The Tongue Is a Powerful and Often Fiery Instrument

 

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Ah, the tongue. ’Tis a powerful instrument indeed, as St. James sternly warns us in the New Testament book which bears his name (James 3:1-12).

James points to the incongruity of the fact that with this same instrument we can both praise the Lord and curse our neighbors. Strange, he comments, that out of the same spring can flow both fresh and salt water. Odd, he observes, and unnatural, that a fig tree could “bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs.” Something is wrong with that picture, and James is saying that something is wrong with our using an instrument given by God to bless us as a weapon with which to curse those created by God and in His image.

The tongue. It’s such a powerful thing that James says that a person completely able to control it, “never at fault in what he says,” would be a “perfect” person.

The tongue. It may be small, but in our lives it’s like the rudder that steers a huge sea-going vessel. Or, more often, it’s like a spark that sets a forest ablaze. Which leads me to this: We need to be very careful that what flows from our tongues are words that are refreshing, redeeming, and winsome, and not words that spark fires. Most of us would, we like to think, never shove a knife into an enemy, but we need to remember that, in God’s economy, neither are we to bow to the very real temptation to skewer folks with our own forked tongues, to use that instrument to spread poison, or to drop tongue-kindled sparks that fan fires which we secretly hope burn the folks who’ve rubbed us wrong.

Even loose lips which mean no harm can cause injury. Have you ever played the classroom game where the teacher whispers a simple sentence to a person at one end of the room, and then that person whispers it to the next, and so on, until the last person in the room shares it with the whole class? It’s often hilarious to see how the message has changed as it’s been repeated. It’s not so funny in real life.

Combine a willing tongue and a little anger, and you have a fiery combination that very few of us handle well. In this respect, as in so many others, I wish I was more like my father.

Sometime in the 70’s, Dad took a once-in-a-lifetime trip to the Holy Land. Several good friends of our family also went on that trip, and one of them recently recalled a long day in which the weary but excited travelers had been sightseeing among the pyramids. The tourists were riding camels led by some pesky camel-drivers who were driving their American visitors crazy with trinket-selling and incessant pleas for handouts. That night my father explained to John Comer, a dear friend, that he’d finally had to get ugly with one of those fellows.

“What did you say?” John asked.

“I said, ‘Sir, I do wish you would leave me alone.’”

That was my Dad at his ugliest. Even when he was angry, he seemed always to have his tongue under control.

I wish I was more like my father.

I wish I was more like my Father.

 

 

 

 

Copyright 2015 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

Ah, the tongue. ’Tis a powerful instrument indeed, as the Apostle James sternly warns us in the New Testament book which bears his name (James 3:1-12).

James points to the incongruity of the fact that with this same instrument we can both praise the Lord and curse our neighbors. Strange, he comments, that out of the same spring can flow both fresh and salt water. Odd, he observes, and unnatural, that a fig tree could “bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs.” Something is wrong with that picture, and James is saying that something is wrong with our using an instrument given by God to bless us as a weapon with which to curse those created by God and in His image.

The tongue. It’s such a powerful thing that James says that a person completely able to control it, “never at fault in what he says,” would be a “perfect” person.

The tongue. It may be small, but in our lives it’s like the rudder that steers a huge sea-going vessel. Or, more often, it’s like a spark that sets a forest ablaze. Which leads me to this: We need to be very careful that what flows from our tongues are words that are refreshing, redeeming, and winsome, and not words that spark fires. Most of us would, we like to think, never shove a knife into an enemy, but we need to remember that, in God’s economy, neither are we to bow to the very real temptation to skewer folks with our own forked tongues, to use that instrument to spread poison, or to drop tongue-kindled sparks that fan fires which we secretly hope burn the folks who’ve rubbed us wrong.

Even loose lips which mean no harm can cause injury. Have you ever played the classroom game where the teacher whispers a simple sentence to a person at one end of the room, and then that person whispers it to the next, and so on, until the last person in the room shares it with the whole class? It’s often hilarious to see how the message has changed as it’s been repeated. It’s not so funny in real life.

Combine a willing tongue and a little anger, and you have a fiery combination that very few of us handle well. In this respect, as in so many others, I wish I was more like my father.

Sometime in the 70’s, Dad took a once-in-a-lifetime trip to the Holy Land. Several good friends of our family also went on that trip, and one of them recently recalled a long day in which the weary but excited travelers had been sightseeing among the pyramids. The tourists were riding camels led by some pesky camel-drivers who were driving their American visitors crazy with trinket-selling and incessant pleas for handouts. That night my father explained to John Comer, a dear friend, that he’d finally had to get ugly with one of those fellows.

“What did you say?” John asked.

“I said, ‘Sir, I do wish you would leave me alone.’”

That was my Dad at his ugliest. Even when he was angry, he seemed always to have his tongue under control.

I wish I was more like my father.

I wish I was more like my Father.

      You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

        

 

Copyright 2015 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

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