Sunday, 28 July 2019
James continues in this verse with the notion of something small which can affect something much larger. First, he revisits the issue of the tongue by saying, “Even so the tongue is a little member.” The average tongue of a human is a couple of ounces. It is almost always hidden out of sight, and apart from sticking it out to demean someone else, or for a less-than-classy addition to a selfie, it seems more geared toward regulating things going on inside of the body.
And yet, it is the tongue which “boasts of great things.” We may not often think about the tongue as one of the main parts of the speech-making process, but it is. In fact, without a tongue, speech would be reduced to grunts and moans. But when the tongue operates properly, it is the very means of getting the words in our heads to be understood by those around us.
Here, James shows that this teeny part of the body is that which makes great boasts. From there, he hints at how damaging this is by equating it to something that can be hugely destructive by saying, “See how great a forest a little fire kindles!”
This is a universally understood precept. Wherever fire is known, its destructive effects are also understood. A single spark can light a fire for cooking, or it can increase in size to bring down an entire forest. It is how the fire is contained that its usefulness or out-of-control nature is seen. Likewise, the tongue can be contained, or it can be left unrestrained. The effects of each is also understood. James will continue with this analogy in the coming verse.
Life application: The tongue which, although small in comparison to the rest of the body, can be a force of destruction for so much more than its size would intimate –
The tongue is from where our boasting proceeds.
The tongue is from where our cursing proceeds.
The tongue is from where our blessings proceed.
The tongue is from where our instruction for others proceeds.
The tongue is from where the proclamation for our salvation proceeds. As Paul says –
“…that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” Romans 10:9
Our tongue is a force for both good and evil depending on how it is used. When it is used improperly, it – just like a small spark in the forest – can cause immense destruction.
Think on the misspoken words in political history which have cost millions of lives. Likewise, think of the words which issue from the mouths of false prophets which have led to the eternal condemnation of souls around the world and throughout history. If humanity were a forest and a false teacher were a spark, the recipients of his fiery message would be compared to dry tinder which is so easily consumed.
This is why it is so very important to replenish oneself from the well of Living Water which gives life and protection from this inferno. Read your Bible, study your Bible, and know your Bible better than you know yourself. In doing this, the Water of Life will guard your limbs, your trunk, and your roots from the wiles of the evil one.
Lord God, may we each be like the man the Bible speaks of who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, who does not stand in the way of sinners, and who does not sit in the seat of mockers. Instead, may our delight be in Your law, and may we meditate on it day and night. In this, we will be like trees planted by streams of water. Our fruit will yield in its season, and our leaves shall not wither. Amen.