Change Your Course! – Part 1
“The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body.” (James 3:6 NIV)
James, elder of the early Church and half-brother of our Lord, made a pretty startling statement in the New Testament letter that bears his name when he said that if believers don’t keep a tight rein on their tongues, their religious is utterly worthless (James 1:26)! You may say, “Let’s fix the problem, then, by being more disciplined!” Ah, but it isn’t that easy, for later on in the letter, James makes the categorical statement that the tongue cannot be tamed!
Think of what power there is in the tongue! The Bible says that the tongue can bring forth life and death. We can kill someone with our tongue and we can bring life to someone else with the same tongue. We can say just one sentence with the right words and the right spirit and bring encouragement and life to someone who may be ready to give up. Just one sentence! God gives us the ability to use our mouths in that way. On the other hand, many of us have felt guilty about how we’ve used our tongues at times. There may have even been moments when we have felt the Lord warning us not to say something, and we’ve said it anyway! Then we feel bad and think, “I’m going to try harder tomorrow.” It’s pointless! We’ll only end up doing it again!
The Bible says that the tongue has control over us like nothing else does; it can chart the course of our lives and impact others around us. James says this: “Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.” He’s saying that a whole church, or an entire choir, or whole families, can be split and ruined by people talking perversely. Many marital conflicts have started with the tongue and have ended in divorce. Cruel jabs and talking behind a person’s back can bring about destruction and devastation in someone’s life. You would think that we would guard ourselves against this evil, but it’s insidious; and, sadly, it’s par for the course for many Christians. How often do we condone gossip among us and sometimes even justify it by disguising it as a prayer request! We easily say, “Hallelujah,” in our gatherings, but God is hearing what we say after the meeting as well.
Not only can the tongue set in motion a whole chain of events surrounding a person. James says that it sets aflame the whole person. So when my tongue gets out of control, it not only hurts others and affects situations in my own life, but it also sets in motion other things in me that are ungodly. The tongue has that kind of power. Many sins that believers have fallen into have started with wrong talking. In fact, if we took a close look at the lives of people who have ended up shipwrecking their lives, we could probably look back and see that for many, the temptation to sin began because their tongue got loose and it broke down their spiritual defense system. They’ve engaged in gossip and slander or lying or insults, and they’ve grieved the Holy Spirit. Now who is going to hold them back from all kinds of sin if they’ve grieved the only one who can keep us from falling?
Thank God for his mercy! First of all, there is forgiveness with God! His Word says to every Christian that if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9)! Then, he promises us that sin shall no longer have dominion over us (Romans 6:14)! But it’s not because we grit our teeth and try harder. We can try all we want, but it’s going to take God and God alone to tame our tongue. We’ve got to surrender and give him control so our mouths can be sanctified—so we can talk differently, so we can change the whole course of our lives!
To be continued...
Read James 3:1-6.