We have recently seen a furor develop over the comments made by Don Imus over the radio waves. Don Imus is well-known for being generally insulting to pretty much everyone and everything. Recently, however, he made some comments regarding the members of the Rutgers women’s basketball team that were extremely inappropriate. Imus did come out and apologize not long after the comments that were made, yet despite his apparent penitence, the damage has been done. Since many major sponsors have withdrawn their advertising support for his radio show and TV simulcast, both CBS and MSNBC have dropped him.
While it is true that there is a bit of hypocrisy in how the media has handled Imus–far less has been done in the past regarding people making insensitive comments, and what he says is not really that inconsistent with what he has said in the past–his story is a testament to the power of the tongue and the danger in careless words. Even a man known for making off-the-wall comments can lose his job because of a particularly inappropriate statement; how much worse of a fate can we suffer because of the tongue?
And the tongue is a fire: the world of iniquity among our members is the tongue, which defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the wheel of nature, and is set on fire by hell. For every kind of beasts and birds, of creeping things and things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed by mankind. But the tongue can no man tame; it is a restless evil, it is full of deadly poison. Therewith bless we the Lord and Father; and therewith curse we men, who are made after the likeness of God: out of the same mouth cometh forth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be (James 3:6-10).
James is exactly right: the tongue is a fire. It can devastate and destroy and no amount of apology or penitence can make it right again. Just as one who starts a wildfire soon has no ability to contain it, so it is also with someone who speaks foolishly. How many people have suffered on account of a contrary word? Only God knows how many souls have fallen away because of misguided, angry, or unfortunate words from a Christian. How many holes have we dug for ourselves because of what we have let loose from our lips?
In the multitude of words there wanteth not transgression; But he that refraineth his lips doeth wisely (Proverbs 10:19).
There is not one of us who has no need to watch what he or she says. Each and every one of us struggles with “sins of the tongue”. Let us consider the furor over Don Imus and learn clearly how important it is to exercise great caution with the tongue.
“And I say unto you, that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned” (Matthew 12:36-37).