Beware of having a dangerous tongue


Robert Oliver

Being unable to speak can be a frustrating as well as hindering disability. When Zacharias came out of the temple unable to speak because he doubted the angel Gabriel, he had to beckon to those who were outside. When the baby that the angel promised came, in order to convince the women present at his circumcision from naming him after his father, he had to ask for a writing table and write what he wanted to convey to them (Luke 1:22, 63). Being able to talk is indeed a great blessing. Yet, in many cases, being able to talk gets some people into trouble because of dangerous tongues. Most have heard the old saying, “God gave us two ears and only one mouth; therefore we ought to listen twice as much as we talk”. James wrote, “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak slow to wrath” (James 1:19). A little later in the same chapter he wrote, “If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain” (James 1:26). James really expresses how dangerous the tongue can be when he says, “Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell. For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind: But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison” (James 3:5-8). The wonderful blessing of speech that God has given to man can be turned into a dangerous and deadly tool for evil. Consider a few ways in which the tongue can be dangerous.

The tongue that speaks false doctrine is a danger both to the speaker as well as those that would hear him. Paul told Titus, “Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers. For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision: Whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre’s sake” (Titus 1:9-11). Notice that many are subverted by those things that ought not to be taught. Paul also warns the Romans saying, “…mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them” (Rom. 16:17). The reason is seen in the following words; “and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple” (Rom. 16:18). But, that deadly use of the tongue will also result in the damnation of the one using it. Paul spoke of those that would “pervert the gospel of Christ” (Gal. 1:7) and then promised, “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed” (Gal. 1:8-9). Using the tongue to speak false doctrine is not only dangerous, but deadly.

A second misuse of the tongue that is often sloughed off as a minor offence, not worthy of much concern is that of lying. Paul told the Colossians, “Lie not one to another…” (Col. 3:9). Just after his discourse about the evils of the tongue, James wrote, “…and lie not against the truth” (James 3:14). One can often see the seriousness of a sin that is thought to be slight by the company in which inspired writers place it. John wrote, “He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death” (Rev. 21:8). Notice that lying is placed on the same level as such sins as murder and idolatry. But notice also that these sins will result in the lake which burneth with fire. In speaking of heaven, John said that those who make a lie shall not enter (Rev. 21:27). Those not allowed to enter in to the tree of life include those that love and make a lie (Rev. 22:15). It might be wise to be reminded that deception is nothing but a lie wearing fancy clothes.

A few other evils of the tongue that one might consider trivial, but that God considers dangerous to say the least are: talebearing (Lev. 19:16), slandering (Prov. 10:18; Psalm 101:5), tattling (I Tim. 5:13, Prov. 10:8) and backbiting (II Cor. 12:20; Rom. 1:30). Space will not permit a discussion of these and a few more that could possibly be cited, but these are sufficient to open our eyes and warn us of having a dangerous tongue.

Do keep in mind that the opposite of these dangerous uses of the tongue will result in the speaking and teaching of the true gospel of Christ, truth in all speaking, love and concern for all and ultimately being blessed by the God of heaven in the end. Therefore, not only is the wrong use of the tongue dangerous, but the proper use of the tongue is a blessing.

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