Never had a desire to be a lion tamer. Yet, I feel like that’s more of a possibility than my becoming a tongue tamer. At least there’s a process, a method that works with taming lions. With tongue taming, I feel like a wild beast prowls around in my mouth constantly roaring to life with no sense of civility.
Truth is that a lion isn’t really ever tame. In a 2003 interview on Larry King Live, animal expert Jack Hanna told guest host Nancy Grace:
“A wild animal’s like a loaded gun; it can go off at any time. You can usually train a wild animal, never tame a wild animal. You have to remember that. You can never tame one.”
Perhaps the same holds true for the tongue. Perhaps just like a lion can be trained, so too can the tongue, but neither really ever become tame. Many seemingly tame lions have hurt and even killed people, and the reality is that our words often do the same.
Even though James 3:8 says that man cannot tame the tongue, we also must contend with what he said just six verses earlier.
“Those who control their tongues can also control themselves in every other way.” (James 3:2)
Is James saying that if it were possible to control the tongue we could have self-control in all other areas, but because taming the tongue isn’t possible neither is complete self-control?
Most people would admit the need in at least some area of life for more self-control. Certainly, this universal need provides every person with motivation to tame the tongue, right? Yet, James also said taming the tongue is impossible.
Fortunately, God is in the business of the impossible. He also provides tons of instruction in his word about how to make that happen. Just a glance at Proverbs illustrates this.
Romans 7-8 talk about how we are united with Christ and because of this are able to produce good fruit. We also serve God by his Holy Spirit and not on our own. On our own, the old nature rules, and taming the tongue is impossible.
Jesus bought control over our sin nature, though, which makes us able to live and be led by the Spirit. In fact, it makes us conquerors over our sin nature.
“Overwhelming victory is ours through Christ who loved us enough to die for us.” Romans 8:37)
The answer, then, to taming the tongue lies with being overwhelmed. When we are overwhelmed with God, when we allow his Holy Spirit to guide and direct us, the impossible becomes possible, and our tongues become increasingly tame. As we focus on gaining wisdom from above that guides and directs our new natures, our lives then live in the overflow of that which exists within us.
As we focus on Christ, the impossible happens. As his words fill our hearts, His wisdom then comes out in our words to others. Then, we no longer speak the words of our flesh but instead the words of life he gives us to speak.
As we gain wisdom and operate in our new natures, we not only focus on him and live thankful for his grace and mercy, but we also become aware of what to avoid in order for our tongues to remain life-giving creatures instead of caged animals.
With tame tongues guided by our new natures that are led by the Holy Spirit, we learn to:
- Balance listening with speaking (Proverbs 18:13)
- Speak words that heal (Proverbs 12:18)
- Keep quiet when necessary (Proverbs 11:12)
- Learn to use fewer words (Proverbs 17:27-28)
- Avoid pointing out faults (Proverbs 17:9)
- Avoid talking badly about others (Titus 3:1-2)
- Avoid engaging in foolish arguments (2 Timothy 2:14-18)
Our words become full of thanksgiving as they reflect the gracious nature created within us as the impossible becomes a living reality both in the atmosphere of the inner self and then overflowing through every word we speak (Colossians 3).