|Vol. 13 No. 8 August 2011||
Years ago, many school children received a special visit each year from a certain character. An individual dressed as a bear wearing the uniform of a forest ranger spoke about the dangers of forest fires and how many such fires start with a single, small spark. This Smokey the Bear character used the slogan, “Only you can prevent forest fires.”
James 3:5-6 also speaks of great fires, but instead of fires started by a spark, the fires James speaks of are started by the tongue. “Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell.” The word “matter” in verse five comes from a Greek word that indicates a forest or grove of trees (Biblesoft’s). Just like a small spark can start a forest fire, a small word can cause a great deal of problems. The verses preceding James 3:5 describe how small things can control large things; James uses the examples of a bridle controlling a horse and a rudder managing the movements of a ship. The tongue is a small part of the body, yet it greatly influences the actions of the rest of the body. How many arguments between individuals and nations have begun with just a few words? How many more times do children, and adults, receive consequences for their words than for their actions?
It is not just great writers and public speakers that have a way with words. Every individual has a way with words that creates or divides friendships, builds others up or tears them down and helps a situation or hurts a situation. Spoken or written, our way with words should reflect our relationship to Christ. Consider two areas where our words demonstrate our Christian walk.
Lies are words that do not tell the truth. The first recorded lie in the Bible is found in Genesis 3:4. “And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die.” Satan stated the first lie when he spoke to Eve about God’s command not to eat of the tree in the middle of the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:1-3). In fact, John 8:44 calls Satan the father of lies. On the other hand, God is unable to lie (Titus 1:2). Who would we rather be like, Satan or God? Christians should prefer, in fact claim by their very name, to be like-Christ. John 8:32 tells us that “the truth shall make you free.” The apostle Paul instructed Christians to put away lying and instead speak the truth (Ephesians 4:25) and 1 Corinthians 13:6 reveals that the love we should have for others “rejoiceth in the truth.” Some speak of “little white lies” and “fibs” as though those types of words are not the same and are more acceptable than “real lies.” The Bible does not make such a distinction. Revelation 21:8 states that “all liars” will receive the same consequences as murders, the unbelieving and the sexually immoral.
People often use words to hurt those around them. Children and adults frequently use words to make fun of those who are different in the way they dress, the way they talk, the color of their skin, the amount of money a person has or does not have and for a number of other reasons. This way with words is the exact opposite of the teachings of the New Testament. Paul wrote in Ephesians 4:32 that Christians should be kind to each other. When Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount, He instructed the listeners to use their words to “bless them that curse you” and to “pray for them which despitefully use you” (Matthew 5:44). Luke 6:31 records Jesus’ instructions to treat others the way we wish to be treated; this would include how we use our words when dealing with others. Words that hurt and tear others down do not reflect the meaning of Ephesians 4:29. “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.” Our words should edify and build others up. Philippians 4:8 instructs Christians to think on good things. If our thoughts are so focused, we will not speak the negative words that destroy the hearts of those around us.
Words are important. The way we use our words can influence the world for Christ or turn people away from Christ. Our spoken and written words should encourage others and reflect a Christ-like attitude.
Biblesoft’s New Exhaustive Strong’s Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. CD-ROM. Seattle: Biblesoft and International Bible Translators, 1994.
And Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost returned from Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, Being forty days tempted of the devil. And in those days he did eat nothing: and when they were ended, he afterward hungered. And the devil said unto him, If thou be the Son of God, command this stone that it be made bread. And Jesus answered him, saying, It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God. And the devil, taking him up into an high mountain, shewed unto him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said unto him, All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it. If thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be thine. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Get thee behind me, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. And he brought him to Jerusalem, and set him on a pinnacle of the temple, and said unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down from hence: For it is written, He shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee: And in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. And Jesus answering said unto him, It is said, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God. And when the devil had ended all the temptation, he departed from him for a season. (Luke 4:1-13)
Most of us remember the biblical account of the temptation of Jesus Christ as recorded in Matthew 4:1-11 and Luke 4:1-13. While Matthew and Luke gave the details of the temptation of our Lord, Mark chose to simply state, “Immediately the Spirit drove Him into the wilderness. And He was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan, and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered to Him” (Mark 1:12-13).
Wise old Satan waited for just the right time to tempt Jesus. Following the baptism of Christ, God announced to all gathered there along the banks of the Jordan River, “And suddenly a voice camefrom heaven, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased’” (Matthew 3:17). The official proclamation was made as to the true identity of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. Albert Barnes made the following observation:
Satan’s temptations are often the strongest immediately after we have been remarkably favored. Jesus had just been called the Son of God, and Satan took this opportunity to try him. He often attempts to fill us with pride and vain self-conceit when we have been favored with any peace of mind, or any new view of God, and endeavors to urge us to do something which may bring us low and lead us to sin. (Barnes’ Notes)
Satan hoped that with the public acknowledgement that Jesus was the Son of God, His heart would be swelled with pride making Him susceptible to the devil’s temptations, for this is the scenario of mortal man (Proverbs 16:18). In addition, pouncing upon Jesus, as though He had been a mortal man puffed with pride, Satan waited until Jesus was hungry before approaching Him. Christ had not eaten for 40 days, making Him physically weak. It is reasonable to expect one who is hungry to react favorably with the offer of food. Also, Satan’s request seemed reasonable to the human nature of man. However, Satan failed to remember that Jesus Christ was not merely a human, but He is the Son of God.
Jesus answered each of the three avenues of temptation with “it is written” (Matthew 4:4, 7, 10). Christ used God’s written Word to rebuke Satan for attempting to make Him a follower of the Devil.
Luke 4:13 states, “And when the devil had ended all the temptation, he departed from him for a season.” Satan decided that he would leave Jesus alone for a period of time. He did not give up; he planned to attack at another opportunity, when he hoped Christ would be more susceptible to his wily ways. The Scriptures do not reveal any other attempts of Satan to tempt Christ, but the Bible clearly teaches that Satan planned to return.
Just as Satan tried to lure Christ away from God, he is diligently seeking Christians that he can pull away from God. People of the world are Satan’s servants; he does not need to tempt them to sin. They already live lives of sin. The devil places his emphasis on drawing Christians away from God to lead them into a life of sin rather than a life of service to God.
We must know the Scriptures in order to resist the temptations of Satan. Today’s Christian must have the attitude of the Bereans as recorded in Acts 17:10-11. They searched the Scriptures daily, verifying the teaching of Paul and Silas. This was not an easy task. They did not have a completed Bible as we have today. The Bereans had to go to the synagogue, request a scroll, study it and then return it. They did this every day. We need to study our Bibles every day.
Satan may leave us alone for short periods of time, but he is always lurking about waiting for opportunities to lure us away from God (1 peter 5:8). Satan looks for times when we are weak, lonely or fearful. Satan looks for times when we may be feeling invincible. Sometimes when we feel we have conquered one sinful trait we fail to protect ourselves from the devils attacks in other areas of our lives. Satan is always looking for our weaknesses to use those to tempt us to sin.
Satan left Jesus for a season, and he will leave us temporarily, but know this – he is always looking for our weaknesses to tempt us and to make us his servants.
Barnes’ Notes. CD-ROM. Seattle: Biblesoft, 2006.