Paul Kretzmann Commentary - James 3:7 - 3:12

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Paul Kretzmann Commentary - James 3:7 - 3:12

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This Chapter Verse Commentaries:

Warning against the abuse of the tongue:

v. 7. For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea is tamed and hath been tamed of mankind;

v. 8. but the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.

v. 9. Therewith bless we God, even the Father, and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God.

v. 10. Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be

v. 11. Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter?

v. 12. Can the fig-tree, my brethren, bear olive-berries? either a vine, figs? So can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh.

It may seem, perhaps, that the orator is here carried away by his subject; but any one that has observed the terrible effect of slandering and defaming which is done in our days, as it was hundreds of years ago, will say only that the apostle speaks by way of comparison. In holy indignation he cries out: For every kind of beast and bird, of reptiles and of marine animals, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but the tongue can no one of men tame; that restless evil, full of death-bringing poison. The patience and the ingenuity of man has worked effects approaching the miraculous in taming and in training animals of every description, mammals, birds, reptiles, and various animals that live in the sea. Though the divine promise of the dominion of man, Gen_1:28, has suffered somewhat in consequence of sin, yet the mastery of human beings over the animals cannot be questioned, the latter being kept in subjection both by subtlety and by force. But the tongue seems to be beyond the ability of man, to keep in subjection and to tame; all the immeasurable evil that it has caused since the fall of Adam, all the innumerable warnings that have been uttered by the servants of God since that time, have not yet succeeded in curbing its pernicious activity. An unruly, a restless evil, the apostle calls it, one that causes restlessness and disorder, that, upsets all established rules for its control. It is full of death-bringing poison, Rom_3:13; the evil which it causes has the same effect as the venom of asps, corroding and killing.

In what way this is true, the apostle shows by citing one single instance: With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse men who are made in the likeness of God; out of the same mouth comes forth blessing and cursing. Matters are here represented as they are found in the world and, sad to say, also in the midst of those that bear the name of Christ and confess His holy name. The tongue being the instrument of speech, it is used by believers and even by others for the praise of God, who is our Lord and Father in Christ Jesus. That is as it should be; for we can never adequately sing the praises of Him who has brought us out of the darkness of spiritual death into the marvelous light of His grace. But the sad side of the picture is this, that the same mouth is also used in personal abuse, in cursing a fellow-man, who was created originally in the likeness of God. For God made Adam in His image, and although the spiritual part of this likeness has been lost as a consequence of the Fall, certain external characteristics still proclaim that man is the crown of created beings. Thus the tongue is made an instrument of evil in calling down God's wrath and punishment upon a fellow-man. There is no excuse for this, neither loss of temper nor heated controversy. It is a vile transgression, an evil habit, aggravated by the fact that blessing and cursing come forth out of the same mouth. Surely the contradiction should at once strike every man that is guilty of such behavior; he ought to feel that such a condition of affairs cannot possibly be reconciled even with common decency. Solemnly, therefore, the apostle adds: It should not be, my brethren, that these things happen; the mouth which blesses God in fervent prayer should not heap curses upon men at other times; such behavior cannot be reconciled with the Christian profession.

How utterly unreasonable and contradictory the attitude of men is that still are guilty in the manner described, the apostle shows by a few examples: Surely a spring out of the same opening does not send forth sweet and bitter water! A fig-tree, my brethren, surely cannot bring forth olives, or a grape-vine, figs! Neither can salt water yield fresh. Nature itself teaches that the behavior of men as just characterized by the apostle is unnatural, unreasonable. For the same fissure, the same opening of a spring or fountain, cannot bubble up sweet, fresh water, and bitter, brackish water at the same time. A fig-tree will not bear olives, nor a vine, figs, neither can a sweet-water fountain yield salt water and a saltwater spring, or the salty sea, sweet water. How much more does it behoove. Christians to watch over their tongues, lest the good and the evil, the wholesome and the foul, be poured forth from the same mouth!