Do you remember when taming the tongue was more a matter of watching what actually came out of your mouth and less about what you wrote? As many of you know, I feel passionately about certain political ideals. Politics fascinates me! That’s why I quit posting political thoughts. Was it wrong? Was it evil? Maybe, maybe not, but I do know one thing. It wasn’t beneficial. Paul talks about the believers freedom in 1 Corinthians 10:23 when he says…“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive. 24 No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.”
There are things that fascinate us that don’t further the Kingdom of God and have more to do with allowing us to vent our frustration and our fears in a way that we probably wouldn’t do face to face. There is an empowering feeling to having people “like” our shares. But more important than that we should hope that people would “like” our faith.
The Bible tells us we need to recognize a couple of principles concerning the tongue before we speak online.
1. The tongue is a world of unrighteousness.
If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. (James 3:3–6)
Just like a bit’s ability to control a horse, a small rudder’s ability to control a ship, and a spark’s ability to cause a forest fire, the tongue has the ability to cause great destruction, if it is not controlled. More than ever, we need to recognize that words can have a global impact causing global forest fires in our digitally connected society.
2. Man cannot tame the tongue.
For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. (James 3:7–8)
Humans have been able to control and tame animals ten times their size, yet they cannot control an organ smaller than a goldfish. The tongue is untamable unless God intervenes and renews our speech by his Spirit, working in us to put off the old man and put on the new self (Ephesians 4:22–24).
3. Our tongues are often instruments of hypocrisy.
With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. (James 3:9–10)
How can we as believers praise and glorify our God while at the same time cursing and slandering those who reflect and display the image of our God? James tells us that we should not be inconsistent with our speech if we want to truly honor God. Words against a fellow image-bearer are words against God.