The following is a guest post by David Lindell. David has become a friend through my connection at James River Assembly of God. I’ve preached there a couple of times and will be back next year. I’ve grown to appreciate the church and David’s leadership. He’s a young leader and has much to say— and you’ll hear from him more in days to come, I am sure.
I tend not to think of myself as a mouthpiece for Satan; in fact, I prefer to see myself in the opposite light. This is why a passage tucked near the end of the New Testament is so troubling for me. The third chapter of James deals explicitly with our words. While we expect the Bible to have something to say about what comes out of our mouths, the forcefulness of James’ imagery is jolting.
With dynamic metaphors, the author reveals the might our words possess. His first two images — a bit in a horse’s mouth and the rudder on a massive ship — allude to the tongue’s exacting control over a person, which can dramatically influence the direction of their life. While these images are decidedly neutral, the writer’s third image is unquestionably negative. “How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire!” he exclaims. Just like a forest fire, the tongue can burn up a life as its words spread rapidly, leaving little hope of reversing or containing the devastation that follows in their wake.
The tongue can burn up a life as its words spread rapidly.
In verse six, James takes it a step further to say that the tongue actually is a fire. There is real-world destruction in its words, and its ruin is easy to see. We glimpse it in the pained laugh of someone made the butt of a snarky joke, in the embarrassment of a child publicly berated by a parent, in the flushed face of a woman whose inadequacies are routinely paraded by her spouse — each scenario smells eerily of smoke. James goes on to say that with these words we become the mouthpiece of hell, because the tongue’s fire is fueled by hell itself.
Written by Ed Stetzer
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