And the tongue is a flame of fire. It is full of wickedness that can ruin your whole life. It can turn the entire course of your life into a blazing flame of destruction, for it is set on fire by hell itself. James 3:6 (NLT)
We can use the small member called the tongue to either bring life or death. Too often, we bring death. We bring heartache and strife and misery to others and to ourselves.
Scripture tells us not to speak things that are unwholesome, or grieve the Spirit of God by how we speak. Our speech reveals bitterness and wrath and anger and malice that are stored up in our hearts.
There is a very good reason James 3:5-8 says that the tongue is a powerful force, that it is said to be a fire, and the very world of iniquity; the Bible says the tongue defiles the entire body, and can torpedo what we have planned in life, and is set on fire by hell.
Have you ever caught your reflection in the mirror or heard yourself as you were screaming in anger? Have you ever said words you wish the moment they flew out of your mouth, you wished you could take back? Words that cut and wounded people you love? Words that were harsh, condemning, sarcastic, not honorable to God?
James further says that no one can tame the tongue- what a statement! Is it because it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison? Is it because it reveals the contents of the heart? Well one thing is for sure, “the tongue has the power of life and death.” (Prov 18:21) and is a violent and wicked instrument for something so small. I love how the Bible describes the tongue and its effects. It is so accurate!
I know this will surprise you (haha), but I can be a little mouthy at times and I have really worked diligently on being more responsible with my mouth, knowing that I have a responsibility to glorify God with the members of my body, and knowing that I am in the process of being conformed to the likeness of Christ I strive to live what I believe. And still, with all I know, and all I teach, I still say things that are hurtful and sinful and go against all I believe. I could just kick myself when I do, and I really regret when I prove how wicked my tongue can be.
The destructive words we use are usually an instrument of judgment. We use our words to assault each other’s character, slander one another, curse at one another, lie to one another, and accuse each other. Think about how much time you have spent judging other’s clothes, styles, decisions about educating their children, working or staying at home.
Romans 14:10 asks you an important question: But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt?
The reason is because ripping other people down makes us feel good in our flesh.
In addition to judging, James 4:12 tells us not to slander one another, and (see also Rom. 2:1-3; 14:4.) we spend plenty of time doing that too…
We don’t even think about what we are doing; the words just come out of our mouths. Why? Jesus said it’s because the thoughts are already in our hearts.
“For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders..” Matthew 15:19
And the more we speak against others, the more likely such speech is to become a habit.
In 2 Timothy 2:16, Paul warns us to “avoid worldly and empty chatter, for it will lead to further ungodliness.”
When critical attitudes and cutting words become a habit, we will find that we have become people who literally breathe judgment upon others.