Trained or Tamed?

Since my health crisis, I have found a “routine” seasonal illness, is not as routine as it used to be. It has been a roller-coaster type of week with my symptoms. Today has been mainly a day of rest. I am thankful to my friend Don Thurn for filling in for the Assisted Living Chapel services today. Don covered my last week when I was out of town and when I show up today, he was there for his “regular” Sunday. That helped me return home to get some rest.

BIBLE VERSE FOR TODAY… “…we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a mature man who is also able to control his whole body.”  James 3:2 HCSB

It is often observed that a “wild” lion or tiger is not tamed, but trained. That means there is still the possibility at any moment, especially when it is unexpected, for its destructive nature to emerge. That seems to be a fitting metaphor for the “tongue.”

The tongue or the words we speak, have potential for good and for harm. We curse and we bless. We entertain and bring joy, or we attack and bring pain with our words. James makes some detailed observation about the contradiction and dilemmas that come from the tongue. However, he doesn’t give too many recommendations. Just cautions. Perhaps that is because, we aren’t perfect. We are not able to completely exercise self control at all times.

James points out that we have learned to bring wild animals and huge ships under control using small devices; a bit and a ruder. He goes on to explains that the tongue though small, directs our lives and exerts disproportionate control. Even though small, it is capable of great destruction.

Consider James words, And the tongue is a fire. The tongue, a world of unrighteousness, is placed among the parts of our bodies. It pollutes the whole body, sets the course of life on fire, and is set on fire by hell.It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. (James 3:6,8 HCSB)

The tongues brings a contradiction found no where else in nature. Praising and cursing come out of the same mouth. My brothers, these things should not be this way. Does a spring pour out sweet and bitter water from the same opening?  Can a fig tree produce olives, my brothers, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a saltwater spring yield fresh water.” (James 3:10-12 HCSB)

Perhaps James’ best summary is that fact, “…no man can tame the tongue. (James 3:7 HCSB) However, we can exert awareness, control and responsibility when it comes to our “tongue.”

James begins his discourse on the tongue with a warning to those who would be “teachers.” Those who live in the “world of words” have a greater opportunity to “sin” and “misspeak” than anyone else. As a preacher and politician, I felt doubly vulnerable. There is the risk of the words not coming out right, to saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. ( Look at the most recent President George Bush.) But in a greater way there is the responsibility to not lead people astray by what we say. (Look at our current President.) In our world of technology the spoken word is still powerful.

This is an area, where we need the help of the Holy Spirit. On the day of Pentecost, I believe it was God’s divine plan for the most unruly member of the human body to be under the control of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:4) We need to recognize that control of the tongue is beyond our human efforts and to seek the Lord’s help.

Our daily prayer needs to be the same as the psalmist, “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14 NLT) Being silent is often the safer approach, Proverbs reminds us, When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.” (Prov. 10:19 NIV)

Finally, it is important to ask for forgiveness and to forgive.

  • “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry…” (James 1:19 NIV)
  • “Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry….be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ.” (Ephesians 4:26,32 NIV)
  • “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. (Matthew 18:15 NIV)

We can all relate to the words of James. We can also understand the challenge in “tongue control.” We may not be able to “tame” it, but with the Lord’s help we can “train” it to be more of a blessing than a curse.