Monday, June 3, 2013

The Danger of the Tongue

Now if we put the bits into the horses' mouths so that they will obey us, we direct their entire body as well. Look at the ships also, though they are so great and are driven by strong winds, are still directed by a very small rudder wherever the inclination of the pilot desires. So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things. See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire! James 3:3-5

The tongue is the strongest muscle in entire body.  A damaging word spoken in secret is much like a chigger bite…you can't see the damage until it gets serious.

The tongue is the connecting link between the inner man and the outer world. For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. Matthew 12:34  It expresses the thoughts, mind, attitude, and intentions of man. It can reveal the true nature of man whether transformed or unrighteous.

"Guard well thy tongue it stretches far, for what you say tells who you are."

The Tongue’s Evil is Deep and Wide
In the passage above James dwells on the potential for evil rather than the potential for good with one's tongue.  He adopts a new image appropriate for his topic: fire. The effect of this choice of image can be shown by comparing it to another possible image.

·      If he had compared the tongue to an ax, he could have portrayed quite vividly a destruction of a large tree by a small tool.

·      Instead of such an isolated act of destruction however, James chose to portray a spreading destruction.  An ax destroys one tree at a time; but with our tongues one word can start a destructiveness that spreads beyond the initial act.

It is true that someone who is hateful with their tongue will be hateful with other aspects of their behavior. If we do not discipline and purify our speech, we will not discipline or purify the rest of our life.

James 3 says the uncontrolled tongue…
1.    …is a world of evil--a whole world of wrongdoing and wickedness, a vast system of iniquity. The phrase implies a multitude of forms that our impure speech may take.

2.    …corrupts the whole person--an image of a staining and defiling spread of sin from wicked speech into all other behavior. The contrasting pattern, using the same term in the form of a negative adjective, was in 1:27--keeping oneself unstained or unpolluted by the world.

3.    …sets on fire the course of one's life-- depicts the tongue's wickedness as a conflagration spreading through the time span of one's life as well as the diversity of one's behavior.

4.    …is itself set on fire by hell -- the same verb that described the action by the tongue is applied now in passive voice to expose the true origin of the tongue's blazing power to destroy. James picks up the term gehenna ("hell"). It is hard to imagine a more condemning way to conclude this description of the uncontrolled tongue

While most people are careful to guard their behavior, few really understand the great power of speech.  There is nothing “innocent” about words.  Satan has destroyed more with the tongues of men than anything else.  We do well to pay attention to our speech.

Scripture to Claim:
And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell.  James 3:6

Talk the talk…

"I will guard my ways, that I may not sin with my tongue; I will guard my mouth as with a muzzle." (Psalm 39:1)

Learning to speak in two or three languages is not nearly as hard as learning to keep your mouth shut in one.  Letting things go in one ear and out the other is bad enough, but what's worse is when things go in one ear, get all mixed up, and come out of the mouth!

Our lives are plagued by the small part of the body which caused the fall of man - The Tongue.
So the tongue is a little member and boasts great things.
How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire. James 3:5

It’s been estimated that the average person speaks 18,000 words per day. That’s enough to write a 54-page book!

A husband looking through the paper came upon a study that said women use more words than men. Excited to prove to his wife that he had been right all along when he accused her of talking too much, he showed her the study results. It read "Men use about 15,000 words per day, but women use 30,000". The wife thought for a while, then finally she said to her husband "It's because we have to repeat everything we say." The husband said "What?"

Supervising our words is essential, and we desperately need the help of God to know: when to speak, what to speak, how to speak and to whom we are to speak. James says the best display of our spirituality may well be our speech.  We prove a changed heart by our ability to bridle our tongues.

Our words always speak louder than our religious rituals. Anyone can dress nicely and come to church, put a fish icon on their rear bumper or listen to Christian music. But without a doubt, one of the greatest indicators of our faith, spiritual maturity and wisdom is the ability to have firm control of our tongues.

More harm has come to religion, family, government, and society by the tongue than that of the bottle, pill or gun. It is the sin of all ages of people. But just as the tongue has power to destroy, it also has power to heal, to build-up, edify and encourage.  When used properly, the tongue can mend fences, heal broken hearts and encourage those in need of encouragement.  There are those who:

·      Talk too much, say the wrong thing and speak at the wrong time.
·      Say the right thing and speak at just the right time
·      Gossip, condemn, ridicule, complain, murmur, judge, argue, and curse God and man.
·      Commend, encourage, support, discuss, help and praise God and man.

The Book of Proverbs is filled with powerful advice for the handling of the tongue. 

·      Proverbs 16:27-28  A worthless man digs up evil, while his words are as a scorching fire.  A perverse man spreads strife, and a slanderer separates intimate friends.

·      Proverbs 15:23  A man has joy in an apt answer, and how delightful is a timely word!

·      Proverbs 25:11  Like apples of gold in settings of silver is a word spoken in right circumstances.

This week we will be looking at the power of the tongue.  The Bible has much to say about controlling this small yet powerful part of our body.

Scripture to Claim:
Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.
Proverbs 18:21 

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