Insights #7 November 15, 2014
"Taming the Tongue"
For the week of November 15, 2014
Proverbs 25:11 tells us that, "A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver." This week our lesson focuses our attention on the tongue which James describes as being "so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature…." He says further, "the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity." Clearly James is speaking here of a particular function of the tongue, that of speech/words. There is an old adage, "sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never harm me." How false this statement is. Quite likely most of us have either wounded someone by our words, careless speech or have been wounded by another's words. The power of the tongue—our speech/our words—James likens to two things: one a bit, the other a rudder. "Indeed we put bits in horses mouths that they may obey us, and we turn their whole body. Look also at ships: although they are so large and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires. Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles!" James 3:3-5. Words are important. Controlling the tongue is one of man's most difficult if not the most difficult assignment. In fact, verse 2 of chapter 3 seems to say that if we do not stumble in word, if our words are always pure and kind and patient, we will have attained the goal of "a perfect man," Christlikeness.
But how does one attain to this high standard of righteousness? Three texts bring the goal into sharp focus.
1) "He who would love life and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking guile" 1 Peter 3:10.
2) "Let your speech always be with grace seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one" Col 4:6.
3) "Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification that it may impart grace to the hearers" Eph. 4:29.
We all need to commit these verses to memory, however, how do they become a reality in our lives? Ellen White in COL p. 335 says, "The power of speech is a talent that should be diligently cultivated. Of all the gifts we have received from God, none is capable of being a greater blessing than this. With the voice we convince and persuade, with it we offer praise to God, and with it we tell others of the Redeemer's love. How important then, that it be so trained as to be most effective for good". Here are some powerful excerpts from A. T. Jones in Lessons on Faith pp. 104-106.
"In the Christian life everything depends upon the word of God. It is true that God is able, and desires to keep us from sinning; but this must be done through His word…This is the way that God has appointed and there is no other way to have this thing accomplished…It was by His word that He created all things in the beginning; It is by His Word that He creates men anew; it is by His word that He will re-create this world and all things pertaining to it…It is not only that the worlds were created by the word of God; but they are also sustained by the same word…So also it is not only that the Christian is created by the word of God, but by that same word he is sustained, nourished and caused to grow. God holds up "all things" by His powerful word. And the Christian is among this, "all things" no less than any or all the worlds…This is to be believed and depended upon by everyone who professes the name of Christ. You and I can no more hold ourselves up and in the right way than can the sun or the earth."
Hebrews 4:12 says, "For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow…." Commenting on this text Jones continues in his book Lessons on Faith pages 108-109 as follows: "The word of God being living and full of power when it is allowed to work in the life, there will be powerful work wrought in that individual…When the word is spoken by the Lord, there is at that moment in that word the living power to accomplish what the word expresses…It was Jesus Christ who spoke the word at creation; it is He who speaks the word in the Bible. At creation the word which He spoke made the worlds; in the Bible the word which He speaks saves and sanctifies the soul. In the beginning the word which He spoke created the heavens and the earth; In the Bible the word which He speaks creates in Christ Jesus, the man who receives that word. In both places, and everywhere in the work of God, it is the word that does it." In Hebrews 4:12 it says that the word of God is living and powerful. This word powerful in this text means effectual, full of power. "The word of God is living and full of power, to do for you, with you and in you all that the word says" Ibid p.106. A Roman centurion came to Jesus because he needed help. His servant was "lying at home paralyzed and dreadfully tormented." Jesus said, "I will come and heal him." But the centurion said, no need "only speak a word and my servant will be healed." Jesus marveled and said, "Assuredly I say to you I have not found such great faith not even in Israel!" Matt 8:10.
A. T. Jones says, "It is faith to accept that word as the word of God, and to depend upon it to accomplish the thing it says." We cannot tame our tongues for "it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison." But God can tame our tongues. Paul puts it like this in Acts 20:32, "And now brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified."
Finally, we consider the example of Christ of whom it is written in Is. 50:4, "The Lord God has given me the tongue of the learned that I should know how to speak a word in season to him who is weary. He awakens Me morning by morning. He awakens My ear to hear as the learned." The quote in the Sabbath School quarterly on Friday from COL pp. 337 and 338 is a wonderful application of this text: "Far more than we do, we need to speak of the precious chapters in our experience. We should speak of the mercy and loving-kindness of God, of the matchless depths of the Saviour's love. Our words should be words of praise and thanksgiving. If the mind and heart are full of the love of God, this will be revealed in the conversation. It will not be a difficult matter to impart that which enters into our spiritual life. Great thoughts, noble aspirations, clear perceptions of truth, unselfish purposes, yearnings of piety and holiness, will bear fruit in words that reveal the character of the heart treasure. When Christ is thus revealed in our speech, it will have power in winning souls to Him." Let us let the word of God dwell in us richly by God's grace. Amen