The Tongue: A Deadly Weapon
In the history of mankind, there is one weapon above all others that has done more damage, has split apart more homes, cost more people their lives and livelihoods, has destroyed relationships and friendships, and has racked up a horrific toll in terms of human cost. This weapon is not made of steel or iron, yet is sharper than the keenest blade. It is not manufactured by the hands of men, yet is is common everywhere. This deadly weapon is possessed by young and old alike. It does not fire projectiles, yet what it fires does FAR more damage than any arrow or bullet ever could. And is used with such disregard by their owners' that were a license needed to carry it, most would not be allowed to have it.
What is this fearsome weapon that plagues mankind?
The human tongue.
James wrote about this devastating weapon back in his day, and the effects it can have upon those unlucky enough to be on the receiving end of it:
"When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water." (James 3:3-12, NIV)
When we speak, we have the power to praise, curse, heal or harm. yet many times, we do not take full measure of this ability, and often we will end up saying things that sooner should not have been said. In fact, there are times we will hurt someone with our words, and not try to even repair the damage we have caused, all because we are too busy uttering words rather than measuring what we say to one another. And all too often, hearts are injured and people are torn to shreds by careless words, spoken out of anger or spite, or even in jest though we may not realize it at the time. And though it takes only a few moments to say them, the harm that can be done in that span of time can take A LOT LONGER to heal!
Jesus himself had to warn us about our words:
"You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. ” " (Matthew 12:34-35, NIV)
Jesus then makes it clear that our words proceed from our hearts:
"But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man ‘unclean.’ For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what make a man ‘unclean’; but eating with unwashed hands does not make him ‘unclean.’” (Matthew 15:18-20 NIV)
What we think and feel is what we are going to end up saying. And if we are saying something behind someone's back, or something that is harmful to another, then what does that say about our hearts and minds? Is this something that Jesus would do to someone if he were to talk to them?
When Jesus spoke to someone, he never did so to intentionally hurt them or cause them harm. Yes, some of the things he said may have caused pain, but he did so out of a heart of LOVE, not of spite or hatred. He often had harsh replies for the Pharisees, but these replied were not to get revenge upon them or to strike back at them; Jesus often had to rebuke them for their errors and their callous hearts:
"“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.""(Matthew 23:13, NIV)
It was not Jesus who would use cruel words in a callous way, but the Pharisees who had hardened hearts and cared for no one outside their own "bubbles." In a like manner, we can often react much the same way, becoming callous and inconsiderate of others when we speak, or even in our thoughts about them. And it doesn't stop at our direct conversations with them; talking ABOUT someone can damage them just as surely as if we fired the verbal salvo directly at them. Gossip is insidious, and does great deal of damage to a person, many times without the person who has been gossiped about even realizing it!!!
"And withal they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house; and not only idle, but tattlers also and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not." (1 Timothy 5:13, KJV)
Even moreso, when we give our word and then don't try to keep it we cause damage to a person AND ourselves. We will often speak hastily and give our word, only to realize that we are unable to keep the promise or pledge. Nowhere is this more apparent than when we promise to follow the Lord without counting what it will cost to do so:
"Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’ “Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? "" (Luke 14:28-31, NIV)
We need to realize the AWESOME power that words have, and the effect and the ramifications they can have on people. In fact, the Lord puts so much emphasis on what we say, that he tells us in scripture:
"But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned." (Matthew 12:36-37, KJV)
We need to make sure that in our communications with one another, that we are holding to what scripture has instructed us. No greater damage can be done to a person than when we fail to heed what God has told us, only to reap the bitter harvest that results from disobedience. We see every day the power that words have upon one another, and the sheer harm and grief a few poorly-chosen words can do.
A heart hurt by harmful words needs care indeed; we would do best never to cause that harm to begin with.