Capable of Much: The Tongue

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This morning my wife and I read James 3 in preparation for our Wednesday night Bible study. The first part of it really stuck out to me:

1 Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. 2We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check.

3 When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. 4 Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. 5 Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. 6 The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

7 All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

9 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. 11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 12 My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water. – James 3:1-12

In verses 3-8, the tongue is compared to a:

  • Horse bit
  • Rudder
  • Small spark
  • Fire (Hell)
  • Restless evil (full of deadly poison)
Verses 9 & 10 points out our hypocrisy:
9 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. – James 3:9-10
Which then reminds me of Proverbs 18:21:
21 The tongue has the power of life and death,
and those who love it will eat its fruit.
Everyday, we make constant word choices in our conversations. We have the ability to lift people up or tear them to pieces with a verbal tongue lashing. Just this morning I was presented with such a choice at work. Thankfully, I took the high ground and kept my mouth shut. Do I still want to say something? Yes. Do I need to? No.
11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring?
I want to be known for speaking words of life into peoples lives. I want to be a spring of fresh water. Do you?
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