The Tongue -- its Blessing and Cursing
James 3:9-12
Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God.…


1. Its blessing of God. This is the great end for which the human tongue exists — this the highest employment in which it can be engaged. We do this in various ways. We thus bless Him in our praises. These are sung either more privately in our own dwellings or more publicly in the sanctuary. He requires, above everything, the soul, but He will have the body also; the members and organs of the one, not less than the faculties and affections of the other. We thus bless God also in our prayers, whether these be secret, domestic, or public. In them adoring and thankful praises constitute no small or subordinate element. We extol the Lord for His infinite perfections, we give Him the glory due unto His great and holy name. We testify our obligations to Him for His mercies without number, and lay offerings of grateful homage on His altar.

2. Its cursing of men. Even the most orthodox and charitable Christians are not wholly exempt from this tendency. We are far too ready to pass sentence on our brethren, and in effect, if not in form, to curse such as do not happen to agree with us in some respects, and these, it may be, of quite secondary importance. Everything of this sort is of the nature of cursing — it partakes in one degree or another of that character. And mark the aggravating circumstance, that which involves the frightful inconsistency charged against the tongue — "men, which are made after the similitude of God." We were at first created in His image, stamped with His moral lineaments in knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness. And in a sense too, as the, language here obviously implies, we still bear that likeness. Such cursing is in reality a cursing of God Himself. whom we yet bless — a cursing of Him in man, who is not only His workmanship, but His reflection, His image — not merely a being formed by His hand, but formed after His likeness. We cannot keep the first table of the law, and at the same time set at nought the second. The strangely, outrageously inconsistent nature of the whole proceeding is still more forcibly exhibited by bringing the two contrary things together, placing them side by side, presenting them in sharpest contrast (ver. 10). There it is that the flagrant, shocking contradiction appears.

II. THE UNNATURALNESS OF THIS INCONSISTENCY (vers. 11, 12). "Doth a fountain send forth at the same place" — the same hole, chink, or fissure, as in the rock whence it issues — "sweet water and bitter?" No — nothing of this kind is ever witnessed. The water which flows from the spring may have either, but it cannot have both of these qualities. It may indeed afterwards undergo a change, it may lose its original properties, and be turned into the opposite of what it was, by reason of the soil through which it runs, or the purposes to which it is applied. What was sweet may by certain mixtures become bitter. But at first, in its own nature, and apart from all foreign ingredients, it is wholly the one or the other. There is no inconsistency in the material region. He passes to a higher department, the vegetable kingdom, and shows that there too plants and trees bring forth a single kind of fruit, and that which is suited to the order, the species to which they belong. "Can the fig-tree, my brethren, bear olive-berries, either a vine figs?" Of course it cannot. Any such thing would be a monstrosity. Titan, returning to the spring, not without reference to the internal, hidden source from which all our words proceed, be adds, "So can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh." He wishes to fix attention on the inconsistency manifested in the use of the tongue, and lead them to the right explanation of its origin. This anomaly does seem to be exhibited in the moral world, if not in the material. But it is so more in appearance than in reality. That water is often the same which looks different. What to some tastes and tests is fresh, when thoroughly examined, is found to be salt as the ocean. Much that to our earthly senses is sweet, to the spiritually-discerning is bitter indeed. Thus the blessing of many is formal, if not even false, having nothing gracious in it, no love or homage of the heart, no element or quality fitted to render it acceptable to the great object of worship. In its origin and essence it is not opposed to, nor, indeed, different from the cursing of man, with which it is associated. The latter reveals the true nature of the common source, or there may be two fountains where only one is perceptible. The former supposition applies to nominal and hypocritical Christians — this latter to living, genuine believers. They have an old man and a new, corruption and grace both existing and working within them; and as the one or the other gains the ascendancy, and, for the time, governs the tongue, the stream of discourse that issues from it is wholesome or deleterious — fresh as that of the bubbling spring, or salt as that of the briny deep.

(John Adam.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God.

WEB: With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who are made in the image of God.

The Moral Contradictions in the Reckless Talker
Top of Page
Top of Page