“No one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse (revile) men, who have been made in the likeness of God; From the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way.” James 3:8-10 NASB
One of God’s greatest gifts to mankind is the gift of speech. With it we pray, sing praises to the Lord, teach and preach the Bible and share the gospel message with those who are without Christ! Yet, the Bible teaches, and our personal experience confirms, that the most difficult member of our body to control is the tongue! One of the most practical books in the New Testament is the book of James. In chapter 3:1-12 James points out three distinct powers of the tongue. One is the power of direction. He uses two analogies to illustrate (vv2-4). First is the horse (on which usually one rides) into which’s mouth a “bit” is placed. The pulling on the bit to one side or the other determines which way the horse turns. The second analogy is that of a great ship (on which many usually ride). As the ship’s rudder is turned the ship turns that direction. The application is our tongue can not only dictate the direction of our personal life, but also have an influence on others as well!
The second power of one’s tongue is that of destruction! Once again, James uses analogies to make his point (vv5-8). One is that of a grass fire. Grass fires can be both wild and unruly. One small match can unleash a magnitude of destruction, as well as getting quickly “out of hand”! And all kinds of animals can be tamed by man, but not so the tongue! Unfortunately, the rest of our body seems to follow wherever our tongue leads! The tongue has the power to destroy a person, a family or a church. No worse example can be found than that of the infamous Adolph Hitler. He wrote an autobiography tens of thousands of words long of his life, entitled “Mein Kampf.” It has been noted by researchers that for every word in his autobiography, 125 people were killed in World War II!
Finally, the third power of the tongue is the power of distortion, perhaps the most sinister and subtle of its powers. If we are not watchful, even believers can be drawn into confessions and conclusions that are clearly outside of Truth (vv9-12)! In such a place we both bless our Lord and Father, while at the same time revile men who have been made in the likeness of God! Rightly, James exclaims, “These things ought not to be this way!” When interviewed by Robert Frost concerning the Watergate break-in and the recorded tapes of President Nixon’s x-rated comments, the reverend Dr. Billy Graham stated, “The words were in his heart, or they never would have come from his lips!” Jesus said, “Out of the abundance of the heart a man speaks.” (Matthew 12:34)
As Christians, we need to make it our business to spend more time with those who encourage us in the things of God and less time with those who criticize, condemn and divide!