The Tongue on Fire

“The very way we express ourselves, even among Christians, may undercut the message we want to transmit.” – Frank Burch Brown


Fascinating claims have come out of the world of botany, indicating that one can actually speak growth into the plants he or she is cultivating. And while Mythbusters only marks the findings as plausible, there is sufficient argument from case studies that positive or negative words spoken over plants can, in fact, encourage or hinder growth.

Now, if you think that is crazy, and that words couldn’t possibly affect the outcomes of plants, listen to the claim that is made in James 3:3-6.

Now if we put the bits into the horses’ mouths so that they will obey us, we direct their entire body as well. Look at the ships also, though they are so great and are driven by strong winds, are still directed by a very small rudder wherever the inclination of the pilot desires. So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things.

See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell.”

The claim made here, is that something as small as the tongue is able to guide and steer the whole human. James, of course, isn’t talking about the physical tongue, but rather the words that proceed from the mouth. In other words, James argues that words spoken over human beings can in fact influence the very lives of the speaker and the ones over which the words are spoken.

Further, Paul tells Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:16 that empty chatter “will lead to further ungodliness. Proverbs 18:21 says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue,
And those who love it will eat its fruit.” These are just three of the many directions in Scripture to be careful and clear in the communication of words.

For this reason, content and clarity in the words that we speak become increasingly important. The words that we speak in our homes, in our churches, in our communities have the power to affect change not only in our own lives, but also in the lives of our hearers. As a result, let us look to the Scripture, the very Word of God as we attempt to clearly communicate the truths of life in Christ.