Little snakes

by Michael E. Brooks

“If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body. Indeed, we put bits in horses’ mouths that they may obey us, and we turn their whole body. . . . Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things” (James 3:2-5 NKJV).

The intercom at Khulna Bible College rang in my apartment and I picked up to hear the cook, Shova, say only “boro sap” (big snake).

She has almost no English, and I have only a little Bangla, but we can communicate that message at least. All the personnel know that I enjoy seeing the animals, birds and plants that come onto the campus, and they try to inform me when something new is seen.

It is normal for us to have snakes on campus occasionally. Most are harmless and even helpful in that they eat rodents and other pests. Sometimes though dangerous snakes can also appear.

Not long ago we had a small cobra, only about 2 feet long, but still very deadly to anyone who was careless or caught unawares.

This cobra caused much more concern than the two Checkered Keelbacks (non-poisonous) we found at about the same time which were more than double its size.

When it comes to snakes, size means little. Their inherent nature is everything. A tiny snake full of venom is far more dangerous than a huge non-poisonous one.

James reminds us that sin is like that. One does not have to be a mass murderer or serial child molester to be guilty and condemned in the eyes of God.

“Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness” (1 John 3:4).

All sin is rebellion and all rebellion separates from God and results in death (Romans 3:23; 6:23).

The tongue is an excellent example. Though it is small, it has influence and power far beyond its size. Like the tiny spark that kindles a great fire (James 3:5), the tongue may incite rebellions, destroy reputations, or cause the loss of innumerable souls.

Many historians credit Adolf Hitler’s rise to power partly to his abilities as an orator. He won the people of Germany to himself and to his evil policies through his popular speeches.

No one can number the lives ruined by malicious lies and rumors. And only God will know the number of souls that will ultimately be lost because they believed and followed “deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons” (1 Timothy 4:1).

Even many Christians today however minimize the importance of their speech. “It was only a little white lie,” they say. Gossip, slander, rumors, and half-truths are spread energetically to all that will listen.

Modern communications make the matter even worse. What the “grapevine” took days to spread now may “Twitter” around the world in seconds. Our tongues have more power for both good and evil than ever. How are we using them?

Paul’s command is very timely:

“Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers” (Ephesians 4:29).

It is just as easy to say a profitable word as it is one that is harmful. And it is far better.

James agrees, and notes that the Christian’s tongue must not be divided, speaking both good and evil.

“Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, such things ought not to be so” (James 3:10).

Little snakes can kill. Little words can destroy. Let us control our tongues and strive to be perfect.

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