By Robert Halsey Pine
“For every species of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by the human species, but no one can tame the tongue–a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” (James 3:1-12 NRSV).
The tongue may be the greatest repository of sin in man. It is not always noticed. It is overlooked by most Christians as a source of sin. We think that we can say anything that we want to say about anything or to and about anybody. We are sure that sins of the tongue are of no consequence. It is so easy to let the tongue slither out and attack and then it’s back in again. There is very little effort required. A coward finds his tongue a handy secret weapon. An untruthful tongue can convincingly say that black is white.
The tongue is connected to the mind and the heart, so we can’t lay everything on the tongue. It is, however, our handiest weapon when the mind and heart decide to use it. The tongue when offering a comforting word of assurance is surely not sinful. The tongue of prayer is a wonderful thing. We pick and choose how we want to use it. This same tongue can be used to curse, undermine and falsely accuse. Evil uses of the tongue can pop up anywhere.
Our churches are not immune to its evil use. In our homes, in our communities and at our work the tongue can be used for good or evil. Trouble between father and child, husband and wife, neighbors and nations are many times fostered and prolonged by the wrong use of the tongue. James, in his warning to Christians and Jews also says, “How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire! And the tongue is a fire.” This fire is not to be confused with the tongues as of fire at the day of Pentecost, which were used for God’s purpose through the Holy Spirit.
Our hearts and minds must be constantly seeking God, so that our tongues can receive the proper instructions. A hard heart or an evil mind can take a small tongue and do much evil with it. The fire of Adolf Hitler’s tongue changed the world. We must realize how powerful our tongues are and use them wisely. By connecting our minds and hearts to God, our tongues will always be an asset to us and to the Lord.
Robert Halsey Pine was born at Newark, Ohio in 1943. He is a graduate of Northeastern University and completed the program of Theological Education by Extension: Education for Ministry, School of Theology, the University of the South.