“And the tongue is a flame of fire. It is full of wickedness that can ruin your whole life. It can turn the entire course of your life into a blazing flame of destruction, for it is set on fire by hell itself…. Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it breaks out into curses against those who have been made in the image of God…. Does a spring of water bubble out with both fresh water and bitter water?”
–James 3:6, 9, 11 (NLT)
There are two kinds of fire your speech can be:
1) The tongue under God’s control speaks forth His praise and shares His word boldly, as at Pentecost, when they had tongues of the Holy Spirit’s fire to proclaim the good news of God’s wonderful salvation. The fire of the Spirit-guided tongue is a fire that refines and convicts and warms the heart. It blazes, but does not consume or destroy, like the fire of the bush God spoke through to Moses. It provides light and guidance, like a pillar of fire leading those who hear your speech to the ways of God.
2) The second kind of fire that your speech can represent is the destructive fire of hell itself. This fire destroys the listener. This fire is filled with lies, hate, and destruction. Just a spark of it ignites a massive blaze that quickly runs out of control, leaving the one who spoke unable to undo the damage that has been done. It turns a life and a home and a church into dead scorched earth in no time.
Which of those two types of fire is in the way you talk to others?
How would others who know you answer that question about you?
There are also two kinds of water your speech can be:
1) The first is fresh water. It is living water. It is the water of the Word of God. It is a refreshing, life-giving stream that flows out of the mouth after springing up from a heart changed by God’s grace. It is a river of love, of compassion, of comfort. Its guidance tastes sweet to those who drink it. This water’s quickness to forgive graciously douses out the fires of hellish tongues. It brings strength to the weary. All those who thirst for fellowship with God will be drawn to the streams from the tongue that produces fresh water.
2) The second kind of tongue water is bitter. It is dirty and filled with decay. Rather than cleansing and bringing life to those who drink it in or bathe themselves in it, this person’s speech leaves others’ spirits filthy, infected, and sick. Rather than heal emotional wounds, it causes them to fester. It tastes terrible as it spews forth from the unguarded mouth. Those who drink only the water from a bitter tongue eventually get dehydrated and die.
Which type of water is in your speech?
How would others answer that question about you?
Perhaps you’ve seen examples of both kinds of fire and both kinds of water in your speech. But the above passage from James warns us that such a contradiction ought never be so in our lives. It simply doesn’t make sense for the same tongue to be sometimes fired up by the Spirit to proclaim His Word and other times be blazing with the fire of hell. It makes no sense for the same tongue to be a blessing to listeners some of the time and a curse upon them other times.
May we take this warning from the word of God seriously. May we set our hearts on letting God tame the organ no man can tame: the tongue. Then, by His grace, we will speak words that do not grieve Him so. “Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my Strength and my Redeemer.”