A World of Evil Among the Parts of the Body

Have you ever spoken too soon?  Did you ever say anything which you would later regret?  If you’re like everyone else who has ever existed then the answer to that question is a resounding “Yes!”  James describes the tongue as a world of evil among the parts of the body, a restless evil, a fire.  He admonishes the church to be “quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (James 1:19).  This is incredibly good advice.  How many of the conflicts that exist in the church (or in the family) are due to a thoughtless unkind word, an insensitive remark, or simply a failure to listen when someone cries for help?  Most?  All?

The book of Job is best known for its teaching on human suffering.  Certainly Job did suffer and serves as a model of endurance for us in many ways.  But the book of Job teaches many other valuable lessons as well.  One of these has to do with what James describes as “taming the tongue.”

Poor Job.  He lost all that was dear to him.  His sons and daughters, flocks and herds, servants and wealth, and even his own physical health.  Despite this he did not “curse God and die” as his heartless wife suggested.  He sat down and mourned.  He could not speak for his grief, “ he was overwhelmed in his suffering.”  Soon his “friends” enter.  (With friends like these, who needs enemies?!)  Anyone who has ever read Job knows how much idiotic advice these three give to Job.  They tell him that he has done some great evil (he hadn’t), they chastise him for sins he hasn’t committed, they in so many words call him a big fat liar.  In short, they do a great deal of harm with their words  they intensify Job’s grief, not bringing any comfort to his deep-rooted despair.  I’m sure they meant well (I guess), but they didn’t listen and they said far too much.

Before they acted so foolishly in giving the righteous Job unsolicited bad advice they had first done something very wise.  Job 2:11-13 tells us that when Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar heard what had happened to their friend they came to sympathize with him and comfort him.  When they reached him “they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads.  Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights.  No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was.”  They sat with him for seven days and seven nights.  They wept with him and mourned for him.  They loved him and listened patiently to their friend in his suffering.

In these first seven days these three men serve as a model for what it means to tame the tongue, what it means to listen and to control this “world of evil among the parts of the body.”  Their later failure to shut-up shows that they were also capable of incredible insensitivity and unkindness.  You and I also are capable of both “ blessing and cursing, good and evil.”

Any pastor or counselor will tell you that the most important element in effective communication is NOT good talking, it is NOT saying the right thing – what is far more important is good listening.  When you truly listen to someone else you communicate to them that what they are saying is important and that you truly care about them – and perhaps just as important,  it keeps our “worlds of evil” out of commission for a while.