James series – “The Litmus Test for life”
Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. 2 We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check. 3 When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. 4 Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. 5 Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. 6 The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. 7 All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. 11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 12 My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.
The fourth characteristic of a test-failing tongue is that it is:
- Corrupting (7-8)
Have you ever spent time around people who use foul language a lot? It’s amazing how that can seep into your head. The first thing that happens, is you start to become numb to it. Then as it creeps into your thoughts and starts to come out of your mouth. It corrupts. What happens when you screw a rusty nut onto a new bolt? The corrupting rust spreads to the bolt and ruins them both. After the rust sets in, you can’t tell the two of them apart. Cussing is one way that our conversation can corrupt. But contrary to what most Christians think it’s not the worst way our tongues can spew wickedness. While foul language corrupts, it’s not the most corrupting language. It’s the language that bites because that’s the language that levels. It’s the language that hurts the heart because its aimed at it. James calls it poison. It’s the corrupting speech that the Psalmist described in Psalm 52:2-4: “All day long you plot destruction. Your tongue cuts like a sharp razor; you’re an expert at telling lies. 3 You love evil more than good and lies more than truth. 4 You love to destroy others with your words, you liar!” Do your words wound? Does your sarcasm bite like a serpent? While we may not murder people we often assassinate them with words that leave death and destruction in their wake. Husbands have hurt their wives with stabbing words. Wives have wounded their husbands with cutting words. Parents have poisoned their children with painful words. Children have pierced their parents hearts with words that rip through respect and trash trust. Is your mouth making deposits or withdrawals? Many of us are bankrupting our relationships, because instead of depositing blessings our damaging words are making withdraws. Verse 5 of Psalm 52 reminds us that God compares a corrupting tongue to deadly poison that He won’t put up with it. Does your communication kill or cultivate. What do you do if it’s critical and cynical instead of caring and compassionate? You have to replace it, it doesn’t work just to remove you have to replace. A test passing tongue speaks purity not poison.