What would it be like to share your home with a lion, a cobra, a grizzly bear, and a grumpy pit bull who all suffer from persistent migraine headaches? And just to keep life from getting boring, your backyard pets are a buffalo and a wild boar affectionately called Sublime Swine.
Your pets are all tamed and trained, so they roam unrestrained throughout your home. Would you think of this as a place where you could relax totally and drift off to sleep at night without an anxious thought
Believe it or not, there’s a housing situation that’s much worse. The beasts roam freely there too, but the ferocious creatures are neither tame nor trained. Although the greatest of animal trainers have tried to restrain them, these snarling monsters refuse to submit. Leashes and bridles are of no use—they are just tasty snacks to chew up.
In our home we know all about these wild and uncontrollable brutes. We’ve had as many as eight of them at once prowling through our house. And we must inform you, several of these untamable beasts are lurking in your home, too. Don’t let down your guard. Stay alert. The deadly tongues are running loose.
James, the brother of Jesus, wrote a description of these venomous vipers: “For every species of beasts and birds, of reptiles and creatures of the sea, is tamed, and has been tamed by the human race. But no one can tame the tongue; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison” (James 3:7-8).
James also reported, “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.…With it we bless our Lord and Father; and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing” (James 3:6, 9-10).
The Scriptures don’t lie. We’ll never tame the tongues we live with, ours included. But these wildest of beasts can be corralled and, over time and with diligent, persistent effort, trained to deliver blessing rather than poison.
The tongue is a wild beast in anyone, but it becomes especially deadly in preadolescents and teenagers. The pressure to curse and to make sarcastic, critical comments is enormous, especially for junior high boys. Ask your child about the pressure to swear and to cut others down (called “cut-downs”), and he’ll tell you, “everyone does it.”
Within the family, the tongue trap is dominant in two areas. The first is disrespect to parents. We may look back on our generation and see that as parents, we gave our children far too much freedom to grumble and speak their mind. Remember when children were “seen and not heard”? We’ve swung too far in the opposite direction when we allow our teenagers to show disrespect at the expense of adults without being disciplined and corrected.
The second area in the family where the tongue is dominant is sibling rivalry. We wish we had a 10-dollar bill for every sibling skirmish we’ve seen in the Rainey household. Our children have verbally sparred over such life-changing issues as:
Who gets to sit in the front seat of the car
Who got the biggest slice of mom’s homemade apple pie
Who has had the most friends over to the house, or who had a friend over to spend the night at the house last
Who made the mess and who cleaned it up last
Who had permission to wear what: “She never asked to wear my blouse.”
Who got more freedom when he was growing up
The good news is that a tongue trained and harnessed by the Holy Spirit becomes a powerful beast of blessing. A tamed tongue will sing praises and offer wisdom and encouragement. A trained tongue can comfort those who mourn and offer kindness to a stranger. With such a tongue we can confess Christ and offer words of love to a spouse, a child, a parent, a friend, even an enemy.