The Image of the Tongue

James Nettinga

READ : Proverbs 18:21
James 3:1-12

What is small, yet death and life are in its power? The answer to this riddle, one of the many biblical proverbs of truth, is the tongue. “Tongue” is one of the longest categories in Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, next to such power words aslove, light, truth, death. No wonder Shakespeare’s Othello said, “O God, that men should put an enemy in their mouth to steal away their brains. . . . “

An old rabbinical Hebrew story tells how a master told his servant to bring some good food from the market. When the servant came back with tongue, his master told him to return and bring him some bad food. He went and again brought some tongue. The master asked him why he brought back tongue both times, and the servant replied that when the tongue is good, there is nothing better, and when it is bad there is nothing worse. There is the answer to our riddle.

Check before you speak. Do you know all the facts? Will what you say hurt someone? Would you want it to be said about you?



O God, be in our mouths and in our speaking, in our hearts and in our thinking, so that what we say may be to your glory and the good of all. Amen.