James 3:3 Behold, we put bits in the horses’ mouths, that they may obey us; and we turn about their whole body.
4 Behold also the ships, which though they be so great, and are driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small helm, whithersoever the governor listeth.
5 Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth!
6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell.
7 For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind:
8 But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.
9 Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God.
10 Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be.
11 Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter?
12 Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either a vine, figs? so can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh.
King David prayed and asked God to guide his words.
Psalm 19:14 Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.
Psalm 141:3 Set a watch, O LORD, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips.
James was directed by God to remind us how important it is to know how to guard our tongues. He was directed to begin in verse 3 with the illustration of a horse. The bit that is used to turn a horse is very light compared to the weight of that horse. It is not the size of the bit that makes the difference. It is the fact that pulling on that bit hurts the horse and he learns to behave in such a way as not to be hurt. The horse learns the importance of listening to commands given to him so that he does not need to feel the force of that bit.
James further talked of a ship. A ship is an inanimate object. It has no feelings. James was speaking here to people that would have been familiar with ships. I am not that familiar with ships. I would not make a good sailor. The rocking of the boat in the water does not work well with my stomach. However, I understand that the helm is a part of the rudder. Depending on who is talking, some say it is the rudder, and others say it is the beam that the helmsman uses to move the rudder. The point that God is making here again is that the helm is a small part of that large ship. The winds can drive the ship, but that small helm can steer that large vessel wherever the governor wants it to go.
Having given these two very practical illustrations, God directed James to now deal with the tongue of man. In the same manner as the bit and the helm, the tongue is a small member of the human body. It is not very heavy in comparison to the rest of the body. It is not that powerful as an organ, yet it can defile the whole body. It is the organ that forms our words. With our tongues we can boast of great things. We can kindle a great deal of trouble with the tongue.
In verse 6 James tells us that the tongue is a fire. It can be used for iniquity. We know that people have done much damage with their tongues. Goliath boasted of his greatness and he defied the armies of the living God with his tongue. The armies of Israel were afraid of this man. Even the king of Israel was afraid of Goliath.
Nimrod used his tongue to gain a following for the purpose of defying God. He was able to persuade the people to join him in trying to build a tower that would reach to heaven. It was an evil plan and yet the people were willing to follow his plan. They knew better, but chose to defy God.
We have a P.M. in our country that has influenced his entire party to act in a manner that has frustrated a large number of the people of Canada. He calls them a “fringe” element, but I believe what we witnessed this past winter would suggest that it was more than just a fringe. He used language that was not conducive to set those concerned with his policies, at ease. He raised the temperature unnecessarily, but he had a point that he wanted to prove. So far, he has done quite well at proving that point. He has certainly pleased Mr. Klaus Schwab with his actions.
James was directed by God to address the brethren. The world is going to be very undisciplined with the use of their tongues. However, those who are saved need to understand the importance of praying first and letting God direct them so that the words they speak are pleasing in His sight, as we noted earlier.
James pointed out in verse 7 that man has been able to tame every kind of beast and fowl, etc., yet the tongue cannot be tamed by man. In verse 8 we are further reminded of this problem. We need someone greater than ourselves to tame our tongues. James tells us that the tongue is an unruly evil and full of deadly poison.
In verse 9 we see the contradiction that can easily define a person. It is possible to bless God the Father with the tongue, but it is also possible to curse man with the tongue. Yet man is made in the image of God.
The book of James was written about 62 A.D. In spite of that fact, every generation faces the same problems with the tongue that the people of James’ generation faced. God shows us that nothing has changed. Unless God controls the heart, the tongue will be a weapon that will do great damage.
It is important here to remember that we learn how to use the tongue properly through the study of God’s Word. There are many psychologists and others who would like to tell us how to use our tongues. The Bible warns against using flattery. Honest and truthful talk is important. God will guide the humble servant of His to know how to respond to each situation we face. There are times when we need to speak very clearly and very boldly. There are times when we need to use a softer approach. We always need to speak the truth. How we use our tongues will have an affect on our ability to help others to know His love and goodness.
In verse 10 we are reminded again of the contradiction that can proceed out of our mouth. James made it clear that this cannot be true of the child of God. God’s people need to learn to bridle the tongue so that it is a blessing to all at all times.
In verse 11 we are given another practical illustration. A fountain does not bring forth sweet and bitter water at the same time. At our house, there are times when the water coming out of our taps is quite rusty. There are times when it looks quite clear. We have learned to be careful when we wash white clothing. Some of our whites are no longer white because of our water.
That cannot be the case for the saved person. We cannot be unreasonable and rude one moment and then talk sweet talk the next moment. The rude and unreasonable talk will overshadow the sweet talk we use occasionally.
In verse 12 we see that a fig tree cannot bear olive berries. A vine cannot bear figs. A fountain cannot yield both salt and fresh water.
Our tongues need to be that fountain that is a blessing to our fellow man. It needs to be such that we can help others to see the blessing of the Lord.