How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire! And the tongue is a fire. The tongue is placed among our members as a world of iniquity; it stains the whole body, sets on fire the cycle of nature, and is itself set on fire by hell. For every species of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by the human species, but no one can tame the tongue—a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse those who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and brackish water? Can a fig tree, my brothers and sisters, yield olives, or a grapevine figs? No more can salt water yield fresh.
When James was writing, the tongue – the human voice spoken face to face – was the major means of communication. I wonder what James would have thought of Facebook and all the other social media that so influence young and old these days? I reckon ‘a restless evil, full of deadly poison’ fairly sums up quite a lot of the content especially from the keyboards of the myriad trolls out there. And then on the internet itself, as well as the excellent sources of useful information on how to do just about anything, there’s the deadly dark web with its unmentionable evils.
How we use the media at our fingertips is an extension of our other communications, including our tongues. But as, perhaps, the sting of spoken words may fade, what’s on the net is on the net forever – spoken in haste, repented at length.
And so we need to take care. We’ve seen the wildfires destroying huge areas of California, Greece and other places so we have a pretty vivid picture of what can happen when something unkind, untrue or worse drops into social media and spreads. And how often is it spread by unthinking folk sharing it or encouraging it with ‘Likes’?
With so many more communication media than simply our voices, we have even greater responsibility to ensure that what we speak and share is ‘true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy’ (Philippians 4:8) and consistent with our calling as Christians.
Purify our hearts so that what emerges from our lips and on our social media honours you, Lord Jesus. Amen
Dorothy Courtis, elder and lay preacher, Wortwell URC