Scripture: James 3:7-12
Last time we concluded by saying that the tongue can either warm or scorch. Therefore, it should be treated with the same care as an open flame. The passage from James that we are looking at today says that although humanity has been able to tame all animals, it has never been able to tame the tongue. It calls the tongue a “restless and unruly evil, full of deadly poison”: another dramatic depiction of the tongue as the worst kind of thing. This is all well and good, the things we say can steer us closer to or further away from God, the tongue is the worst kind of evil, but why get so intense about it as opposed to other sins that seem much worse?
The apparent harmlessness is exactly why we need to be more on our guard. James outlines why it is so important to tend to this “little” thing in verses 9-12. We use the same tongue to bless/worship/serve God which we also use to curse people (who are made in God’s image). We use the same tongue to pray and to sin. The rebuke goes “And you kiss your mother with that mouth?”, but in this case James is asking “And you pray to God with that mouth?” Would you use a rusty knife to prepare food for someone you cared about? Of course, we might say that we are capable of switching between praising and cursing without cross-contamination. James, however, compares the tongue to a vine or a spring of water. Just as a vine cannot produce both grapes and figs and a spring cannot produce both fresh and salt water, so our tongue cannot produce both blessing and cursing. Either we bless with our tongue or we curse with it. Either we praise God with a sincere heart or we pay Him lip service.
This is certainly a “hard saying”, but if James was willing to be so blunt and draw a line in the sand, chances are that this is important. Situations like this call for prayer, a conversation with God about what His Word says and what it means to us. Part of what is so awesome about having a direct line to God is that, while God’s word has ultimate authority, we a are able to talk to Him about any part of it and He will, if we ask, help us to understand it, or give us the faith to believe in His goodness enough to obey Him even if we don’t entirely understand.
Questions for Consideration:
1) Why does the tongue’s apparent harmlessness make it so dangerous?
2) Think about the last time you consciously and sincerely said something to glorify God, how did you feel about God? What about the last time you consciously sinned by saying something, how did you feel about God?
3) If we categorized everything we’ve ever said as either honoring God or sinning, do you think that we could predict, with some degree of accuracy, how close we are to God right now just by looking at how our words have been sorted?