“The tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison” (James 3:6) because it’s so quick to tell lies, gossip, slander a brother or sister, judge someone or criticize others. All of us, with the tongue, have sinned.
Sometimes, these transgressions are against others. Now, since taming the tongue is impossible, it has a savage nature. It appears to have a brutal and vicious disposition. So, are we to let this vicious member speak its mind? Are we to let it always put its two cents in? Are we to let the tongue be itself? The world would have us accept that there will just be times when people say the wrong things. Sometimes people will say rude, obscene, crude, dirty, vulgar, or un-politically correct things. Sometimes people will say evil things.
The world tells us to accept profane talk as a part of human nature. It tells us people will curse and talk bad about other people. “Gossip,” the world says, “is a part of society.” But the Christian does not rely on him or herself to tame the tongue! To be sure, people fail in their taming the tongue. Can a lion tame a lion? Can a horse tame a horse? Can a bear tame a bear? No! People cannot succeed in their taming the tongue but God can. That is to say, by ourselves, we’ll always say the wrong things. By ourselves, we’ll always curse. By ourselves, we’ll always slander another.
But the Christian is not alone. People cannot tame the tongue but God can. That is to say, we (being merely humans) cannot make our tongues submit to ourselves. Our tongues don’t fear us. The Christian’s tongue, however, is silent in fear. So we read that Christians “tremble at the commandment of God” (Ezra 10:3). So we read that Christians serve the Lord with fear and rejoice with trembling” (Psalm 2:11). So we read that the Christian’s “flesh trembleth for fear of thee” (Psalm 119:20). Should not our tongue (being flesh) fear God? Should it not subject to God’s presence, who is a “consuming fire” (Exodus 24:17, Hebrews 12:28-29)? Yes, the tongue is a savage beast, but the Christian lets God bring it into subjection.
How this subjection is not a choice for the trembling Christian! For the Christian truly fears God. This fearful subjection differs from what the world prescribes. The world tells people to fear nothing. “You,” it says, “can take on anything with enough courage.” “Get over your fears,” the world says. However, what the world does not admit (or leaves out) is that you cannot take on yourself. The absence of fear makes us no better warriors against ourselves.
The world makes us take courage and fight. But is it not better to let someone more equipped fight our battles? Is it not better to let someone, who we know will win, fight for us? Does not Jesus Christ already have the victory (Proverbs 21:31, Romans 7:25, Romans 8:37, 2 Corinthians 2:14, Hebrews 2:14, 1 John 5:4, Revelation 21:4)? Yes! Jesus Christ has conquered our tongues.
To be sure, the Christian says, it is better to let “the Lord fight for me” (Exodus 14:14). The Christian knows that “the Lord is a man of war” (Exodus 15:3). Is it such a surprise that the Lord fights for people (Exodus 14:25, Deuteronomy 1:30, Deuteronomy 3:22, Joshua 10:14, Joshua 23:3, 2 Chronicles 20:29, Nehemiah 4:20)? When we rely on the Lord Jesus Christ to fight for us, we rely on supernatural strength, not mere human strength, to tame our tongue. Therefore, although our tongue will sin many times (1 Kings 8:46), God has conquered our tongues.