The Beast That Cannot Be Tamed

It is fiercer than a lion, has sharper talons that a hawk, is full of deadly poison, and has killed multitudes.

If you were told that a tiger had gotten into your house, you’d go home from work a bit more carefully, wouldn’t you? You’d approach the door with extreme caution. You’d open the door only having taken multiple precautions. James is calling us to exercise the same care and caution with our tongues. 

 

Every kind of animal, fish, or bird can be tamed. Savage lions can be made to jump through hoops, hawks can sit on a man’s hand to do his bidding, serpents can be trained to dance, and killer whales are Seaworld entertainers.

That’s not just a modern phenomena. The Apostle James surveyed the whole animal kingdom of his day and concluded:  ”For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind” (James 3:7).

But then he stops as his eyes lock on a beast that “no man can tame.” What is it? Look closer. It’s the human tongue!

It is fiercer than a lion, has sharper talons that a hawk, is full of deadly poison, and has killed multitudes.

James is saying that we would have a better chance of going into a jungle, meeting a tiger, and taming it, than we have hope of taming our own tongues. Yes, it’s easier to tame a tiger than a tongue.

If you were told that a tiger had gotten into your house, you’d go home from work a bit more carefully, wouldn’t you? You’d approach the door with extreme caution. You’d open the door only having taken multiple precautions.

James is calling us to exercise the same care and caution with our tongues. To open our mouths with the same trepidation as opening that house door.

As Winston Churchill said, “The power of man has grown in every sphere except over himself.”

But there’s hope here amidst the warnings. Notice, it says, no man can tame. No MAN can.

But GOD can.

God can tame our tongue and turn it from being a killer to a creator, from being a destroyer to being a creator.

David Murray is Professor of Old Testament & Practical Theology at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary. This article first appeared on his blog, Head Heart Hand, and is used with permission.