From Vietnamese pot-bellied pigs to Siberian foxes, humans have learned to tame wild animals. People enjoy teaching monkeys to “act” in commercials or training deer to eat out of their hands. As the apostle James put it, “Every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind” (3:7).

But there is something we cannot tame. All of us have trouble getting a little thing called the tongue under control. “No man can tame the tongue,” James tells us (v.8).

Why? Because while our words may be on the tip of our tongue, they originate from deep within us. “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matt. 12:34). And thus the tongue can be used for both good and evil (James 3:9). Or, as scholar Peter Davids put it, “On the one hand, [the tongue] is very religious, but, on the other, it can be most profane.”

If we cannot tame this unruly tongue of ours, is it destined to be a daily problem for us, always prone to speak evil? (v.10). By God’s grace, no. We are not left to our own devices. The Lord will “set a guard” over my mouth; He will “keep watch over the door of my lips” (Ps. 141:3). He can tame the untamable.