Christianity 201

September 5, 2020

The Tongue is a Fire

“Let the words of my mouth and the mediation of my heart be acceptable in the sight, O Lord.” (Psa. 19:14)

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue.”  Prov. 18:21

The title of today’s article is a phrase from the book of James.

And among all the parts of the body, the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself.
 (3:6 NLT)

Of course, James had never heard of a typewriter keyboard, a computer, the internet, Twitter, etc. Today he might write, “the keyboard is a flame of fire.”

The full context is:

NIV.James.3.1 Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check.

When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. 11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 12 My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.

There are so many issues right now which are fracturing and polarizing: Race relationships, mistrust of media, defunding the police, the American election, responding to the pandemic, the existence of the pandemic, climate change, religious freedom, immigration, women’s reproductive rights, technology and privacy, etc. Did that list strike some nerves? Do some of those topics raise your blood pressure? It’s easy to get drawn into these battles, especially on social media.

Paul wrote to Timothy:

No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer. II Tim 2:4

But for some of you, even that issue — how involved Christians should be in the issues being discussed in the public square — is enough to get you going!

Today we’re sharing a cover version of Steve Camp’s song The Tongue is a Fire. I thought we’d covered this song once before here, but when I checked, it was a different song by the same name. You can read that devotional here. At that time we quoted Stephen Whyte:

It is God’s desire that our tongues be a “fountain of life” (Prov 10:11) and that our speech be “seasoned with grace” (Col. 4:6) in order that we might “know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary. (Isa. 50:4)  We probably cannot fully appreciate the positive effects which words of praise, encouragement, appreciation, comfort and compassion have on a person. But God is exhorting us to see that our very words can bring restoration and life into a situation where death is reigning. (Prov 16:24; 25:11; Eccl. 10:12)

Our friends at Live To Tell posted the song, and the video description explains why:

I felt compelled to perform this song because of all the dissension, confusion, anger and disillusionment that is being foisted upon us from all directions. Now more than ever, our greatest resource – our words – have become either a healing balm for troubled souls or weapons that destroy and plunder the lives and minds of so many.

I am not exempt from the damage that can be done from my inept, careless choice of words or criticisms, whether they’ve come from my typing on my keyboard or from out of my own mouth.

I pray we all focus on learning to take better care of/get a handle on our thoughts and verbal output, for ‘out of the overflow of the mouth, the heart speaks’.

May God grant us the serenity (and the WISDOM) to change the things we can and weigh whether it is a good time to be quiet or speak out wisely and only after being extremely well-informed by reliable sources.

 Psalm 4:4 “ … do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent.”

Proverbs 10:19 “Where words are many, sin is not wanting; but those who restrain their lips do well.”

Isaiah 30:15 “This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.”

Psalm 37:7 “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.”

Here is the video:

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