James 3:9-10 “With the tongue we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, this should not be!”
Have you ever known someone that seemed highly respectable, conducted themself in a way that seemed very mature and dignified, and then one day they lose their temper and unleash a tirade of expletives that would make a sailor blush?
The testimony of a person who can’t control their tongue seems to be diminished when the pattern of godliness they espouse doesn’t match up with their language.
Now I understand the challenge of controlling the tongue as well as anyone. I grew up in a family that didn’t hesitate to express their opinion, even if the opinion wasn’t warranted. My blue collar extended family seemed to use expletives with every other word, especially during a heated exchange. I also know from my own challenges of watching my tongue that the more I hear language that is foul, the more difficult it is for me to control my tongue in times of anger or weakness.
There have been some very troubling remarks concerning the tongue that make it worth visiting.
James 3:6 “And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell.”
Every time I’ve read this scripture I’ve always been a bit overwhelmed by the grandiose nature of its statement. James seems to not hold anything back when referring to the damage the tongue can cause.
When I consider fire as an analogy, it’s not hard to imagine the destruction that occurs. Living in the Pacific Northwest, and particular this year, wild fires are a constant threat. As I speak, the entire West Coast sits in a smokey haze while dozens of wildfires spread up and down the region.
A fires destructive nature, like the tongue has a few common traits:
1. It consumes
When fires strikes the first thing it does is it begins to eat up that which it touches. Charring it’s host until all that is left is a blackened shadow of what it used to be, fire like the tongue, leaves its mark that scars and blackens all it touches. The tongue in its destructive path leaves a trail of iniquity that likewise wounds and leaves deep scars that are not soon forgotten. Sin always is destructive, whether to those it affects or to its host that allows it to go unchecked.
2. It defiles.
Take anything that is touched by fire and it’s mark is always felt. Defiling has its root in taking something pure and spoiling it. When the tongue affects someone adversely, it changes their countenance, maybe their self image and many times ruins their life. A harsh word isn’t soon forgotten and as a fire leaves ash in its path, the tongue leaves lives broken in its wake.
3. It is carnal in nature
At the root of mankind is a nature of sin. Like stagnant polluted water, bitter and poisoned, when drawn from those who receive it are infected with its deceptive charm. It may seem fulfilling to express our opinion to the detriment of the hearer, those who conjure up the hateful rhetoric only corrupt themselves when the words have completed their purpose. The temperament of hatred we exhibit when unleashing a tirade of emotion only leads to more bitterness and hatred.
4. Satan uses the tongue to do his bidding.
The enemy of our souls promotes discord, conflict, and ultimately corruption. When we as the Body of Christ turn on each other, we remove ourselves from a position of Christ-like love that glorifies His name, to a gross defilement of what holiness should have been. Instead of being a testimony of God’s faithfulness to the world, we become a stumbling block for their fall.
If you want to know what nature rules in a person, listen to their speech.
Is their speech laced with love, respect, and honor? Does it build up or tear down? Does it share information about someone that is disguised as simple inquiry but is poisonous gossip? Does their speech reveal the disdain they hold in their heart by tearing them down behind their back and then acting friendly before them?
Psalm 120:2 “Deliver my soul, O LORD, from lying lips and a deceitful tongue.”
The tongue can either be a tool for truth or an instrument of unrighteousness. Lying lips can be cunning and deceptive in appearance and yet appear upright to the listener. The heart of the liar is a heart of hatred for those being deceived. The destination for the liar is the Lake of Fire.
Revelation 21:8 “But to the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and sexually immoral and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their place will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur. This is the second death.”
God clearly hates untruthful lips. The 9th commandment was directed specifically to God’s desire for truthfulness.
Exodus 20:16 “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor”
What does a tongue that is honoring to the Lord look like?
Job 33:3 “My words come from my upright heart; My lips utter pure knowledge.”
For those whom God has transformed, the heart with Jesus at its core is a person who reveals knowledge. God imparts knowledge, truth that uplifts, glories God, blesses the hearer, all we have to do is simply share it with others.
Job 27:4 “My lips will not speak wickedness, Nor my tongue utter deceit”
The godly make a determination to control their tongue. As an expression of love for God and a desire for obedience, they reign in their speech for the glory of God.
Psalm 141:3 “Set a watch, O LORD, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips.”
*The godly are receptive to the conviction of the Holy Spirit. We are going to make mistakes, when we do the Lord brings correction if we are listening to His Spirit in our lives. The man of God who has no control over his mouth is the one who has a serious break in his relationship with the Lord. They typically lack a prayer life and their ability to listen to God is impaired by sin.
We have a choice with how our tongue is used, glorify God or cursing others. This dichotomy that the tongue represents comes from which spirit rules in our hearts. Spend time in the Word and in prayer and you’ll see your language bear out your devotion to God’s love. Neglect the Lord, get caught up in the things of this world and our speech begins to resemble our allegiance to the wickedness it represents.
Psalm 51:15 “O Lord, open my lips, And my mouth shall show forth Your praise.”
I know I want my tongue to bring glory to God. Jesus deserves honor and the way we speak is just one way to do that. If I want to be consistent in my testimony, I have to place a guard over my mouth. Sometimes a good friend will remind us of what our speech is like and help correct us.
Do I consistently tear down others in how i talk? Do I gripe about politicians or people I don’t know in general?
Our words carry weight. We represent the King of kings, as an ambassadors for Christ, when we speak we are to be speaking for Him. Our words should amplify and confirm God’s truth in us. Controlling the tongue is a continuous challenge. If your working on being respectful, it will show forth.
My Mother-in-law, God bless her heart, exudes the love of Jesus whenever she talks. She speaks of all Gods blessings, they permeate her conversations. She is always talking about how something or someone is a blessing. She always thanks the lord as she chats about certain subjects and truthfully, I don’t think she even realizes how she comes across. Her language comes from her heart of love and gratitude. I’ve learned to watch her and Roger through the years, they emulate the spirit of a true believer.
Do you know of someone who truly walks with Jesus consistently and faithfully? Let their conduct be a mark to attain to. Don’t expect them to be perfect people, but take the things they do well and raise the bar of expectation in your own life.
Colossians 4:6 “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.”
Speech seasoned with salt is reflective of the Spirit of God manifest in your life. Enhance the world around you, not tear it down.