We can make a large horse go wherever we want by means of a small bit in its mouth. And a small rudder makes a huge ship turn wherever the pilot chooses to go, even though the winds are strong. In the same way, the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches.
But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire. And among all the parts of the body, the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself.
People can tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish, but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison. Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right! Does a spring of water bubble out with both fresh water and bitter water? Does a fig tree produce olives, or a grapevine produce figs? No, and you can’t draw fresh water from a salty spring.
Modern technology can do amazing things and make our lives better in countless ways. Except when it makes our lives worse and enables us to do terrible things. Think about those big flat screen TVs hanging on the walls of most homes. Some can produce billions of colors of ultra-high definition images. They can display movies, sports and any other video image with incredible clarity and vivid brightness. There’s no denying how sophisticated that technology is, but how do we use those big screens? They could show us images of God’s beautiful world, scenes from a worship service or family photos that fill us with happiness. Or they could display images of violence, pornography or destruction that fill our hearts with pain. Or consider how social media can help us stay in touch with loved ones and instantly share information with people far away, but it can also be used to spread hate and lies.
Now consider the tongue. That “small thing” in your mouth, created by God, enables you to communicate in good and useful ways while also letting you set fires in people’s lives and spew “deadly poison.” Having a tongue isn’t the problem, just as having a big TV or logging on to your social media account isn’t wrong. It’s what you do with it that matters. God is pleased when we use our tongues to give him praise, to speak encouraging words and to share the good news of Jesus with people in need. But sometimes we let our tongues loose in other ways that displease God, like profanity, hate, gossip, criticism or arrogance.
James says, “no one can tame the tongue,” but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. How are your words affecting the people around you? Do the things you say make people feel better or worse, hopeful or discouraged, loved or hated? A study published in Science reports that on average people say 16,000 words per day. That sounds like a lot, but the real question is what percentage of the words you say each day are true, kind and honoring to God?
Gracious Lord, all Your words are good and true. Forgive me for using my tongue in ways that hurt You and hurt those around me. Teach me to speak words that are good, honest and helpful, so I can bring glory to the name of Jesus my Savior. Amen.
Pastor Mike Mirakian