James uses some seriously vivid images in James 3:5-6 to describe the power of your tongue. Once you dig deeper and understand the history and landscape of Palestine, this verse will come alive inside your mind.
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Hey, welcome to The Simple Truth. I’m Julie Carruth.
We’ve been learning this week in the third chapter of James how our words prove what we really believe.
Even though the tongue is small, it’s capable of massive destruction as we read about in James 3:5-6, “Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.”
Ok. So, let’s unpack these powerful verses first by looking at the land where James lived. Just imagine looking out along the rolling hills and valleys of Palestine. Now, on a hillside, you notice some extremely dry brush. On a very hot day, you see a small spark in the brush, and before your own eyes you witness the entire hillside rapidly erupting in out of control flames.
James is saying that, just like that fast-moving brush fire, our uncontrolled speech has the same power to quickly destroy lives. When you speak harmful words, James says it contaminates your whole body. But not only does it contaminate you, James writes that it sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, meaning it also affects everything within your sphere of influence.
Verse 6 ends with James saying that a person’s corrupt tongue is set on fire by hell. The word for “hell” here is gehenna. It refers to the Valley of Hinnom (Hi-NO(long O)M). This valley was just outside the city walls of Jerusalem where James lived.
In the Old Testament, this place was known for pagan child sacrifices. At that time of James’ writing, this area was the city dump and was known for its continual fire used to burn the filth and waste.
In Mark 9, Jesus used this place as a picture of final punishment for wicked people.
James refers to the same place here in James 3:6 saying that our tongue gets its destructive power from hell itself. It’s the picture of someone who habitually allows Satan to use them to spread massive destruction.
The good news is that you, as a Christian, have the Holy Spirit living in you. Praise God! And when you allow the Spirit to control your tongue, you have the power within you to build up lives around you. And that’s The Simple Truth.
Never miss an episode by subscribing at TheSimpleTruthPodcast.com. I’m Julie Carruth and I’ll see you again tomorrow.