Set on Fire by Hell


“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” my small voice sang.

I have wanted to believe that words are just words and they don’t have real power to hurt. But even as a child singing those words they often sounded hollow.

Words can and do hurt. They drip with the acid of sarcasm that eats away at self-worth. They are sharp arrows that find their mark in insecurities and fears. They slash and burn the garden of the mind as they eat away at the way we think of ourselves and others.

Our tongues. Sometimes I wonder if mine can actually short circuit my brain for a while, because I know I would never say that. Then a few seconds later THAT comes flying out of my mouth. It isn’t only what I say, but it is how I say it. You know what I mean. I can turn the words “I love you” into a symphony of antagonism and hatred with just my tone.

Oh but we Christians often pass over sins of the tongue. They don’t matter. You know sticks and stones. It is just a little white lie, a small piece of gossip, a poor choice of words. Oh, but words do matter.

God created the world with the Word, Jesus. If Jesus is THE WORD shouldn’t we take our words more seriously? Don’t they matter and count for something? Aren’t words the very things we use to make sense of our world? Our lives are lived out by words. We think in words, write in words, speak in words. So our tongues, agents of the words we use to figure out our lives, are important.

James 3:6 says,

The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.”

That is a powerful indictment of our tongues. Especially since James warns us to be merciful in James 2:12-13. I would like to say that I have this tongue taming licked. OK terrible pun, but I like to think I have my tongue figured out. I have a great filter. Then the next moment I lose it. My tongue gets the better of me.

Our tongues do things we aught not do. They praise God and curse men, who are God’s image bearers (paraphrase James 3:9) Are you there with me? Do you one minute tell someone how great God is and the next say something ugly to your kids?

James doesn’t give us much hope for our tongues. He says that men are not able to tame the tongue and it is a “restless evil full of deadly poison.” (James 3:7-8)

However He does give us a clue about our tongues. He asks the question “Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring?” (James 3:11)

The spring is our hearts and water our words. Can both pure words and tainted words flow from the same heart? Not if that heart is fully given over to Christ, but we must choose to live out our faith. We must decide to throw out the lie that “words will never hurt me.”

Oh God I pray that our words and our deeds would line up to show the world Your love. That we would use our tongues to give Your meaning to lives and not tear down or rip apart others.

Do you have problems taming your tongue? What has worked to help you tame your tongue? Jump in and share!

Like what you see? Consider signing up to get each post in your e-mail or for an RSS feed in your favorite reader. Join me on facebook, twitter, youtube, or on networked blogs. I can’t wait to connect with you!