5 […] See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire!
6 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.
7 For every species of beasts and birds, of reptiles and creatures of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by the human race.
8 But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison.
9 With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God;
10 from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way.
11 Does a fountain send out from the same opening both fresh and bitter water?
12 Can a fig tree, my brethren, produce olives, or a vine produce figs? Nor can salt water produce fresh.
Remember, this is part of a long passage in the epistle of James on the power of words. Furthermore, James is sort of a “general epistle,” listing off all sorts of instructions for followers of Christ rather than sticking to a specific theme, so we all do well to pay attention to what James is telling us, and to apply it to our lives.
As I mentioned in the previous post, the concept of the tongue lighting a fire is one I wish to spend a bit of time on.
Here, it is presented as being an extremely negative thing, but I also see it as positive in certain circumstances. Let’s examine it in context, in terms of negativity, first.
James is making the point in these first couple of verses that one spark from the tongue – one snappy tone, one unkind word, one bit of gossip – can light an entire forest fire of trouble. Consider the following:
· It results in you having to deal with more sin in your life. James references what Jesus said: “It is not what enters into the mouth that defiles the man, but what proceeds out of the mouth, this defiles the man” (Matthew 15:11).
· It can ruin your relationships.
· It can even ruin your witness to others! Think about it – if you were not yet a Christian, and you saw a lady or guy claiming to be living in Christ’s love, yet they were always rude to people, would you believe them and want to consider Christianity?
· It can determine the course of your life. (“…and sets on fire the course of your life…”) No, this is not an exaggeration! If you can’t restrain your tongue, you may not get hired for that job, or your boyfriend or girlfriend may break up with you. For such a “little” problem, it has far-reaching ramifications.
Clearly, this starts a raging inferno of trouble! But James takes it a step further still – “and is set on fire by hell.” That’s a sobering thought – to think that when you say something nasty, Satan was trying to speak through you…yikes!
Now, what of a fiery tongue in a good light? Well, consider that throughout the Bible, whenever God is described as a “consuming fire,” it is always a destructive force – yet, sometimes for our good. There is such a thing as good destruction! Today, as we go out to wage battle against the devil’s strongholds in this world, let’s use our tongues for good – destroying the chains that bind souls in sin by spreading the news of Christ, and by reigning in our tongues as a testimony to how Christ changes us.
Proverbs 18:21 “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, And those who love it will eat its fruit.” The tongue can be used for good or evil – whichever side you choose to use it for, will come back to you.
The Rest of the Passage
James sums up with two more points:
· First, employing irony, he points out that we have tamed bears and lions – monsters that can rip our heads off in one bite! – yet we cannot tame one tiny part of our bodies…we let it rule us, when it should be the other way around. Taming our tongues requires both REAL commitment, and God’s help – so, let’s ask for it!
· We’re trying to live two lives by speaking both ill and good – but we can’t! We are residents of an eternal kingdom now, new creations, and we need to act like it.
o 2 Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.
o Romans 6:12-12 “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members (body parts) as instruments of righteousness to God.
o 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God with your body.
Today’s discussion starters:
1. How have you seen the power of words play out in your own life – for good or for bad? What were the effects?
2. What specific tactics can we employ in order to use our tongues for God’s glory?
Next Bible study post, we’ll switch gears and discuss earthly versus spiritual wisdom. See you this weekend! :-)