Taming The Tongue: Its Power to Destroy

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We learned yesterday from James 3:1-4 that the human tongue can direct, both directly and indirectly.  Today from James 3:5-8, we will see that the tongue also has the power to destroy.

II.  Power to Destroy    v5-8

James writes in James 3:5-6,  “So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things.  See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire! 6 And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell.”  The tongue is compared to a fire.  Fire has the amazing and unique ability to reproduce itself in an almost unlimited way as long as it has fuel to burn.  On October, 8 1871 a lantern in a barn was kicked over by a cow igniting the great Chicago fire.  Before it could be contained, 17,500 buildings were destroyed, 300 people died, and 125,000 others were left homeless.  In 1903, a pan of rice boiled over onto a fire, spreading coals across the room and starting a blaze that eventually consumed a square mile of a Korean city, burning some 3000 buildings to the ground.  We all remember the Gatlinburg fires from 2 years ago that left 14 dead, 175 injured and $500 million worth of damage.  The tongue is just like a fire, feeding on more and more words and spreading and destroying.

Fire has the amazing and unique ability to reproduce itself in an almost unlimited way as long as it has fuel to burn.  As it spreads, fire destroys, and the words we say do the same exact thing.  For example, for every word in Hitler’s Mein Kampf 125 people were killed in WWII.  Proverbs 26:20 says, “Where there is no wood, the fire goes out; And where there is no talebearer, strife ceases.”  

James continues in verse 7, “For every species of beasts and birds, of reptiles and creatures of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by the human race. 8 But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison.”  The human tongue is uncontrollable and untamable.  Human’s can tame animals, but no human in his own power can tame the tongue.  It is a restless evil.  Psalm 52:4 says about the tongue, “You love all devouring words, You deceitful tongue.”  The tongue loves to devour so much, we must constantly hold it back.  It is a restless evil.  It is also full of deadly poison.  That is strong terminology isn’t it?  James is just echoing the view of the Psalmist in Psalm 140:3:  “They sharpen their tongues as a serpent; Poison of a viper is under their lips.”  The tongue can direct and destroy, but let us also remember that the tongue has the power to delight as well.  We will see this truth tomorrow. 

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