6 The tongue is a fire, a world of evil. The tongue is among the parts of the body, defiling the whole body, and setting the course of nature on fire, and it is set on fire by hell.
James compares the damage the tongue can do to a raging fire. The tongues wickedness has a source in Hell itself. The uncontrolled tongue and do terrible damage. Satan uses the tongue to divide people and pit them against one another. Idle words are damaging because they spread destruction quickly and no one can stop the results once they are spoken. We dare not be careless with our words, thinking can apologize later, for even if we do, the scars remain. A few words spoken in anger can destroy a relationship that took years to build. Before you speak, remember that words are like a fire, you can neither control nor reverse the damage they can do.
7All kinds of beasts, and birds, and serpents, and things in the sea are tamed or have been tamed by mankind. 8 But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.
If no human can control the tongue, why bother? Even if we may not achieve perfect control of it in this life, we can still learn enough control to reduce the damage it can do. It is better to fight a fire than to go around setting new ones!
They have tongues as sharp as a serpent; adders’ poison is with their lips.
Vernon McGee said: “As someone said, ‘The most untamable thing in the world has its den behind the teeth.’ That’s one little animal which no zoo has in captivity, no circus can make it perform, no man can tame it. Only a regenerate tongue in a redeemed body, a tongue that God has tamed, can be used for Him.”
The Holy Spirit will give us increasing power to monitor and control what we say. As Christians, we are not sinless, but we should never stop growing, never stop living for God.
Paul said, “that if you confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved,” (Romans 10:9). In other words, we are to sing a duet, the tongue and the heart are to be in tune. Jesus said, “…for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth shall speak.” (Matthew 12:34) …. what is in the heart will come out.
9With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who are made in the image of God. 10 Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.
The tongues which you and I have are capable of praising God or blaspheming God. The tongue is that which lifts man above the animal world. Man is not a jabbering ape or a mockingbird. Man can communicate with man, and he can communicate with God. When a man can sing like an angel on Sunday and then talk like a demon during the week, you label him as you want, but the Bible calls that man a hypocrite.
Our contradictory speech often puzzles us. At times, it is right and pleasing to God, but at other times it is violent and destructive. Which of these reflects our true identity? The tongue gives us a picture of our basic human nature. We are good, made in God’s image; but we are also bad, fallen and sinful. God works to change us from the inside out. As the Holy Spirit purifies our hearts, He also gives us self-control so that we will speak words that please God.
11 Does a spring yield at the same opening sweet and bitter water? 12 Can the fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a vine, figs? So, no spring can yield both salt water and fresh water.
In other words, a man can be a two-faced, double minded, and forked tongued individual. He can say both good and bad. But no fountain down here on this earth is going to give forth both sweet and bitter water, nor will a tree bear both figs and olives. Now the tongue reveals genuine faith, because it is with the mouth that confession is made of that which is in the heart.
James insists on purity of speech if one’s faith is genuine. He recognizes that Christians fail in this; he is willing to identify himself with sinful speech—it is something “we” do. But to accept it or to tolerate it, instead of being horrified at it and repenting of it—this must not be!
For we, like springs and plants, produce according to our true nature. The production of good fruit is an evidence of genuine faith and therefore salvation itself. James says to each one of us: Purify your speaking, or show yourself to be an impostor and therefore under judgment.