The Tongue...

The tongue is a fire...

By Dick Ward

It is James who gives us the text for our topic in this study of the tongue. James says: "And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell." (James 3:6 KJV).


It has often been illustrated that just the smallest spark can develop into a massive fire that destroys a great forest. "Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles!" (NKJ James 3:5). We see the great lost of virgin timber because of a small campfire left unattended. So the tongue is a small member of the human body but can quickly create major size problems.

If the "soft answer" turns away wrath what should we expect to result from a "sock it to 'um" answer? We might describe such people as firing out as others with scorching language that is hard to bear. Many brethren bear the scar tissue of such inflammatory speech. We must not forget that some people are unapproachable because they are quick to make a mountain out of a mole hill. Constructive criticism, not well-framed, is taken as an all-out-attack on their character and virtue; thus, a little fire sets the whole man aflame.

Too often preachers and preacher's wives are guilty of betraying confidences of brethren who confide in them while seeking help and advice. Instead of keeping private matters "private" some preachers and elders spread the word - fast and far. This shows a lack of consideration for the personal and private matters of others. While preachers are not under a Catholic "sacramental seal" which forbids telling other people's private problems surely we all should understand that betraying a confidence often leads to great damage and personal hurt. While we might think it is a small matter - it is not small to the offended and betrayed party.


Solomon wrote:
"An ungodly man diggeth up evil: and in his lips there is as a burning fire." (Prov. 16:27 KJV). Often in a local church there is a brother or sister who is always digging up evil and spreading it around the congregation till it becomes a flame out of control and destructive in its result. Instead of trying to remove evil in a scriptural way, the ungodly use it as choice conversation - God calls it gossip!

Thoughtless words can burn like fire and often leave lasting scars. The tongue has the ability to destroy reputations, divide the closest of friends and create factions in the church. As physical fire destroys wood so the tongue, uncontrolled, destroys the unity and peace of the body of Christ.


Many times we find ourselves in the position of letting the fire go out. When we hear gossip and unprofitable speech we just refuse to repeat it - if all would do this the fire would go out. Better still, if we all refuse to lend our ears to such words the fire cannot spread.
"Where no wood is, there the fire goeth out: so where there is no talebearer, the strife ceaseth. As coals are to burning coals, and wood to fire; so is a contentious man to kindle strife." (Prov. 26:20,21).

Guarding our tongues is the first line of defense in keeping the sinful fires from spreading. Being selective as to what we allow our ears to hear is another excellent way of combating fires from getting out of control.

[Editor’s Note: Thanks to Dick Ward for the article! He may be reached at: Dick Ward, 18 El Dorado East, Tuscaloosa, Alabama 35405, (205) 556-2407.]

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