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. There have been people in my life who have used 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.
If the warnings of the tongue are not heeded, then like a forest fire that is out of control, we must prepare for the damage that follows.
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 the book of James I’ve always been a bit overwhelmed by the bold warnings. James doesn’t hold anything back when referring to the damage the tongue can cause.
When considering fire, it’s not hard to imagine the destruction that occurs. Living on the west coast of the United States, wildfires are a constant threat. As I speak, multiple fires have already occurred and some still burn.
The destructive nature of fire is much like the tongue, certain elements show forth within each.
1. They consume.
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. If sin rules in our hearts, the tongue will represent the fire of our iniquity. If the Lord rules, His Spirit consumes by purifying and making holy.
Hebrews 12:29 “For our God is a consuming fire.”
I find it interesting how the fires of iniquity that destroy will one day be consumed by the fires of God’s Holiness.
2. They defile.
Take anything that is touched by fire and it’s mark is always left. Defiling has its root in taking something pure and spoiling it. When the tongue affects someone adversely, it changes their countenance, their self image can be damaged by the talk that injures 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.
Mark 7:21-23 “For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”
3. The tongue is carnal in nature.
At the root of mankind is the nature of sin. Like stagnant polluted water it is bitter and poisoned. The tongue is the doorway for wickedness to spill forth or consequently—blessing. There is a choice in how we choose to express ourselves. The emotion of hatred that people exhibit when unleashing a tirade of anger only leads to more bitterness and hatred from the hearers.
Proverbs 21:23 “Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble.”
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.
James 3:8 “But no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.”
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”
Honoring to the Lord
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 while truth that uplifts, glorifies God and blesses the hearer. All we have to do is simply share God’s Truth 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 control 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 yet when we do the Lord brings correction as we listen to His Spirit’s guidance in our lives. The man of God who has control over his mouth is the one who considers his relationship with the Lord valuable. Their prayer life and their ability to listen to God is not hindered by their lifestyle or the way they speak.
Proverbs 15:4 “A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit.”
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. 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 really don’t know?
Our words carry weight. We represent the King of kings, as 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, don’t tear it down.