From James 3:1-12. Why must we learn to control our tongues and master our mouths? #2. MY TONGUE CAN DESTROY WHAT I HAVE
v.5 James gives another illustration. Imagine a beautiful forest — tall beautiful trees everywhere. Now imagine it in one minute up in smoke, completely destroyed instantly with a little tiny match. It only takes a spark to get a fire going. In 1983 in Australia, one fire overnight destroyed 600 miles of land, villages, livestock. All from a single match. James says that your tongue can destroy like that. You can lose it all. A careless camper can destroy an entire national forest overnight. A careless word can destroy a life overnight. Thousands of lives. Gossip is like fire. It spreads quickly and it wrecks havoc. I wonder how many people because of a careless word have destroyed their marriage, or their career, or their reputation, or the reputation of another, or their church, or a friendship. The tongue not only has the power to direct where you go but also to destroy what you have if you don’t learn to control it. It’s like a fire.
Have you ever met a verbal arsonist? Their words are always inflammatory. “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.” That’s just not true. Words do hurt.
Proverbs 18:20 (GN) says, “You have to live with the consequences of everything you say.”
v.6 “… it sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.” Notice the phrase “whole course”. He’s saying here that words can create a chain reaction. You can say something that you didn’t mean to have any harm, but it can have devastating effects that are beyond your control. Just a few inflammatory statements set off a chain of events that we now look back on and call World War II. On a more personal level, you come home from work and you’re tired and grumpy and cranky. The husband walks in and yells at the wife. The wife yells at the oldest kid. The oldest kid yells at the baby sister. The baby sister goes out and kicks the dog. The dog goes and bites the cat. The cat comes in and scratches the baby. The baby bites the head off the Barbie doll. Wouldn’t it be a whole lot simpler if the husband just bit off the head of the Barbie doll himself? Chain reaction.
Proverbs 21:23 “If you want to stay out of trouble be careful what you say!” James uses another illustration. He talks about a zoo. “All kinds of animals … have been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue. [It’s humanly impossible. Only God can do it.] It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” (vs.7-8) Of all the animals we’ve tamed, no man can tame the tongue, humanly speaking. He says it’s restless. That means it’s always liable to break out at any moment. When Lion Country Safari opened, there was a big sign as you drove in — “Do not get out of your car. Do not roll down the window.” Why? Those animals that look so tame and peaceful could rip your head off in a second. The same can be true of the tongue. It’s like poison. The word in Greek is literally “snake venom”. Just a few drops can kill. You can assassinate somebody with your words. Assassinate their character. The tongue is a deadly weapon. That should not be for the follower of Jesus Christ. More tomorrow.