Is your tongue on fire? No, I’m not talking about eating spicy food. I’m referencing our power to set things ablaze with the words that we say. I’ve been struggling a bit with guarding my words lately, so I pulled up this post on the subject from our archives. Just in case any of you have a tongue that’s been smoldering, I’ve decided to repost this video and blog as a reminder that our tongues can cause a lot of damage.
In case you couldn’t load the YouTube video above, here’s a play-by-play. In the middle of a dark night, a single arrow is set on fire. It’s not a big fire; a little more than a spark, really. We see the arrow fly through the air. It meets its target, and BOOM! Suddenly a bonfire is raging. This video is a picture of a truth that James lays out in James 3:5–9:
So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. 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 … no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God.
Aw, c’mon, James! Aren’t you being a bit dramatic? Is the tongue really capable of setting a forest ablaze? Is it really a "restless evil full of deadly poison"? ‘Fraid so. Let me put it this way: How many of you have been badly burned by the words of others? How many of you have deeply wounded others with just your words? Yeah, me too. In fact, I think our tongues are a lot like that pile of kindling from the video, just waiting for a spark to burst into flames and cause us to sin. And sins of the tongue are a lot like bonfires. There’s no such thing as a little lying or a little gossip or just a little bit of being rude to your parents. We don’t usually do just a little bit of complaining or a little bit of tearing others down with our words. Sins of the tongue can quickly become raging fires in our lives, and without God’s help we cannot reign in the flames.
I spoke on this passage recently at a girls’ retreat in Oklahoma. After exposing our tongues as a weak spot where many of us fall into sin, I shared this verse of hope. (It’s one I write about often here on the blog because I think it matters so much in the life of every Christian.)
Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working (James 5:16).
Soon afterward, the craziest thing happened. One by one the girls stood up and did what James urges in this verse. They said …
"My tongue is a weak spot in the area of anger, and I want you to hold me accountable."
"My tongue is a weak spot in the area of sassiness, and I want you to hold me accountable."
"My tongue is a weak spot in disrespecting my parents, and I want you to hold me
"My tongue is a weak spot in the area of flirting, and I want you to hold me accountable."
"My tongue is a weak spot in the area of judging others, and I want you to hold me accountable."
As they shared, they worked as fire extinguishers for each other, combating the bonfire effect that sins of the tongue can have. Owning up to the fact that our tongues are an area where many of us struggle and asking for others to help us choose God’s truth can have the same effect on the readers of this blog.
So here is my challenge to you. Leave us a comment telling us how your tongue is a weak spot when it comes to sin and how we can pray for you. Consider us your fire safety patrol, interested in pointing you toward God’s truth as we all work together to tame the tongue.
Psst … for more on this passage from James, be sure to check out Erin’s post on Thursday.