The unbridled tongue is a harmful and dangerous weapon. In his epistle, the apostle James compares the ungoverned tongue to a fire: “Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! 6 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” (Jas. 3: 5-6). It takes only a small spark to devastate whole forests. “So a spark-like word dropped from a tongue burning with anger or with envy – may fall into a family, a church, a community, a town, a whole country – and set them in a blaze of consuming, burning rage!” (www.gracegems.org/E/Stevens.htm).
The Book of Proverbs tells us that out of seven things which are abominable to God, three are related to the tongue: 1) “A lying tongue”, 2) “A false witness that speaketh lies”, and 3) “he that soweth discord among the brethren” (Prov. 6: 16-19).
In this week’s article, we continue to look at the evils of the unrestrained tongue:
We are quick to murmur when things do not go our way. Murmuring reflects a discontented and rebellious heart. A common Biblical example is that of the Israelites in the wilderness. Constantly dissatisfied with Jehovah’s provisions, they complained endlessly (Ex. 5: 21; 14: 11-12; 15: 23-24; Num. 11: 1-10; Deut. 1: 27-28).
“They complained of Moses; they complained of their food; they complained of the hardships of their journey; they complained of God. They did this when ‘in their tents;’ when they had a comfortable home; when safe; when provided for; when under the direct divine protection and care. So people often complain: perhaps oftener when they have ‘many’ comforts than when they have ‘few’” (Albert Barnes).
Nearing the Promised Land, the people chose to believe the ten spies and their “evil report” rather than God. Like wildfire, discouragement and discontent spread throughout the camp, and the people murmured against Moses and Aaron: “Would God that we had died in the land of Egypt! or would God we had died in this wilderness!”
Num. 14: 2). They even wanted to nominate their own leader to bring them back to Egypt (Num. 14: 4).
Though the Israelites directed their complaints at God’s chosen servants, their murmurings were certainly against God Himself: “… I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel, which they murmur against me” (Num. 14: 27).
In response to their provocations, God intervened and passed judgment according to the desire of their unbelieving hearts – they would perish in the wilderness, as they had wished: “But your little ones, which ye said should be a prey, them will I bring in, and they shall know the land which ye have despised. But as for you, your carcases, they shall fall in this wilderness. And your children shall wander in the wilderness forty years, and bear your whoredoms, until your carcases be wasted in the wilderness. After the number of the days in which ye searched the land, even forty days, each day for a year, shall ye bear your iniquities, even forty years, and ye shall know my breach of promise” (Num. 14: 31-34). As for the ten spies, God slew them – they “died by the plague before the Lord” (Num. 14: 37).
Murmuring is a grave sin that God does not take lightly. By murmuring, we are expressing our dissatisfaction with God’s sovereign will for our lives. When we question or complain, we are actually challenging the Lord’s wisdom, goodness and love. Moreover, this spirit of dissatisfaction reflects an ungrateful heart.
Brethren, let us appreciate God’s providential care for us. Let us “do all things without murmurings and disputings: 15 That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world” (Philp. 2: 14-15). We are good witnesses for the Lord when we manifest a thankful and contented spirit.
o Corrupt speech
One evil fruit of the ungoverned tongue is corrupt speech. Writing to the Ephesian Christians, the apostle Paul warns against unwholesome, foul and infectious speech: “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers” (Eph. 4: 29). The word “corrupt” – is often used to describe decaying or rotten food. In this context, it denotes anything that is obscene, offensive and vicious.
Let us therefore watch our words especially when we are relating with the people of the world. We may sometimes feel the pressure to speak the way they do, laugh at their unwholesome, vile and unkind jokes, and participate in their worldly conversations.
Brethren, let us be mindful of the words we speak. Our speech must reflect our transformed life. Speak out of a loving and kind heart “that we may minister grace unto the hearers”. (… to be continued)