A Weapon of Mass Destruction

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Sunday, May 12, 2019 0 comments

by Logan Ames

If you’ve ever watched a very large structure get demolished to make room for future plans, you know that it is a very strategic event. My favorite sports teams when I was a child played at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Pittsburgh is a pretty small city, so everything is relatively close together. In 2001, when it was time to demolish Three Rivers Stadium to make way for parking for the new stadiums, they placed 4,800 pounds of dynamite in 2,500 different spots within the structure where they might have maximum impact. They couldn’t just drop a bunch of bombs from the sky and hope they land in advantageous areas that would do the trick. Going about things that way would put many other buildings and infrastructure, as well as many other human beings, in the vicinity of the stadium in danger. For the job to be done efficiently and safely, they needed the stadium to implode inward and had to place the dynamite in strategic locations that would make certain of it.

When you possess something that has the ability to do great damage to others if handled improperly, you must go to the greatest lengths necessary to guard against it. You must do whatever it takes to maintain control and safety for yourself and those around you. Carelessness leads to great destruction. On the other hand, the same item that can be used as a weapon of mass destruction can also be used for good purposes. The dynamite I referenced above carries catastrophic consequences if misused, but it was able to bring down a stadium that comprised over 60,000 seats in a matter of seconds when put to good, controlled use.

In James 3:3-6, the writer tells us about a weapon of mass destruction that we all possess - the tongue. James explains that the tongue is just like a bit that goes into the mouth of a horse or a rudder that steers an enormous ship in that it is small but has a mighty influence. A rider uses the bit and the reins to control an entire horse. The captain of a ship uses the ship’s wheel to control the rudder, which then controls the entire ship. In the same way, the tongue is such a small part of the body, yet it has the tendency to control the whole person. James says that it “makes great boasts” (v. 5). He then compares the tongue to a forest fire. Forest fires usually begin with just a small spark, and it doesn’t take long until it is raging out of control.

Think about all the harm that can be done with words. There are very few sins that don’t involve words to some degree. In fact, the wise teacher and king, Solomon, tells us that even the overuse of words is a problem: “Too much talk leads to sin. Be sensible and keep your mouth shut” (Proverbs 10:19 [NLT]). When we were children, we were taught that “sticks and stones may break your bones, but words will never hurt you." We now know, of course, that it’s a completely untrue statement. Sometimes, our words hurts others. Other times, our words hurt ourselves. With our tongue, we swear, lie, flatter, embellish, exaggerate, gossip, and make promises that we cannot keep, just to name a few sins caused by the tongue. As I wrote about in last week’s post, even when we seem to be doing everything else right in our lives, the sins of the tongue can still bring us down. That is why James says that the one who can keep from sinning with words is “perfect, able to keep their whole body in check (James 3:2). It’s the part of our lives we most need to tame even when everything else has been conquered.

In contrast, the tongue can also be used for much good when properly controlled. Think about the previous examples James used. Horses can destroy things when out of control, but they can be used in battle, transportation, and even competition when used for good. Large ships can also be used in battle, transportation, and trade, but they can cause destruction and massive loss of life if not properly steered. Even fire, which generally destroys everything in its path, is also used to provide heat, light, and the preparing of meals. We’ve already pointed out many of the ways that the tongue can be used to harm others, but the person who has it under control knows how to use it for good and for God’s glory. With our words, we can cite Scripture, praise God, teach others, encourage those who are struggling and build them up (Ephesians 4:29), communicate love, show grace, and provide hope and life in the midst of a person’s feelings of darkness and death.

So, the big question is, how do we control the tongue? James 3 is primarily about taming the tongue and how darn-near impossible it truly is. Some people think the best answer is to talk less or not even talk at all. But think about it this way, do you solve the problem of an out-of-control ship by keeping it tied to the dock? Do you keep the crazy horse in the stable? Do you keep the matches in the box so a fire is never started? Choosing those options may prevent some problems, but it also prevents you from experiencing the good that can come from those things. To refuse to speak at all is to refuse to ever encourage someone or communicate with them in a helpful and productive way. That’s not the answer.

Like many other aspects of the Christian walk, the answer is giving up control. While the horse, the ship, and the matches can all be controlled by the same human beings who allowed them to be out of control briefly, the tongue cannot. The tongue is a part of the body that must be submitted to Christ like all other aspects of the believer’s life. Being a follower of Jesus means we experience a rebirth, a changing of the heart. And what we say out loud is always connected to what we feel/think within ourselves. Jesus said, “For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of” (Matthew 12:34). Jesus also said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). One aspect of this might be that we desire to defend ourselves, to spread gossip, or to hurt someone with words the way we have been hurt, but that we refuse to engage in it because we are “denying ourselves” and trusting the Lord to work all of that out.

If you truly want to begin to tame your tongue, James basically tells us it’s impossible if we are depending on our own power. But since we know it’s a matter of the heart, we ought to pray like David did in Psalm 51:10 every morning: “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me." If our tongues speak whatever is in our hearts, and we ask God to purify our hearts by his Spirit, then we have a chance to use our words for much more edification and encouragement than destruction as long as we’re here on this earth. The bottom line is that we cannot tame the tongue on our own any better than we could tame sin at all. That’s why Jesus went to the cross for us and then rose from the grave, giving us power over the things that held power over us before. May you walk in the power that Christ has given you over the tongue this week as you trust in him!

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