Arson: Words that Burn

There are many examples in the Bible of people who talked too soon. One of them was Jephthah. His story is in the Book of Judges. He was fighting the Ammonites and not doing very well, so he made a rash vow to God, saying, “God, if you will help me win this war, the first thing that comes out of my house when I come home, I will offer to you as a sacrifice.” He was thinking it might be a cat or a pig or something else like that.

Well, God gives him the victory and when Jephthah goes home, the first thing to come out of his house to greet him was his one and only daughter. He has spoken too soon and he lived the rest of his life in remorse for his rash promise to God. “Me and my big mouth!”

James 1:19 has a cure for this problem.

“This you know, my beloved brethren but everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God” (James 1:19-20).

Quick, slow, slow: quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger. Why? It is because never in a million years will the anger of man accomplish the will of God. God will not use anything motivated out of anger.

The Bible is emphatic about being quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger. James says if you do not know how to bridle your tongue, your faith will never be fruitful. If you do not know how to bridle your tongue, you will have an immature faith.

“If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless” (James 1:26).

James gives us three steps in controlling our tongue. The steps in order are quick, slow and slow.

  1. Quick to Hear
  2. The first step in bridling your tongue has nothing to do with your tongue. It has everything to do with your ears.

    How many ears did God give you? And how many mouths? That should tell you that God expects us to listen twice as much as we talk.

    “The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things” (Prov. 15:28).

    James is saying that we are usually anxious to talk, but instead, we should be anxious to listen. Listening is a quality we need to develop.

  3. Slow to Speak
  4. Quick to hear and slow to speak. “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” But they do. Every single one of us has experienced a sharp word that has wounded us, stolen our confidences, ruined our happiness or darkened our day.

    On the other hand, we have all received a word that carried joy, encouragement and healing with it. But listen carefully: words that contain healing are harder to find so it takes time to find them. That is why the Bible says to be quick to hear and slow to speak because words that contain healing are harder to find. It takes time and thought to find them.

    “There is one who speaks rashly like the thrusts of a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing” (Prov. 12:18).

    There are some who speak like the thrust of a sword. Often, when we are impetuous with our words, they do not bring healing; they bring wounds.

  5. Slow to Anger
  6. Three steps to help us bridle our tongue. First step is quick to hear. This has everything to do with cultivating our ears. The second is slow to speak because words of healing are harder to find, because it takes time to find them, but it is worth it. Finally, slow to anger. God will not use anything that is fueled by anger, even though anger sometimes accomplishes things. God will not touch it because it is not going to accomplish His purposes.

    Anger might let you get your way, but it will never be His way. Anger might postpone a problem, but it will never rectify it with God’s solution.


    Let me tell you something about patience. Patience is a fruit of the Spirit. It is something from God – not just to hold off your anger until it explodes. Patience is something that completely substitutes and replaces anger.

    “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience …” (Gal. 5:22).

    Patience doesn’t just hold off anger; it replaces anger. It is a different person that emerges, a wholly different person.


    Anger feeds on itself. Anger eats on itself until it becomes a monster, it controls you and you do not have a say in the matter. Once anger gets a hold of you, it becomes a monster all on its own and it escalates.

    Be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to become angry. Apply this to your life and you will be well on your way to bridling your tongue. Then, you will be able to say less and less frequently, “Me and my big mouth!”

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