Summary: Satan has one last strong hold in the Christian life, and as long as he can maintain some control of the tongue he can do a great deal of damage, even through a child of God.
Vance Havner tells the story of the old colored manny who was in
quite a serious auto accident. Where there is a wreck, of course,
there is soon a lawyer, and he said to her, "Auntie, you ought to
collect some damages from this." "Damages!" she responded.
"Man, I'se done collected enough damages, what I needs is repairs!"
She may have been mixed up, but she knew that getting fixed up was
the primary need. That is the need of each one of us when it comes to
this subject in everyone's mouth-the tongue. What we need is not
more damages, but repairs.
We see the damage everywhere, but we do not have to look at
others, for our subject is one that is in everyone's mouth, and,
therefore, we have to look no further than ourselves for evidence of
its negative, harmful, and destructive power. Christians will often
say that the answer is Christ, and no one can argue with that, for in
Christ are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. The
problem with this solution is that the solution is not the problem.
Leona Hertel explains what I mean out of her own experience. She
wrote, "I once took a math course and found all the answers to the
problems in the back of the book. I thought it would be a snap.
However, just having the answers did not help me to learn the proper
mathematical procedures. Life is often like this. We know the
answer to our problems is found in Christ, but we must learn how to
apply His all-sufficient grace if we are to find help in time of need."
God has supplied the answer in Christ, but it is our duty to learn
how to make it work in life. The application of truth is just as vital as
truth itself. We do not become Christlike just by knowing that is our
goal. It doesn't just happen. There are practical steps we must take
to achieve this goal, and that is why James stressed wisdom, which is
the practical application of truth and knowledge in life.
But how does James help us to achieve repairs for this minor
muscle of the mouth which is marred by sin, and which can be so
harmful in marring the lives of others? James follows the same
pattern that needs to be followed in bringing the lost to turn to Christ
and be saved. A sinner must be convinced of his sin before he feels
any need for a Savior. So a Christian needs to be persuaded about
the tremendous danger of the tongue before he will bring it under
submission to God. Only when we are fully convinced of how
inconsistent our tongue is will we be willing to work at bringing it
into conformity with Christlikeness.
In verse 10 James makes it clear that the major problem
Christians have with the tongue is in inconsistency. Out of the same
mouth we send forth both blessing and cursing. We are back to our
doublemindedness again, and James said in chapter 1 that such
doublemindedness will not receive anything from the Lord. He will
not give the wisdom and patience a person needs to press on to
perfection. Your Christian growth can come to a halt just because
your mouth is a fountain that sends forth both bitter and sweet.
Aesop tells the story of the master who ordered his servant to
prepare him the most perfect dish on earth. The servant brought in
a dish of tongue, for he said, "The tongue is the instrument of the
mind, and the source of the most beautiful poems and most noble of
thoughts." The master then ordered him to prepare the most
abominable dish possible, and the servant again brought him tongue
saying, "It is the poisoned instrument of slander, falsehood, and
blasphemy." The tongue is a great paradox, for it is both the best
and the worst. It is the producer of all our praise, and the maker of
all our malice. We both love and hate with the tongue, and James
says we must stop using it for evil, and use it consistently for good.
Our need for direct help from God is obvious as we examine the
details of James in his denunciation of the tongue. In verse 6 he says
it is a fire. Fire can be good, but James stresses the fact that the
tongue fire is fed by the flames of hell. Phillips in his translation
makes it vivid-"A whole forest can be set ablaze by a tiny spark of
fire, and the tongue is as dangerous as any fire, with vast
potentialities for evil. It can poison the whole body; it can make the
whole of life a blazing hell." The NEB has it, "...it keeps the wheel of