“Give thy thoughts no tongue.” – William Shakespeare
A weapon of mass destruction is a nuclear, radiological, biological, chemical or other weapon that can kill and bring significant harm to a large number of humans or cause great damage to human-made structures (e.g. buildings), natural structures (e.g. mountains), or the biosphere. And while it is worrisome that such destructive power exists, there is no weapon of mass destruction greater than the tongue. It has destroyed or hurt more people than all the weapons, guns and bombs in the world. A weapon of mass destruction can be loaded on a missile and arrive at a target anywhere in the world in about 30 minutes. With the help of the use of cell phones, Internet, and texts, destructive words can go around the world in less than a second with deadly accuracy.
Marty, I understand that words can hurt people, but the tongue as a weapon of mass destruction is a little over the top, wouldn’t you agree? No, I do not agree. Tongues can be weapons of mass destruction, launching holocausts, riots and wars. A war of words is often a precursor to the actual war. Tongues can also be the death of marriages, families, friendships, churches, careers, hopes, understanding, reputations, even governments.
Not only is the tongue potentially destructive and tough to control, the tongue is also deceptive. I remember in my youth watching the old-time western movies about “cowboys and Indians.” The Indians would sometimes say of the white man, “He speaks with forked tongue.” Today, we have a different idiom that says the same thing: “He talks out of both sides of his mouth.” James 3 tells us that assessment is true: “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.” (James 3: 9-12)
How ironic it is that man is able to harness the power of a raging river, to prevent flooding, and to produce hydroelectric power. Man has learned to harness the power of the atom, for destructive and productive ends. Man has been able to subdue every kind of creature, from a hamster to a killer whale, and yet with all his success in bringing things under his control, man is powerless to control his own tongue.
Once our words leave our mouths they cannot be retrieved no matter how bad you want to. Too often we let the words fly without really considering the damage they can do.
Over the next couple of days in the devotional, we will address how to think before you speak. To pause before you pull the trigger, thinking your tongue was not loaded.
1. Do you agree that the tongue is one of man’s most destructive weapons? Why or why not?
2. When have you witnessed the destructive power of words? What effect did these words have? What damage has your tongue done recently?
3. Read James 3:9-12. Why is it so important we watch what we say? What do our words say about us?
4. What in James 3: 3-12 gives you added strength and motivation to be more careful with your words?
5. How does your tongue affect you and your relationship with God?