James 3:8 MEANING

James 3:8
(8) But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly (or, restless) evil, full of deadly poison.--Mortiferous, bringer of death, like a poisoned dart or arrow; and therefore most suggestive of envenomed flights at the fame of others. St. James does not mean that no one can tame his own tongue, for so he would hardly be responsible for its vagaries; and lower down it is written expressly, "these things ought not so to be." The hopeless savagery of the tongue, excelling the fury of wild beasts, must be that of the liar, the traducer, and blasphemer. (Comp. Psalms 140)

Verse 8. - It is an unruly evil; rather restless, reading ἀκατάστατον (א, A, B) for ἀκατάσχετον of Textus Receptus (C, K, L); Vulgate, inquietum malum (cf. James 1:8). The nominatives in this verse should be noticed: "The last words are to be regarded as a kind of exclamation, and are therefore appended in an independent construction" (Winer, p. 668). A restless evil! Full of deadly poison! Compare the abrupt nominative in Philippians 3:19 with Bishop Light-feet's note. Deadly (θανατηφόρος); here only in the New Testament. In the LXX. it is found in Numbers 18:22; Job 33:23; 4 Macc. 8:17, 24; 15:23. For the figure, cf. Psalm 140:3, "They have sharpened their tongues like a serpent; adders' poison is under their lips."

3:1-12 We are taught to dread an unruly tongue, as one of the greatest evils. The affairs of mankind are thrown into confusion by the tongues of men. Every age of the world, and every condition of life, private or public, affords examples of this. Hell has more to do in promoting the fire of the tongue than men generally think; and whenever men's tongues are employed in sinful ways, they are set on fire of hell. No man can tame the tongue without Divine grace and assistance. The apostle does not represent it as impossible, but as extremely difficult. Other sins decay with age, this many times gets worse; we grow more froward and fretful, as natural strength decays, and the days come on in which we have no pleasure. When other sins are tamed and subdued by the infirmities of age, the spirit often grows more tart, nature being drawn down to the dregs, and the words used become more passionate. That man's tongue confutes itself, which at one time pretends to adore the perfections of God, and to refer all things to him; and at another time condemns even good men, if they do not use the same words and expressions. True religion will not admit of contradictions: how many sins would be prevented, if men would always be consistent! Pious and edifying language is the genuine produce of a sanctified heart; and none who understand Christianity, expect to hear curses, lies, boastings, and revilings from a true believer's mouth, any more than they look for the fruit of one tree from another. But facts prove that more professors succeed in bridling their senses and appetites, than in duly restraining their tongues. Then, depending on Divine grace, let us take heed to bless and curse not; and let us aim to be consistent in our words and actions.But the tongue can no man tame,.... Either his own, or others; not his own, for the man that has the greatest guard upon himself, his words and actions; yet, what through pride or passion, or one lust or another in his heart, at one time or another, bolts out vain, idle, angry, and sinful words: and he that does not may be set down for a perfect man indeed: nor can he tame or restrain the tongues of others from detraction, calumnies, backbitings, and whisperings; who say, their lips are their own, and who is Lord over us? no man can, by his own power and strength, tame or subdue his tongue, or restrain it from evils it is habituated to, be it lying, cursing, swearing, or what else: God, by his Spirit, power, and grace, can, and often does, change the note of the curser, swearer, liar, and blasphemer; but no man can do this, though he can tame beasts, birds, serpents, and fishes; which shows the tongue to be worse than anything to be found in the whole compass of nature:

it is an unruly evil: an evil it is, for it is a world of iniquity; and an unruly one, being more so than the horse and mule, which are without understanding, who are kept in and governed, and turned any way by the bit and bridle: but though in nature the tongue is fenced by a double fence of the lips and teeth, this is not sufficient to restrain it; it breaks all bounds, and is not to be kept in by nature, art, or argument: nothing but the grace of God can in any measure govern it, or lay an embargo on it:

full of deadly poison, which, privately, secretly, and gradually, destroys the characters, credit, and reputation of men; and is of fatal consequence in families, neighbourhoods, churches, and states.

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