We have created many powerful things (weapons, electricity, transportation, etc) over which we have control. We also continue to live the truth that man has dominion over all created animals, shown by our ability to tame them and being able to have power over them (Gen. 1:26). But what power is untamed by man? That untamed power is the power of the TONGUE (James 3:8). The Bible says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits” (Proverbs 18:21). Because death and life are in the power of the tongue, we need to know just how serious this power is.
I want to point us all to God’s instructions on this power, in order to help us see the importance of watching what we say with much diligence. Please open your Bible to James chapter three where God describes for us what the tongue like. We need to keep in mind, that James is writing to Christians (refer to blog page “What must I do to be saved?” for God’s instructions to becoming a Christian). Christians need to understand the power of the tongue because we use it to do God’s work. Let us examine what the James wrote about this power:
- “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body.” (James 3:1–2)
- If we speak for God, we need to be careful with the use of our tongue. For there is greater condemnation for those who speak and teach on behalf of the Great I AM. We need to be sure we are speaking the Truth (God’s Truth not our truth) as it is written in the Bible and to speak it in the manner that is pleasing to God. Notice that James says in order to be the perfect man, we need to watch what we say. “Perfect” does not mean a sinless man, but a man who is spiritually mature to have control over what he says.
- “If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs (James 3:3-4)
- Here are two pictures explaining how powerful the tongue is. The first picture is that of horses. Horses are powerful animals, yet, they will submit to the manipulation of bits in their mouths. The second picture is that of ships (think of the Titanic). Ships though great, they are turned about by a small rudder at the captain’s will. Our tongue is like the bits in the horse’s mouth or the rudders that turn the ships, it has the power of control in our life. Can we see the power of the tongue as illustrated here? James then explains:
- So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell.” (James 3:5-6)
- It may be among the smallest parts of our body, but the damage that it brings is illustrated in the idea of a small spark that starts a forest fire. Have you seen those forest fires in California? The tongue when it is not guided by God’s instructions becomes a world of evil and unrighteousness. Like fire destroys the forest, the tongue destroys a man’s character. If we do not submit this untamed power to God’s will, it will take us to eternal damnation.
- “For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” (James 3:7–8)
- James gives us the reality of our ability when it comes to the tongue. We have showcased that we are able to tame different kinds of animals. This is so because God has given to us the dominion over all animals. But who can tame the tongue? Who can control this power the same way we can control the animals? No one! The tongue can be restrained when we submit to God’s guidance, but it cannot be tamed. It is always ready to be a threat that is destructive. With much diligence and awareness to watch what we say, we can go on in life not destroying ourselves and our relationships. But the moment we let down our godly awareness for our speech, the restraints come off and the beast (tongue) untamed, destroys.
- “With it, we bless our Lord and Father, and with it, we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.” (James 3:9–10)
- Here is the hypocritical use of this power by Christians. Remember that James is writing to Christians and the text suggests that there were Christians who practice this type of hypocrisy in James day. This happens today as well. But, our hope is that when we find ourselves in this practice, we will be hurt and ask God for forgiveness.
- “Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water?Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.” (James 3:11–12)
- James is telling his audience and readers that it is impossible to use our tongue for God’s purpose and for Satan’s purpose at the same time. To do so is not pleasing to God and the result of doing so without repenting of this wrong is a home together with Satan. To think that one is spiritually well when practicing this type of hypocrisy is to believe that fig trees can produce olives, which is factually untrue as the other examples mentioned.
God expects us to watch what we say. He will not demand from us something that is impossible for us to do. When James said “no man can tame the tongue” he is saying that the man’s tongue is not like the animals when they are tamed. Once the animals are tamed, they are no longer dangerous and can go without restraints. The tongue, on the other hand, cannot be tamed and left without restrains. When one lets down the godly measures that restrain it, the tongue then sets out to destroy. James is trying to tell Christians, that when it comes to the tongue, we need to continually give diligence in keeping it from doing Satan’s work and using it to do God’s work.
I want us to remember that when the Bible talks about the tongue in the sense that James is using it, it is not referring to the organ only. But it is talking about the mind/heart that is behind the organ (tongue). This is about our information intake that is stored in the mind, and how that information comes out through the tongue. The idea is that if we store in our minds righteousness and good things, then out of our mouths (through our tongue) will come righteousness and good things stored. The same is true if we store in our minds unrighteous things. Jesus said it best: “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45). Here is a question for us all:
What treasures does our tongue reveal? (in a modern world, social media posts) What treasures would you like your tongue to reveal? We all need improvements in this area. Let us continue to keep up the godly restraints to this powerful tool because truly, life and death are in its power. A good way to keep ourselves in check is to ask ourselves this question, “How can God be glorified with what I am about to say?”