Did you know that of all the muscles in our body many consider our tongue the strongest? This is due to the fact that the tongue is always working in one way or another, never stopping or standing still. As I pondered this bit of knowledge, I was left a little speechless that a muscle which I never consciously ‘work-out’ could contain that much strength! Yet, I am reminded that the Bible has many things to say about the tongue and the power of words. Surely we all know that the tongue has the ability to uplift or to tear down – we have all experienced the joy of a warming compliment and the pain of a piercing word. However, the Bible says in Proverbs 18:21,
“The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.”
To be honest, I don’t think of my tongue as a loaded gun or a sharp sword, but it is. It contains within it “the power of both life and death.” And the reality is, I don’t treat my tongue with the necessary precautions that warrant a loaded weapon and for this, I am ashamed. You see, the more I read about what James has to say about this matter, the more I feel convicted of my speech. Here is what it says in chapter 3,
“We all make many mistakes. If anyone does not make a mistake with his tongue by saying the wrong things, he is a perfect man. It shows he is able to make his body do what he wants it to do. We make a horse go wherever we want it to go by a small bit in its mouth. We turn its whole body by this. Sailing ships are driven by strong winds. But a small rudder turns a large ship whatever way the man at the wheel wants the ship to go.”
James encourages us that everyone makes mistakes – however, the problem becomes exponential when we fail to realize that a small thing, like our tongue, can have such a lasting impact. He compares our tongue to a small bit which can steer the direction of a horse or a small rudder that can turn a ship’s course. In fact, he goes on to warn us,
“The tongue is also a small part of the body, but it can speak big things. See how a very small fire can set many trees on fire. The tongue is a fire. It is full of wrong. It poisons the whole body. The tongue sets our whole lives on fire with a fire that comes from hell.”
James knew these words above to be accurate because of Jesus previous teaching and He actually goes on to compare the tongue to a dangerous fire – something that would have far greater meaning in ancient times. You see, we must remember the audience in which this was originally written to didn’t have 911 to come to the rescue whenever a fire started. In fact, as people conquered lands during this time they did so primarily by burning them to the ground. In today’s modern terms this would be equivalent to saying that our tongue was like a nuclear bomb! He goes on to say that the tongue can poison our whole body and bring a fire that comes directly from hell. Now, it is easy to think that this is only metaphorically speaking, but I ask you to consider this: when someone gossips or says slanderous words about another person, a person that is created in the very image of God, is this person not cursing both God and His creation? This intolerable crime landed Satan himself in the pits of hell. Jesus died for all, including people that we feel it is okay to destruct. Are we not playing our own type of god when we cast our opinion over a person who God, in the beginning, spoke the words ‘very good’ towards?
The truth is we all fail in the area of our tongues…. daily. We all speak to soon and utter words that can never be unsaid. We all lose our tempter and choose death over life. How can we correct this problem? Jesus says in Matthew 12:24,
“Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.”
Our reprehensible tongue, when used incorrectly, is ultimately a heart issue. Our fleshly desires will injure us time and time again. We must surrender our body, mind and soul to God so that we can become strong in this matter. When we allow the Holy Spirit to direct and advise us, guarding our hearts against temptation, we can begin to bear good fruit. I challenge you today to start watching what comes out of your mouth and the lasting impact it may have – the power of words is undeniable. Work to surrender your tongue to the Lord and see the kind of change it makes in the relationships that surround you today.