you ever watched one of those shows where they try to catch a feral cat?  The cat that looked so calm and like an
“easy catch” suddenly goes absolutely berserk when the net gets close
to him and he darts across the camera shot—climbing walls and defying gravity.  In response, cast and crew of the show begin
to defy gravity themselves and scramble to get out of its way.  What a scene: calm to cacophony because of a seven-pound


“wild beast” of a feral cat is more ferocious than one might first
think, but there lurks an even more frightening beast.  This wild beast is endowed with the innate
ability to break, tear, and maim in less time than a feral cat can run through
a room terrifying a television crew. 
What is this beast that evokes such dread and terror?  Our tongue. 


writes in 3:2-8:


2 We all stumble in many
ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep
their whole body in check.

3 When
we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the
whole animal. 4 Or take ships as an example. Although they are
so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small
rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. 5 Likewise, the tongue
is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great
forest is set on fire by a small spark. 6 The tongue also is a
fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body,
sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

7 All
kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have
been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the
tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.


begins by reminding us, by way of connecting to the warning he gave to teachers
in verse one, that no one is perfect. 
“…All have sinned and
fall short of the glory of God…”


then shows us two very simple examples of large things controlled by something
very small: a horse and a ship.  A bit in
a horse’s mouth is able to turn this magnificent animal left or right and to
stop it.  Likewise, a ship—no matter how
large—can be steered by a small rudder.


tongue is small but our mouths are very powerful.  Lives can be destroyed by what comes out of
our mouths.  Think through the recent
celebrities that have said too much in public and gotten themselves in trouble
for it.  Think about the rumors and
accusations that continually come out against other people—whether true or not—they
are incredibly damaging.  Even though
they might be proven innocent, pastors have been destroyed on allegations of
misconduct.  Once a tongue starts
flapping, bad things tend to happen.


close friend of mine once reminded me “loose lips sink ships”.  Sounds like what James was saying,
“The tongue also is a
fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body,
sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by
(James 3:6).


we know (by experience!) the tongue “is a restless evil, full of deadly
poison”, think twice before you unleash poison on someone.  Your words will echo through their heart and
the hearts of others LONG after your comment has been spoken.  While time will cause you to forget the words
you spoke as poison, the poor victim of your poison lives with the slow


you have spewed poison on someone (and let’s be honest: who of us haven’t?), apologize
for it and try your best to correct it by fixing the error.  Easy? 
No.  But…it is how we as
Christians should act and move in the world.