The Disproportionate Tongue
- James compares the power of the tongue to a) a ship’s rudder, b) a horse’s bit, and c) a fire.
- The former two are small but control a large object out of proportion to their size and a fire may start small but soon grows. The tongue has power out of proportion to its size and it can start destructive hurtful fire(s).
- The tongue can boast about family, achievements, self-righteousness, exaggerate, and lie about accomplishments (Psalm 12:3 and 73:8). Note that Satan does not have a literal tongue but boasted proudly (Isaiah14:12-14). Others who boasted and were destroyed or humbled were Haman (Esther), Nebuchadnezzar (Dan.4:30), Herod (Acts 12:23), Simon Magus (Acts 8:9) and Antichrist (II Thess.2).
- The tongue is like a fire when it is used to destroy another’s reputation or character wrongly (Psalm 31:13, 52:4, 64:3, Prov. 18:20-21, Jer.9:3, Gal.5:15, I Tim.3:11). A fire when under control is useful to warm us (edifying, pure, God-centred witness, praise and speech).
- A “world of iniquity” shows the breadth of subject and sin the tongue is capable of e.g. lies, boasting, slander, gossip, backbiting, sinful anger, obscene filthy talk and jesting, blasphemy, swearing, cursing, flatteries, whisperings. These sins break many commandments e.g. third, sixth, seventh, eighth, and ninth.
- The tongue corrupts or defiles the whole person because acting from the flesh (old man) it reveals that sinful nature. As Scripture says, “out of the heart the mouth speaks” (Prov.13:3, 21:23, Mark 7:20 and Matthew 12:34).
- The course of nature or wheel of existence is our lives turning through time and affecting every aspect of our lives and that of others around us either for good or evil.
- Gehenna was the rubbish dump outside Jerusalem in the valley of Hinnom where human sacrifices were offered (Jer.7:31). It is the N.T word for eternal hell into which God has power to cast sinners which was initially created for the devil and his angels.
- Humanity is able to tame animals including birds, many mammals (land and sea), and reptiles.
- The tongue, unlike tamed beasts is not consistently controlled and can break out with poison of outbursts to hurt, immobilise or kill when under stress e.g. Moses, Doeg, Saul.
Praising and Cursing–An Oxymoron
- Believers praise God by the nature of the Spirit within them out of thankfulness and because of revelation, because God is worthy, it is our purpose and our duty to glorify him. We do this in private and public worship by his grace.
- Blessing and cursing are connected coming from the same mouth. It is interesting that we sin in this, but God is able by his word to sovereignly bless his elect and curse the reprobate (Deut.30:1) without sin.
- It is a great sin to curse men with our tongue because initially all men were made in the image of God and our believing brethren are remade in that image. We are commanded to bless even our enemies and especially our brethren. Christ and the apostles had divine prerogative to curse false teachers.
- A fountain which brings forth sweet and bitter water and a fig tree that bears olives are used as examples of this apparent contradiction.
- These examples show that there should only be one kind of fruit of the tongue, that is blessing from a renewed heart. To bless is to speak well of and with divine power blesses by doing good eternally in salvation. In our relationships we judge righteously and go to the one who has sinned in the first place. Next study (DV) Saturday October 1st to look at James 3:13-18.