Theologian Speaks: Article 6 of IVN’s Exclusive 6 Week Series
Upland, CA– God must be the busiest person ever! Think about it: He is Father to a family of millions and is committed to take care of every one of them; He receives and answers millions of prayers from his kids hourly, twenty-four / seven; and, if that’s not enough, He has a universe to run. This is why I am amazed that He has time to concern himself with such a small and seemingly insignificant thing as a tongue. But He does talk about the tongue, and from what he says about it, it’s not that small insignificant thing it seems to be. Let’s look at a few things he says about it.
“But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison” (James 3: 8). This verse gives us a clue as to why he has taken the time to talk about it. Left unchecked, it can rain down evil and deadly poison on God’s people. Not only that, the tongue holds the power of life and death in the lives of people (Proverbs 18: 21). If no man can neutralize its effects, then it seems that we are all doomed. Has God left us defenseless? As Paul likes to say, “God forbid!” There is a way out if we take a practical, realistic look at these scriptures.
It should be obvious, even to the casual observer that the reference to the tongue in these verses is not to be taken literally. Both James and Solomon are referring to the words that flow from our mouths and not the literal, physical tongue contained therein. I alone control what I say in any situation, and so it is with everyone else. So the intent in the quote from James is to make the point that no man, other than me, can dictate what words come out of my mouth, unless I give up that control to another. There are times when we in fact give that power to others. How many times have you enthusiastically said “Amen!” in church only because the preacher told you to? Generally, we are personally responsible and in control of our words. If we accept that as fact, then we can remove the unruly evil and the deadly poison from what we say to or about others.
Now, let’s take a practical, realistic look at Proverbs 18: 21. Here’s the entire quote: “Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.” The last half of the verse simply tells us that whoever insists on talking with no regard for the potential effects of his words should be prepared to bear the consequences, whether they are positive or negative. The first half of the verse, however, can be viewed at least three different ways. The spoken words, either positive or negative, can be said to self, or to some other person. In either event there’s no guarantee that either death or life will result. If his self-esteem is sky-high, and he feels good about himself, chances are that the words will have no impact either way. What we’re looking at in this verse is a biblical truth, and such truths are always true for everyone, for all of time. There is never a time when a biblical truth ceases to be true. So we must look for meaning that meets the rule of eternal truth for everyone, for all of time. For me, there’s only one view of this verse that passes that test, and that is a spiritual view.
God is much more concerned about man’s spiritual needs than his physical needs. We find evidence of this on that occasion when a man sick of the palsy was brought to Jesus for healing. The first thing Jesus did was to forgive his sins. He eventually healed the man, but only after he had attended to his spiritual needs first (Matthew 9: 1-7). God’s priorities have not changed. That’s why a spiritual view of Proverbs 18: 21 is the preferred view. The words that come from our mouths have a deep impact on our ability to experience the spiritual life referred to in the verse, which leads us to the ultimate spiritual need, salvation. The words we speak about Jesus represent the first step in achieving both. (Romans 10: 9). This is true, not only for you and me today, but for all people world-wide for all of time. Jesus is the latent factor which undergirds Solomon’s words even though the Christ-child had not been born when the verse was written. Without Him, there’s no biblical truth, no spiritual life, and no salvation for anyone. As the song says, “I’m just a nobody, trying to tell everybody, about somebody who can save anybody.”
Since this is the sixth and final article of my contribution to this column, I would be an ungrateful bore if I failed to throw out a bunch of “thank you” to a bunch of people, some of whom I do not personally know. So, thanks to all of you who took the time to read these articles, whether you commented on them or not. Thanks to all who both read and commented on the articles, either on the website or by email or phone calls to the paper. I am truly grateful to you all, especially my immediate family, church family, and friends. And last, but by no means least, I am grateful to publisher Tommy Morrow for extending the opportunity for me to contribute to the Inland Valley News, and also to his staff for making it a reality. This has been an exciting, new, and rewarding experience for me and, I pray, and enlightening one for you. Maybe the Lord will allow me to continue one day. Pray for me and I’ll pray for you.
Love, Peace and Blessings, until we talk again.