Without wading into the waters of political correctness or questioning motives, Donald Sterling can blame his temper as much as his girlfriend’s surreptitious audio recording. He joins an infinitely long line of those whose unrestrained anger has cost them much more than they anticipated. While most people will not pay the earthly price Sterling appears destined to pay, so many have permanently damaged relationships and paid with their souls for failing to conquer temper and tongue.
James clearly sets forth God’s view on the matter. “The tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity” (3:6). “It defiles the whole body” (3:6). “It is set on fire by hell” (3:6). “It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison” (3:8). It can reveal hypocrisy at a disgusting level (3:9-12). James’ words are so convicting, yet, having privy to them, we still stumble with our speech.
I have seen the untamed tongue, so often fueled by anger and even rage, tear churches apart. But, what has it done in the lives of individual members of those congregations? Certainly, we think of it as characteristic of those outside the body of Christ, but so often it ignites deadly fires in Christians’ lives.
If I am honest with myself, I should be more concerned with the spiritual impact my tongue has on my soul than other deeds of the flesh. There are so many ways for me to stumble over my tongue—gossip, lying, outbursts of anger, wrath, deception, filthy or suggestive speech, greed, and just about every outlet of sin seems to intersect with the misuse of the tongue!
James speaks to our hearts when he says, “My brethren, these things ought not so to be” (3:10). Can I comprehend the impact that has on my soul, not just yours? Rather than counting up ways you offend me with your tongue, may I have the humility and honesty to examine my use of my tongue and see how it might be hurting you and, even more importantly, hurting Almighty God! Lord, help us see the power of the tongue.