This little member has the power of life and death. It can begin wars and end wars. It is cannibalistic and will go about seeking whom it may devour. It is just a little member, but James, the Lord’s brother ascribes to it the following. “No man can tame it . . . It is an unruly evil. . . filled with deadly poison. We bless God and with the same instrument, curse men. It is likened unto the small helm of a great ship. The winds might be heavy and the seas high, but it has the power to guide it through or destroy it on the rocks. We are warned not to be teachers, knowing we shall receive the greater condemnation (James 3).
By now you have guessed we are speaking about the tongue. It says words that it cannot take back. It is silent when it should be speaking. It is the smallest member of the body but wields great power. James speaks of bits, boats, beasts and birds. He declares we put bits in the horse’s mouth and bridle them. We put rudders on boats to guide them. We have tamed the beasts and captured the birds, but the tongue can no man tame.
But go behind the scenes. Let’s defend this little evil thing – we may even exonerate it. After all, is not the tongue the spokesman of the mind? Is it not the front man, the one so easily blamed but has never been at fault? Does it not reflect and surface that which is deep within the heart. We condemn that which we can see and hear and know. The mind is the real sickness of the soul.
Solomon writes, “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he”. Another proverb declares, “Keep thy heart with all diligence for out of it are the issues of life”. Jesus speaks to us on this matter, “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies; these are the things that defile a man” (Matthew 15:19-20). Almost without exception these involve the tongue. Do not blame the hand that murders. John writes, “Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer” (I John 3:15). For why blame the tongue, the little member, for the heat of the argument?
I am more deadly than the screaming shell from a Howitzer. I ruin without killing. I tear down homes. I break hearts and wreck lives. I have no respect for truth or justice. I have no mercy for the defenseless. You will find me in the pews of the pious and in the haunts of the unholy. I am wily, cunning, and malicious. I gather strength with age. I make my way where greed and distrust are unknown. I feed on the good and bad alike. My victims are as numberless as the sands of the seashore and often as innocent. I never forgive and seldom forget. My name is not the tongue – my name is gossip!!
When someone says, “May I speak to you in confidence?” You reply, “Does it involve a person?” If the answer is yes, then your answer is no. “Confidence” is a marvelous word. It oozes with trust. It is a bond between friends. It is essential to daily life and has held together families and individual lives that would otherwise be torn apart.
Before you agree to a sacred silence of a ‘strict confidential’, stop and ask again, “does it involve another person?” If it does, and you agree to such a contract, you are the one who will be trapped with the information. You are sworn to silence. Such information cannot be checked out for accuracy from a neutral source. It is destined to remain within you and it becomes an unnatural bias about the person(s) under question. It clouds the mind with doubts and suspicion. Your heart will be changed toward the person(s) under question, and there is nothing you can do about it.
Faith, trust and confidence are so essential to healthy relationships. When such confidence is used to poison minds, spread rumors, disease the hearts of the unsuspecting, then confidence is subverted and becomes the tools of division and heartache.
“He that would love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile; Let him eschew evil and do good. Let him seek peace and ensue it” (I Peter 3:10-11).
One great writer said, “He who steals my purse steals trash, but he who robs me of my good name, steals that which enriches him not, but makes me very poor indeed”. The wise King Solomon wrote, “A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favor rather than silver and gold” (Ecclesiastes 7:1)
Without a doubt, all of us (including this author), should plead ‘guilty as charged’. May God forgive us all and help us do better.