The deadly tongue. We all have one. If you’ve been studying the book of James and haven’t felt convicted of your shortcomings to this point, don’t be overconfident. Chapter 3 is one of the most hard-hitting chapters in the Bible, delivering a one-two knockout punch straight to the head. And it hits everyone. In fact, restraining my tongue is the one thing I haven’t yet conquered after my walk with Jesus spanning nearly 40 years!
Just what are some of the ways we might sin with the tongue?
Consider that the tongue is the strongest muscle in the body. How ironic, then, that it is like a deadly weapon. This weapon can do damage via gossip and rumors, cursing, false testimony, shouting, discouraging, with mean-spiritedness, lewd jokes and lewd speech, and also abuse. At one point, each of us has fallen short in all of these ways, I’m certain. The tongue is so powerful it can also incite contentions, insurrections and wars.
Take the Tongue Test
Many years ago, I was mortified when I heard a preacher say, “Do you think you are a good, devout Christian? Here’s the exam to test your measure. You are only as good of a Christian as you are in the privacy of your own home. How do you treat your family? How do you value them? Your words will tell.
His words pierced me. I gasped and shuddered when I heard them. Suddenly all of these images flashed in my mind in slow motion. I kept shrinking and shrinking as my horrible words came rushing back to me. The honest evaluation I gave myself was not very good, and I made a decision with determination and deliberation in that instant to become a better person, beginning by controlling what comes out of my mouth.
Significance of the Metaphors of James
With significance, James uses the illustrations of horses and bits, ships and rudders, and forests and fires in chapter 3. Consider, fires destroy forests. Rudders turned the wrong way, as well as bits, lead passengers astray.
James is also harsh on teachers, making us aware that we are responsible for exercising the body to make it fit and strong. We prepare and bake the bread we feed to the body and it better be nutritious. The ultimate danger is to use the tongue to express hostility to God and lead others to do the same.
Transgressions of the Tongue Originate in Hell
Nothing could better characterize much of that which the tongues does than to say that it has its origin in hell, and has the spirit which reigns there. It is the absolute spirit, a spirit of falsehood, and slander, and blasphemy, and pollution, that feed the world of fire and wickedness that seem to inspire the tongue. The image which appears to have been before the mind of the apostle was that of a torch which enkindles and burns everything as it goes along, a torch itself lighted by the fires of hell.
The tongue is so dangerous because it can do permanent damage to a soul. Everything, once it has been said, can never be taken back. The sound waves go out and carry through eternity, and they will one day come back in a sound file and stand over your head like a big word cloud. Speak slowly, and think before you speak. This ties back to what James was teaching us in chapter 1. Be quick to hear and slooooooow to speak.
In chapter 3, James contrasts demonic and heavenly wisdom. Demonic wisdom is self-seeking and envious. Heavenly wisdom is pure, peaceable, making self sacrifices, merciful, without partiality and hypocrisy! Wow. There are so many hypocrites in the church. Actors. And so much envy.
A Godly Tongue
James says with envy and selfish ambition come every evil thing. Remember, James is speaking to professing believers! If we harness the tongue, and turn it away from speaking in a hurtful way, we possess wisdom!
This bares significance, because of the implication that an uncontrolled tongue will affect my relationship with God.
The tongue can also bless. We have the power to speak life into people, to build them up, to encourage our brothers and sisters, to give them hope. Psalms 16:24, “Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones.”
Written by Jori Sams
Jori Sams is a Christian author and freelance writer with nearly 2000 published pieces on the Internet, with over 1500 being published by Yahoo. Her books are published through Writeious Books. When she isn’t writing, you can usually find her following the sun…