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James 3:7-10 – People can tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish, but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison. Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right! (NLT)
Isaiah 6:5-7 – Then I said, "Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts." Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a burning coal in his hand, which he had taken from the altar with tongs. He touched my mouth with it and said, "Behold, this has touched your lips; and your iniquity is taken away and your sin is forgiven." (NASB)
Over the past few years, I have attended three live animal programs. These shows included presentations by air, land, and sea animals. I saw everything from camels to mice responding obediently to the voice of their trainers. One of my favourite acts was staged by a bird at Busch Gardens, Virginia, USA. Amazingly, it answered math questions queried by members of the audience. Another act was performed by dolphins at the Baltimore aquarium; at the end of the show, the dolphins waved goodbye to the visitors.
Interestingly, animal trainers tell us that a very basic part of their work is to help the animals learn to accept unusual or unexpected changes in their environment — this is called desensitization. According to today's passage, James makes it clear that if this technique were applied to our tongues, it would surely fail: no one can tame the human tongue — that is, no one but God. Even Isaiah recognized this truth as the Lord purged his lips to prepare him for ministry.
Furthermore, Proverbs 12:18 explains, "Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing." (NIV) Therefore, to be "wise" in our speech is essential for taming our tongues. But like the prophet Isaiah, we must first allow God to purge our lips with coals from His heavenly altar. In that way, He will rid us of harmful attitudes and language that have the potential to hurt others. Consequently, we can serve the Lord by using our tongues to bless people instead of cursing them, to help them become stronger, and to do good to everyone.
Ephesians 4:29 – Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. (NIV)
Prayer: Lord, according to Your Word, death and life are in the power of the tongue. So may our conversations be full of grace, seasoned with salt, and empowered by Your wisdom, that they may bring hope and healing to others. In Jesus' holy name, we pray. Amen.