James writes, "So the tongue also is a little member, and boasts great things. Behold, how much wood is kindled by how small a fire!" (James 3:5). The "tongue" is likened unto a bridle in the horse's mouth and the rudder that guides a great ship. A tongue not governed by the word of God can grow out of control like a horse that rejects the bridle and a ship whose rudder is broken. A tongue that boasts or brags of self accomplishments, in the areas of teaching, has not achieved its desired results of saving souls. Words that cause man to err can have far reaching results. A small fire from one match can turn into a devastating thousand acre forest fire. Even so, words of error can adversely affect the souls of thousands of people.
"And the tongue is a fire: the world of iniquity among our members is the tongue, which defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the wheel of nature, and is set on fire by hell' (James 3:6). James states the fact. Man's tongue is likened unto a damaging fire that can "defile" (cause our soul to be tainted by sin) our body through its unlawful use (i.e., an out of control tongue not governed by truth). Note that James makes a comparison between the tongue and the body once again (see James 3:1). When man's body is defiled through the unlawful words of our tongue then it "sets on fire the wheel of nature, and is set on fire by hell!" Note the association between fire, the tongue, iniquity, and being defiled. The tongue, being afire, defiles and causes one to be in sin when it is out of control. The tongue can change a man's entire outlook on life. While God's desire and design for man is that he would be "perfect" (i.e., seeking above all other things in this world a heavenly home through obedience) the tongue has a way of ruining that life. The tongue, identified as a fire of sin, sets on fire (i.e., destroys) the "wheel of nature" (i.e., the course of man's life). Those who use their tongues to distort or pervert the law of God are equated to the future inhabitants of hell. It is clear that God does not take lightly the perversion of His holy word such as those who would claim that faith only will save.
"For every kind of beasts and birds, of creeping things and things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed by mankind: but the tongue can no man tame; it is a restless evil, it is full of deadly poison" (James 3:7-8). James affirms man's success at taming the wild beasts of the earth. Moses records the creation of man and woman and then states, "And God blessed them: and God said unto them, be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the heavens, and over every living thing that moves upon the earth" (Genesis 2:27-28).
Again, to Noah, the Lord said, "Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth. And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every bird of the heavens; with all wherewith the ground teems, and al/ the fishes of the sea, into your hand are they delivered" (Genesis 9:1-2). Though all the wild beast of the earth have been subdued it is not so with the tongue. Man's tongue is likened unto a wild out of control beast that has not been tamed. Interestingly, James stated that the man who does not "stumble in word, the some is o perfect man, able to bridle the whole body also" (see James 3:2). Here is where Greek tenses play an important part in understanding the scriptures. The word "stumble" (ptaio) is parsed in the present tense which indicates ongoing action (Friberg 696). The fact of the matter is that all will at one point stunnble (sin) with their tongue. James defines the perfect man as he who does not go on sinning with his tongue. There is a big difference. The word "tame" (damazo) = "to subdue, tame, to restrain within proper limits" (Moulton 84). While animals continue to be tamed (present tense) the tongue is not (aorist tense / i.e., it may have been tamed at some times in the past but this is not a guarantee that it will always be tamed) (see Friberg 696). James is looking to those who give efforts, through a proper understanding of scriptures and a heart that is set on making it to heaven, in their teaching through the use of their tongues. Those who use their tongues to teach false doctrine are likened unto poisonous snakes that bite and kill.
"Therewith bless we the Lord and Father; and therewith curse we men, who ore made after the likeness of God: out of the same mouth comes forth blessing and cutsing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be" (James 3:9-10). James says it makes no since to ascribe praise to God yet wish evil upon God's created beings. To curse man is to curse God! To speak words that mislead man is to go against the Lord God Almighty. Such a man is going in two different directions and he doesn't even seem to know it. While he praises God he curses God's creative work of mankind. Such a use of the tongue should not be occurring among God's created beings.
"Doth the fountain send forth from the same opening sweet water and bitter? Can a fig tree, my brethren, yield olives, or a vine figs? Neither can salt water yield sweet" (James 3:11-12). The point James makes is that it goes against nature (i.e., God's creative purpose and design for man) to use the tongue in a damaging way that does not consider truth nor the souls of men. When a man uses his tongue to teach doctrines that comfort others in their sin (i.e., faith only) they are working against the very nature of God's created purpose. God has created man with the innate ability to know right from wrong (Romans 2:14-15). When a man laid with another man in sexual union they went against their nature and they knew it (see Romans 1:26-27). People may justify homosexuality and false teaching and thereby ease their mind from being pricked by truth yet truth remains truth. Let us all make sure we give great effort to use our tongues to bring glory to God.