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Read Introduction to James


“But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.”


But no man can tame the tongue.

Literally, “no man” is “any person of men.” No human being in his own power can control the tongue. We cannot control our own tongues, and we cannot control the tongues of others.

It is an unruly evil,

The tongue is incapable of restraint on the natural level. The word “unruly” means unsettled, unstable, disorderly. It is not subject to control. There is nothing constant about the tongue. It is unstable, vacillating at every turn.

The tongue is also an “evil.” This evil is dormant and hidden within the nature of the person. Man can superficially tame his tongue, but he cannot deal with it at its root; that is why the tongue is “unruly.”

full of deadly poison

The word “deadly” means death-bearing. The tongue has something mortal about it, for it produces a kind of death. Its deadly poison fills its venom in relationships with slander, malice, anger, and envy. Verbal malice destroys the reputation of men, leaders, and churches.

James does not mean that the tongue is impossible to tame but is something extremely difficult to control. It will take the power of God to tame the tongue.


Only God’s power can tame the tongue, but it is never at rest and is unstable.


Only God can ultimately tame the tongue. Many people think of themselves as wonderful Christians because they do not commit overt sins. Yet, this verse says that a Christian who does not control his tongue is like a snake with deadly venom. Our mouths are like poisonous snakes. Out of the poison sack comes slander, judging, and maligning of others. This is spiritual instability.

Ps. 141:3 “Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth;

Keep watch over the door of my lips.”

People who use unruly speech poison the thoughts of people toward friends and relatives. Sometimes we lose longstanding friends because we are not careful with our mouths. Poison is something we must carefully label and handle with care. It can ruin reputations. That is why we must submit our mouths to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.