Important information for anyone with a tongue . . .


Keith Newell

The book of James is a valuable asset to Christians everywhere. The practical nature and informative lessons the Holy Spirit teaches us through the pen of James make it one of my favorite books of the Bible. It is, essentially, a compact, five-chapter instruction guide dealing with many issues that are so important to good Christian living.

An examination of the first half of chapter three warns us of the dangers of the tongue. In my opinion, this section of scripture should be a required study in our public school systems. In this portion of God's word, James notes how the tongue, being such a small part of our body, can control us and cause much trouble. It is like a bit in a horse’s mouth, the rudder of a ship, and a small spark that can set a forest on fire (James 3:3-5). It is unfortunate that most people do not seem too concerned about this problem.

I say “problem” because I believe it truly is such. Go to a shopping mall some weekend and listen to the vulgar language that comes from the mouths of many teenagers. It is not just the teens, either. Almost anywhere you find a gathering of people, be it at a sporting event or at the grocery store, it will not be long until you hear someone using curse words or using the Lord's name in vain. For Christian parents, it can be quite a challenge to take your children anywhere without explaining to them, “That was not a nice word” or “God does not want us to talk like that.”

Children who talk bad will grow to be adults who talk bad. It is a cycle that society needs to break rather than conform to. Children will repeat what they hear at home. Whether it be on the television, radio, computer screen, or from Mom and Dad. I recently ran into an old friend of mine whom I had not seen in many years. Upon exchanging pleasantries about one another's family, he informed me that his youngest boy (4 or 5 years-old) was quite a handful. He and his wife laughed as they told me how their little preschool boy swears at them when he is unhappy. (They were actually amused!) My friend even admitted it was his fault, as his son was witness to many of “Dad's cussing tirades.” How sad when a parent laughs at a foul-mouthed, disrespectful son. Unless there is a change in attitude, years from now these parents will most likely reap what they are now sowing. Interestingly, under the Mosaic Law, this kind of behavior would be punishable by death (Leviticus 20:9).

The dangers of the tongue are not limited to curse words, alone. Lying, speaking evil of another, gossip, and using the Lord's name in vain are some other problems we can encounter. Sometimes people use the Lord's name in vain and do not realize it is wrong (especially children). How many times have you heard a phrase like, “Oh my God, this is the best pizza ever!” Comments like this only trivialize God. It is a misuse of His name in such a way that is void of value or praise to Him. Children should be taught not to use God's name in such an insignificant manner.

This past holiday season I was at a party where a man repeatedly used the name of our Savior Jesus Christ, in vain. He knew I was a preacher, and, to the laughs of all those around him, he would apologize to me when he did this. He certainly realized what he was doing was wrong. The third time he flippantly used Jesus' name in vain (then snickered about it and tried to apologize to me again) I gave him some sound Biblical advise that he should not be concerned about me but, rather, about God. His face blushed a little, and he said that he just did not want to offend me. I thanked him for being considerate of me (and he did not use the name of our Lord in vain the rest of the night – at least, not around me), but I told him, again, it is God he should be worried about offending.

The misuse of God's name was so important that He included it in His first law, the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:7). Though we are not under the old law any more, we still see application for this law in the New Testament. The gentleman from the party will have to answer to God some day for making light of Jesus' name. Notice what Jesus says in Matthew 12:36, 37, “But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

Friends, may we always choose our words wisely so we are not condemned by them at judgment. Also, as parents and/or caring adults, may we provide a good example to children concerning the importance of how and what we speak. Let us all study the book of James and take to heart his warnings concerning the dangers of the tongue. –501 Orient Avenue, DuBois, PA 15801.

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