Fires destroy. They start small enough, but quickly get out of control and really mess up lives.
There’s is an interesting and trending word in the modern day media and political arenas that explains what it means to “twist someone’s words” to fit an agenda. It’s called Sophism.
Sophism, and defined more broadly “Sophists”, are individuals who use logic to twist the meanings of words in order to present themselves in a better light, or otherwise “twist logic” to suit their needs.
This is the modern day understanding of the word, but it used to carry the meaning of anyone who practiced logical understanding. Today,
it has morphed into the meaning of “someone who twists logic to their own end and means.”
James wrote that our words can do the same sort of thing. Our tongues have the power to destroy lives, and maybe our own. If you’re spewing the fires out of your mouth, It’s a certainty you’ll get burned in the process.
“….. the tongue is set on fire by hell” James 3:6b.
That’s what James says! Are we really to believe that our words have so much power, the power of hell’s fire? YES.
If you say bad things about someone behind their back, people will begin to worry about what you say about them to others when they aren’t around! You will get burned just like you do the burning because you cut yourself off from relationships.
Why would you want to be vulnerable with someone if you hear them talking bad about other people all the time? They might expose your faults to someone else. When we burn someone, we get burned.
We cut ourselves off from relationships. We singe our friendships and burn a hole between you and me.
That’s why I think hell is a good way for James to talk about the tongue’s terrible destruction. There are lots of ways to think about hell, but to many believers, hell is considered to be the ultimate separation from God and from all the goodness of creation.
Hell becomes a place of endless desire without any chance of satisfaction. It’s like being eternally hungry or thirsty, and as much as you eat or drink, you are still hungry and thirsty. Separation from peace, goodness, honesty – is hellish.
That’s why it makes sense for James to talk about the dangers of what we say, of how we use our words, of how we speak to each other — “the tongue is set on fire by hell,” he says.
The tongue has the power of hell, the power to divide, to separate, to break apart fellowship. But the funny thing about it, is that we use words to communicate, to commune, to create a link with someone, a point of connection, a relationship.
So when we talk behind someone’s back, we are trying to build a relationship with those unkind words with another person. Two people are united through their bad words spoken about somebody else! By talking behind someone’s back, they create a relationship.
Somehow, it’s our desire for relationship, for camaraderie, for fellowship, that leads us to talk behind someone’s back. As we “burn that other person” with our words, we are bound together. It’s twisted logic, and spawns a twisted relationship of two bad-mouthing people. NOT GOOD!
It’s true, the way we talk about one another, the way we talk to each other, is how we talk to God. How we treat each other with our words is also how we treat God.
In the words of James, human and divine communication are connected. The two come at the same time. All the words you use, even the nasty ones, echo into the presence of God.
James says it this way in verse 9: “With [the tongue] we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse those who are made in the likeness of God.”
One way to think about it is that God overhears our conversations and takes them personally, because God’s presence flows through every human being! We are all made in God’s likeness.
God doesn’t separate the words we use for worship from the words we use with each other. God hears them all as a single word.
The hope of God’s grace is that our lives may become,
- God’s word,
- God’s grace-filled speech,
- God’s life-giving communication,
so that God’s life may flow through our lives and that God’s words may flow through our words.
We communicate or “abide” with God when we use our words to draw us together.
If hell can be a place on earth, then so can heaven.
God’s eternal life can flow into our lives and heal our separations through our words.
Jesus, God’s word made flesh, becomes our flesh and speaks through our words. Our communication leads us into communion with God, which is heaven, where we become
a single word of grace, a word of love.
God’s eternal words in our mouths become a blessing, not a curse.
In His Shadow,
~ Mary Lindow ©
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Mary Lindow has a passion for encouraging others – all generations, careers or vocations to live expressing excellence through personal integrity, healthy accountability, and wise management of talents and skills. She’s a sought after keynote, inspirational, humorous speaker and teacher across the USA and internationally in Ministers & Spiritual leaders Conferences, and training seminars for various organizations.