5 So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things. See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire! 6 And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell. 7 For every species of beasts and birds, of reptiles and creatures of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by the human race. 8 But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison.
What strong language! Our words are a reflection of our spirit. It is but a small part of our body but as we can see throughout history, can cause the greatest damage. Look at fights started, wars initiated, relationships destroyed, people hurt, children abandoned…this list goes on. These have all been caused by something that was said as a reflection of how someone felt. The “hell” that James refers to in here is actually a place called Gehenna. It was a place of continuous human sacrificial burning and was usually used as a visual representation of what Hell would be like. The flames, the stench, the smoke: these are the things he is trying to illustrate here as the result of the spark of the tongue.
No one can tame the tongue. Why is this? Because it’s not necessarily about “watching our mouth” it’s about changing our hearts so we don’t have to watch our mouth. We also know that we cannot change our hearts ourselves. We must seek out God to change our hearts for us because we are but sinful beings and only He has the power to change that. Without Him, we are restless evil and full of deadly poison.
Are you trying to “watch your tongue”? If so, how’s that working out for you? We must recognize that positive change, change that is glorifying to God, is only possible through Him, not our own understanding, strength, initiative, or motivation. It will only get us so far, and then we will fail.
Who is guarding your tongue today?