“But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so.”
— James 3:8–10
Do you remember the last time you said something you wished you could take back? Do you remember the consequences? We all have said things we later regret. You’d think we’d learn, but we continue to fall into that trap. Someone once said, “The trouble with talking too fast is that we say things we have not thought of yet.” Why do we persist in doing something we know will hurt us in the end? Because we have no control over our tongues.
The Bible says the tongue is a great evil. James compares it to a bridle, a fire, an untamed creature, and a double fountain, among other things. The tongue is like a bridle because even though the bit is very small, it controls the horse’s movement. In the same way, a little word can change the whole direction of our lives. The tongue is also like a fire. Just as one little spark can start a raging forest fire of destruction, one little word can destroy a relationship, a hope, a life. The tongue is like a caged but untamed animal that paces restlessly back and forth, looking for any opportunity to escape. Though humans have tamed all kinds of wild beasts, they cannot tame their own tongues. When we least expect it, a harmful word escapes. As well, the tongue is like a double fountain that brings forth both fresh water and bitter water. Just as saltwater poured into fresh water makes all water salty, so bitter words absorb the sweet. If you bless God but also curse your brother or sister, your good words lose their effectiveness.
Our tongues can get us into all sorts of trouble. First, there are the sins of blasphemy, cursing, and profanity. The Third Commandment forbids these. The Ninth Commandment forbids deceit and lying. God said it is better not to make a vow than to make one and break it. We should keep our vows, even if we have to make sacrifices to do so. Backbiting is another sin of the tongue. The backbiter speaks maliciously of others, then talks behind their backs. Gossip is close kin to backbiting.
Do any of these habits hit a little close to home? If so, confess them. Ask God to show you how to better control your tongue. And today make it a goal to bless others with your words.