The Terror of the Untamed Tongue

tongue is a fire

It’s said that a slick tongue causes bad slips and loose lips.

A man working in the produce department was asked by a lady if she could buy half a head of lettuce. He replied, “Half a head? Are you serious? God grows these in whole heads and that’s how we sell them!”

“You mean,” she persisted, “that after all the years I’ve shopped here, you won’t sell me half-a-head of lettuce?”

“Look,” he said, “If you like I’ll ask the manager.”

She indicated that would be appreciated, so the young man marched to the front of the store. “You won’t believe this, but there’s a lame-braided idiot of a lady back there who wants to know if she can buy half-a-head of lettuce.”

He noticed the manager gesturing, and turned around to see the lady standing behind him, obviously having followed him to the front of the store. “And this nice lady was wondering if she could buy the other half” he concluded.

Later in the day the manager cornered the young man and said, “That was the finest example of thinking on your feet I’ve ever seen! Where did you learn that?”

“I grew up in Grand Rapids, and if you know anything about Grand Rapids, you know that it’s known for its great hockey teams and its ugly women.”

The manager’s face flushed, and he interrupted, “My wife is from Grand Rapids!” “And which hockey team did she play for?” (selected)

James has much to say about the difficulty of controlling our tongues (James 3:1-12, The Message, MSG, and The New American Standard Bible, NASB). Though it is small, it is known to…

~ Boast of great things, vs. 5. (NASB)~ Spark great destruction like a forest fire that starts with a careless or wrongly placed word, vss. 5-6. (MSG)

~ Ruin the world, turn harmony to chaos, throw mud on a reputation, and be the cause of death, itself, vs. 6. (MSG)

~ Be untameable, uncontrollable, running wild, like a wanton killer, v. 8. (MSG)

~ A restless evil, full of deadly poison, v. 8. (NASB)

~ Bless God on one side, but curse men and women who are made in God’s likeness on the other side, v. 9. (MSG)

James tells it like it is about the human tongue and the way it ought to be used. He emphasizes the need for Christians to put more restraint on their tongues for, “from the same mouth come both blessings and cursings,” (vs. 10, NASB).

Inconsistency appears to be a distinct problem of an untamed tongue. James remarked, “My friends, this can’t go on. A spring doesn’t gush fresh water one day and brackish the next, does it? Apple trees don’t bear strawberries, do they? Raspberry bushes don’t bear apples, do they? You’re not going to dip into a polluted mud hole and get a cup of clear, cool water, are you?” (vss. 10-12, MSG).

The terror that results from an untamed tongue speaks of the necessity of building our lives on Godly wisdom. It means our priority is to “live well, live wisely, live humbly,” (v. 13, MSG). Our style of holy living will have a positive effect on our relationships and the way we communicate.

James says,

“…It’s the way you live, not the way you talk, that counts. Mean-spirited ambition isn’t wisdom. Boasting that you are wise isn’t wisdom. Twisting the truth to make yourselves sound wise isn’t wisdom. It’s the furthest thing from wisdom—it’s animal cunning, devilish conniving. Whenever you’re trying to look better than others or get the better of others, things fall apart and everyone ends up at the others’ throats,” (vss. 13-16, MSG).

James urges believers to not merely talk the talk but walk the walk (James 1:22-27). What we say will be revealed by the way we’re living according to the wisdom that is from above. And this can only produce good results. Indeed, we won’t be so apt to slip on a slick tongue and spread its terror.

James concludes,

“Real wisdom, God’s wisdom, begins with a holy life and is characterized by getting along with others. It is gentle and reasonable, overflowing with mercy and blessings, not hot one day and cold the next, not two-faced. You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoy its results only if you do the hard work of getting along with each other, treating each other with dignity and honor,” (vss. 17-18, MSG).

The use of our tongues for building up rather than bringing down includes telling others about the Good News (Matthew 28:19-20). As others see us living the way we say we ought to live, then our witness will be more believable when we share our hope and faith. The Good News of Christ and his Kingdom will be validated by our wisdom and actions toward our desire to obey God and his Word.

Here’s a song taken directly from scripture titled, “Taming the Tongue” (James 3:1-10):

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

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