Article by John Warren AntalikaDeacon at GraceLife London
“How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell.”
If you were to list some of the world’s greatest dangers, you may include terrorism, bad weather, global warming, international threats, diseases and so on. But what you are likely going to find absent from the list is the tongue and yet, as we look into the Word of God it is one of the world’s greatest dangers. In James 3, the tongue is described as a “fire, a world of unrighteousness” which is able to destroy the course of one’s life. David wrote in Psalm 39:1, “I will guard my ways, that I sin not with my tongue; I will guard my mouth with a muzzle.” Again in Psalm 120:2 the Psalmist in his distress cried out to the Lord to be delivered from lying lips and from a deceitful tongue. Solomon in giving counsels to his son had much to say about the tongue to him because of the unspeakable power that the tongue possesses. In Proverbs 18:21 Solomon teaches us that, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” In Proverbs 13:3, “He who guards his mouth preserves his life, but he who opens wide his lips shall have destruction.” The Bible has much to say about the tongue and its dangers and yet it is underestimated by many.
As Christians the subject of the tongue, specifically it’s dangers, is an area that must no longer be underestimated but be given great attention to, mainly because the Bible gives significant attention to it and particularly because of the times we are living in. In our time, one of the rights that is prized the most is that of our right to speak. ‘Freedom of Speech’, the liberty to voice our opinions and concerns is held dearly in our day and age and held so with strong conviction. People are prepared to go a long way to preserve this right. The liberty to use our tongue is endless especially in a technologically advanced society where there are multiple platforms in which people can speak their mind up. Take social media for instance. By the touch of one button, you can let a whole host of people know your opinion about anything. You can write a blog or make a video and have thousands of people read or listen to what you have to say. We do indeed praise God for the opportunity to speak freely since it gives us the liberty to proclaim the Gospel publicly, at least for now. Nevertheless, having such freedom to use our tongue is precisely the danger of our age.
It is easy nowadays to be agitated emotionally by present political, social and even Church issues. With access to instant news on our devices, many of us are exposed to what is happening in the world. When we see a news article or headline or a ‘tweet’ with which we disagree, our instant reaction is to reply without having given serious thought to our words. This is unfortunately evident nowadays among Christians. It is heartbreaking when Christians use their tongue and slander other Christians on public platforms or share things which promotes the slandering of another. It is heartbreaking because it brings reproach on the name of Christ. Since we profess Him and claim to be His ambassadors, our tongue must reflect this reality.
With freedom comes responsibility and greater accountability. Those called to preach have been given the privilege of teaching and preaching God’s Word and yet there is a stricter judgment (James 3:1), hence why not many should become teachers. Even though we have the freedom to speak, we must recognise that this freedom does not free us from our Christian responsibility and accountability. We cannot simply cite “Freedom of Speech” as the justification for our words. Freedom of speech does not negate the command to walk in the spirit and exercise self-control.
You must remember that one’s use of the tongue reveals what’s in the person. Our Lord teaches us “…for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks”(Luke 6:45). What you say reveals what’s in your heart. So, if you struggle with your tongue, examine your heart in light of Scripture. Pray to the Lord to guide you as you use seek to use your tongue and every aspect of your life for the glory of Christ.