James 3:7

Tuesday, 30 July 2019

For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. James 3:7

James now takes the example of an unrestrained tongue, and he contrasts it to the beasts of the earth, some of which are incredibly wild, some ferocious, some plainly stupid, some bearing various types of intelligence, and so on. He begins with, “For every kind.”

This should read, “For every nature.” He is not comparing individual men with particular beasts. Instead, he is referring to a general relation between man’s nature and the nature of various creatures. And, as noted, this is not the same in all creatures. Understanding this, he lists various categories for us to consider. The first is of beasts and birds (it is plural in the Greek).

The word translated as “beast” is one which is not one used of sacrifices. Those are generally herding animals which have been tamed since the earliest recorded pages of Scripture. Rather, this is a general term for wild animals that would otherwise seem untameable. We could think of a raccoon or a wild hog maybe. The word for “bird” signifies any flying animal in general. Simply because they do not naturally exist in the land of Israel, we could think of a macaw or a toucan.

James continues with reptiles and sea things (again, the Greek is plural). The word for “reptile” signifies a creeping creature, quite often a serpent. For the sake of rarity, one could think of the monitor lizard. The word for those things in the sea is found only here in Scripture, enalios. The prefix en means in, and hals signifies the sea. Thus, it is anything in the sea. Maybe a sea otter or a porpoise would suffice for our examples.

James says that, of these various categories, each “is tamed and has been tamed by mankind.” The word translated as “tamed” signifies being subdued, but that state involves obedience and restraint. Humans have exercised dominion over the beasts of the earth in this manner.

Some of these are massive in size, some have claws and teeth which are very dangerous, others may have quills that can shoot at man or have poisons which can kill immediately. And yet, they have been subdued by man. How unlike the description of the tongue of the previous verse. James will continue with this line of thought in the verses ahead.

Life application: Though we can tame all kinds of animals, we find it hard to tame our own tongues. What an indictment! Unreasoning animals are better students than we are in some respects. Let us make a concerted effort to speak words which are soothing and healing, rather than of evil and poison. In the end, when we speak flippantly of others, we degrade ourselves as well.

Lord God, just as we need help controlling our tongues against that which is vile, so we pray that You will help us to actively use them for that which is wholesome and edifying. May our tongues not be tools of destruction, but rather implements of blessing and love. Be with us in this challenge to improve our words so that we will increase our praises of others and our blessings in Your name. Thank You for hearing our prayer. Amen.

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