It should be evident through our human experience that what we say in passionate discourse, driven by our jealousies and self ambitions, is sinfully disordered. (James 3:13-18) We can say, scream, or spitefully whisper, things that should not be said. These things can destroy relationships, ruin opportunities, and discredit our witness. The enemy is the father of lies. When we allow our tongue to run unfettered it does the work of the devil.
Let’s take a look at what God says about the tongue in the book of James. He says that it is, “tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity” In this context, fire is destructive. It destroys and consumes everything it touches. It defiles the entire body. It sets the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell. Wow, and ouch! It sets the course for our life? Yep, by the sinful, undisciplined, words that come out of your heart and mouth, your entire life’s course is changed. Look at how many public figures careers have been ruined by something they said, or how many Evangelist who were caught by an open mic saying something unbecoming. It is set on fire by hell. That paints a very scary picture in my mind. It is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. How many times have you poisoned someone by saying words out of a selfish position? How much hurt have you caused to those you love by expressing your sinful heart’s passion recklessly? I know I am guilty of of it for sure. I look back and regret the hurt and injury I inflicted with my words.
Like Jesus said, “Do you not understand that everything that goes into the mouth passes into the stomach, and is eliminated? But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders. These are the things which defile the man; but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile the man.” (NASB) Matthew 15:17-20”
With it we curse men who are made in the image of God. This indicates our elevation of ourselves. It demonstrates how we see ourselves better than other men, more entitled, and deserving. What did Paul say, “ It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all.” (NASB) 1 Timothy 1:15
James quotes the psalmist when he says, “But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (NASB) James 4:6 So what instruction can we receive from the scripture? Are we hopeless to control our tongues? The scriptures are clear that we can have our sinful natures changed by the work of God. Christ’s work justifies us, and the Holy Spirit brings us to new life. As the new man learns and grows, he can, and will have more success battling against the destructive self-centered overflow of the heart. This is due to the Holy Spirit’s work applying the truth of God and His word to our hearts. We have new hearts, with new desires and affections. As these begin to rule and dominate, we are conformed to the likeness of Christ our Savior. We begin to speak wisely, and gently. We aren’t perfect, but by God’s grace we are justified and sanctified.
So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things.
See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell. For every species of beasts and birds, of reptiles and creatures of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by the human race. But 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 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. Does a fountain send out from the same opening both fresh and bitter water? Can a fig tree, my brethren, produce olives, or a vine produce figs? Nor can salt water produce fresh. (NASB) James 3:5-12
Wisdom from Above
Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. (NASB) James 3:13-18