Many of us probably know James’ vivid description of the tongue: …The tongue is a flame of fire. It is a world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself. …No one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison (James 3:6-8 NLT).
Sometimes we may forget the power our words have – power for good, or, sadly, for evil. Whether the Christian is blogging or speaking, texting or talking on the phone, it is our duty to control our speech. We live in a time where people like to shock others with edgy phrases, use sarcasm to make fun of people, and show off their wit with trendy words and a sharp tongue. But we as Christians have a different way of speaking.
The Bible says a lot about our speech. It would take quite a few blog posts to cover the topic! The point I want to make here is that Christians, by God’s grace, have to work hard to control our tongues. Kent Hughes, after reflecting on James 1:26, makes some good points on this topic:
“This is a spiritually terrifying statement, to say the least, for it cuts like a hot knife through warm butter, dissecting the cant and piety of the self-satisfied religious. An out-of-control tongue suggests bogus religion, no matter how well one’s devotion is carried out. The true test of a man’s spirituality is not his ability to speak, as we are apt to think, but rather his ability to bridle his tongue.“
That last sentence that I emphasized there is worth reflecting on, especially in a time where we may be drawn to powerful speakers, teachers, and preachers. Preachers and teachers need to speak, for sure, but they also need to practice not speaking; we preachers/teachers need to control our language and speech in every venue and situation. Hughes later gives some resolutions for controlling the tongue (these are for us all):
-To refrain from being party to or a conduit for gossip (Prov. 16:28; 17:9; 26:20).
-To refrain from insincere flattery (Prov. 26:28).
-To refrain from running down another (Jas. 4:11).
-To refrain from degrading humor (Eph. 5:4).
-To refrain from sarcasm (Prov. 26:24, 25).
This means our speech might not be cool and trendy, since “cool and trendy” usually means sarcasm, degrading humor, and running someone else down. But as Christians, we speak the truth in love, refuse to speak evil of others, and use our tongues to bless others and praise our God who made us, provides for us, and saved us. The hymn “O For A Thousand Tongues” comes to mind!
The above quotes are found in chapter 11 of Kent Hughes’ book, Disciplines of a Godly Man.