Words of Worth

Lion Tamers Need Not Apply

October 24, 2015


Is it ever okay to stick your tongue out at somebody? If you said, “Yes, it’s okay to stick your tongue out at your doctor,” you would be correct! Doctors ask us to stick out our tongues because by examining them they can assess certain aspects of our physical health. And, supposedly, keeping the tongue clean with a tongue scraper can prevent heart attacks, pneumonia, diabetes, premature births, and osteoporosis.

So, too, by looking at the tongue we can detect some things about our spiritual maturity. James 3:2 says:

For we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well.

All of us mess up, miss the mark, and, in essence, sin in many ways, especially with our words. But the more spiritually mature we are, the more we are led by the Holy Spirit, and the more we bridle our tongues, the more capable we are of controlling our whole body. The average tongue is a little over 2 inches long and weighs about 2 ounces, yet it is capable of mighty things. The tongue is capable of steering the course of our lives (James 3:6) just as a horse’s bit controls the horse, or a ship’s rudder controls the ship.

Interestingly, James continues in chapter 3 with his mental pictures of the power of the tongue, and he mentions that all kinds of beasts and creatures have been tamed by man, but no one can tame the tongue:

7For every species of beasts and birds, of reptiles and creatures of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by the human race. 8But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison.

A day trip to Seaworld or the Circus is complete with dancing bears, acrobatic birds, trained seals, talking dolphins, and trainers’ heads inside lions’ mouths! Yet, that very trainer who can train Shamu, the whale, to pirouette in the water cannot tame his own tongue. I imagine the occasional, and hopefully rare event, of the trainer spending the day taming Shamu and then going home at the end of the day and spewing hurtful words at his spouse or children. We can tame the wild beast but no lion tamer can tame the tongue!

Part of the difficulty of taming the tongue is because it is full of deadly poison in the form of gossip, slander, anger, malice, deceit, lies and even flattery. I’m not sure we spend a lot of time thinking of flattery as one of the ways we often stumble, but it’s worth thinking about. If gossip is saying behind someone’s back what we would never say to their face, then it’s helpful to think of flattery as saying to someone’s face what we would never say behind their back. Therein, lays the poison! The inauthenticity of our words!

What is the antidote to this poison? It’s not a lion tamer, so he need not apply for the job! We need daily doses of God’s Word and the Holy Spirit’s leading. Consider Galatians 5:15-16:

15 But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.
16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.

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