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Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! 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. For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind: But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be. Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter? Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either a vine, figs? so can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh.

Power to Destroy: Fire and Poison

“How great a matter a little fire kindleth…”


  • It is said that during one night in London in World War II, the bombs hit and the fires destroyed at least a million books!”
  • In just a few days a wildfire can burn thousands of acres, all from just a little spark.
  • A fire reportedly started in the O’Leary barn in Chicago at 8:30 p.m., October 8, 1871; and because that fire spread, over 100,000 people were left homeless, 17,500 buildings were destroyed, and 300 people died. It cost the city over $400 mil.

“The tongue is a fire…set on fire of hell.”

Our words start fires. Proverbs 26:20 “Where no wood is, there the fire goeth out: So where there is no talebearer, the strife ceaseth.” Proverbs 26:21 “As coals are to burning coals, and wood to fire; So is a contentious man to kindle strife.” When church members and especially leaders can’t control their tongues, the result is destruction. This is exactly what the devil and hell would want.

Whatever happened to dignity? “For every word in Hitler’s book, Mein Kampf, 125 lives were lost in World War II.” Colossians 4:6 states, “Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.”

The tongue is also like a dangerous poisonous animal

It is restless and unruly, and it seeks its prey and then pounces and kills. You can drive through animal reserves and admire the wild animals in their natural habitat. But there are warning signs posted all over: Do not leave your car! Do not open your windows! Do not feed the wildlife! These seemingly peaceful animals are capable of doing great damage or even killing someone. Just as some animals are poisonous, some tongues spread poison.

The deceptive thing about poison is that it works secretly and slowly and then kills. Inject just enough “tongue poison” into a conversation and lives can be wrecked. Would you turn wild animals loose in our church? An unruly tongue will accomplish the same results. James reminds us that animals/fire can be tamed; When you tame an animal, you get a worker instead of a destroyer. When you control fire, you generate power. The tongue can’t be tamed by man, it can be tamed by God.

Your tongue need not be “set on fire of hell” 

Like the Apostles at Pentecost, it can be set on fire from heaven!

Power to Delight: the Fountain and Tree. The fountain gives water that man needs to stay alive

In the Old Testament, the presence of a fountain/well was a great blessing to an area. Man needs water not only for drinking, but also for washing, cooking, farming, and a host of other activities so necessary to life. Water is life-giving, and our words can give life. However, if water is not controlled, it brings death and destruction, you all saw this here in 2010.

Water also cleanses. There was a laver in the Old Testament tabernacle and temple, provided for the cleansing of the priest. God’s Word is the spiritual water that cleanses us. Our words to others can help to cleanse and sanctify them.

The tongue is also delightful because it is like a tree

In Bible lands, trees are vitally important to the economy: they help to hold down the soil; they provide beauty and shade; they bear fruit. “Our words can help to shelter and encourage a weary traveler, and can help to feed a hungry soul.”

But James issues a warning: a fountain cannot give forth two kinds of water, and a tree cannot bear two different kinds of fruit

We expect the fountain to flow with sweet water. We expect the fig tree to bear figs. We expect the olive tree to bear olives. If the tongue is inconsistent, there is something wrong with the heart. When Peter was out of fellowship with Christ, he uttered some cursing; but he went out and wept bitterly and confessed his sins.

Our tongue cannot bless the Father and then go bless out man made in the Father’s image. These things ought not so to be


“Twelve Words That Can Transform Your Life.” -Warren Wiersbe

If you use these words and sincerely mean what you say from your heart, you will find that God will use you to be a blessing and encouragement to others. There are only twelve of them, but they work.

“Please” and “Thank you.” When you use these three words, you are treating others like people and not things. You are showing appreciation.

“I’m sorry.” These two words have a way of breaking down walls and building bridges.

“I love you.” Too many people read “romance” into these words, but they go much deeper than that. As Christians, we should love the brethren and even love our enemies. “I love you” is a statement that can carry tremendous power.

“I’m praying for you.” And be sure that you are. When you talk to God about people, then you can talk to people about God. Our private praying for people helps us in our public meeting with people. Of course, we never say “I’m praying for you” in a boastful way, as though we are more spiritual than others. We say it in an encouraging way, to let others know that we care enough for them to meet them at the throne of grace.

Pastor Chance Strickland

Harpeth Baptist Church
Kingston Springs, TN