grace that forgives all your tongue's iniquity and transgressions. Look to him for the gracious working of his Holy Spirit that conquers your sins and enables you to exercise self-control.