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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: F.E. Marsh :: Readings 451-500 (The Word - Wedges)

F.E. Marsh :: 497. What the Tongue Can Do

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JAMES 3:1-13

THE heathen philosopher, Xanthus, expecting some friends to dine with him, ordered his servant Esop to provide the best things the market could supply. Tongues only were provided, served up with different sauces. Course after course was supplied, each consisting of tongue. “Did I not order you to buy the best the market afforded?” cried Xanthus. “And did I not obey you,” replied Esop. “Is there anything better than the organ of truth, and the instrument of praise and worship?” On the next day Xanthus ordered him to provide the worst thing in the market. And lo, there was another dinner of tongue! “For,” said Esop, “surely the tongue is the worst thing in the world, the instrument of strife, and the organ of lies, and blasphemy.”

The Holy Spirit plainly indicates who is the perfect man; it is the man who has the mastery of his own tongue (James 3:2). We have known some who have boasted of sinless perfection, who, if they were judged by this standard, would be perfect in sin, instead of being sinlessly perfect.

  1. A Suggestive Simile. An evil tongue is compared to a fire, which is a world of iniquity (James 3:6). A spark of fire is capable of immense mischief. The city of Portland, in America, was reduced to ashes from a fire, kindled by a fire-cracker, on the 4th of July. Chicago was also burnt to the ground, through a kerosene lamp, kicked over by a cow; and the great fire of London in 1666, commemorated by the monument, broke out in one house in Pudding Lane. Many a prairie fire has owed its origin to a single spark from a passing engine.
    Think of the many piles of iniquity that have been lighted by the fire of the tongue! It was the devil’s insinuating tongue that caused our first parents to sin (Genesis 3:4); it was the lying tongues of Joseph’s brethren, which gave Jacob so much grief (Genesis 37:32); it was the deceitful tongue of Jacob that robbed Esau of his blessing (Genesis 27:18-20); it was the obstinate tongue of Pharaoh that caused the plagues to be sent (Exodus 10:28); it was the jealous tongue of Miriam that caused her to be smitten with leprosy (Numbers 12:1, 10); it was the proud tongue of Korah and his followers that brought such swift judgment upon them (Numbers 16:3, 32); it was the fault-finding tongues of Job’s friends that ministered such trouble to him (Job 4); it was the covetous tongue of Judas, which caused Christ to be betrayed to His death (Matthew 26:15); it was the boasting tongue of Peter which made him deny his Lord (Matthew 26:70); it was the unholy tongue of Ananias that made him lie to the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:3); it was the sectarian tongue of the Corinthians that caused the divisions among them (1 Corinthians 1:12); and it was the prating tongue of Diotrephes, which caused so much trouble in the Church (3 John 9-10).
    The following maxims relating to the tongue are to the point:—
    • “ ‘The boneless tongue, so small and weak,
    • Can crush and kill,’ declared the Greek.”
    • “ ‘The tongue destroys a greater horde,’
    • The Turk asserts, ‘than does the sword.’”
    • “The Persian proverb wisely saith,
    • ‘A lengthy tongue, an early death.’”
    • “‘The tongue can speak a word whose speed,’
    • Say the Chinese, ‘outstrips the steed.’”
    • “While Arab sages this impart,
    • ‘The tongue’s great storehouse is the heart.’”
    • “From Hebrew wit the maxim sprung,
    • ‘Though feet should slip, ne’er let the tongue.’”
    • “The sacred writer crowns the whole,
    • ‘Who keeps the tongue doth keep his soul.’”
  2. A Sanctified Servant. While the tongue may be an evil, it also can be a great good. If the tongue is sanctified by grace, held in by the Lord, and influenced by the Spirit, then there shall come forth from it the sweetness of kind and helpful words, and the “good conversation” which is commendable to the Lord (James 3:10-13), for a sanctified tongue is—
    A tree of life to feed (Proverbs 15:4).
    A well-spring to refresh (Proverbs 18:4).
    An object of admiration (Proverbs 25:11).
    A goad to stimulate (Ecclesiastes 12:11).
    A salt to preserve (Colossians 4:6).
    A treasure to enrich (Luke 6:45).
    A jewel to beautify (Proverbs 20:15).
    As honey to please (Proverbs 16:24).
    As silver for choiceness (Proverbs 10:20).
    As food to strengthen (Proverbs 10:21).
    As fruit to satisfy (Proverbs 12:14).
    As health to gladden (Proverbs 12:18).
    We only need add one letter to words, namely, the letter s, and we make words into swords. What a difference between the two! There is a great difference in how a good thing is said. Let us mark these two things—what we say, and how we say it.
496. Wisdom ← Prior Section
498. Wonderful Gems for Setting Next Section →
CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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