How many different ideas have come to mind since reading those words, “A World of Iniquity”? Just think about them for a few minutes.
No doubt most of our thoughts have strayed along the lines of the evil world in which we are living today, the “world” as it is in its literal meaning. But let us now look at a different type of “world.” This is a type of world which we do not often think about, one which is contained in each one of us, the “world” of which James speaks. If we turn to the third chapter of his epistle, we will see that this “world of iniquity” is “the tongue.”
The first thoughts of these strong, severe words would probably be that James was exaggerating: or that, at least, he was speaking of an exception to the rule. But all it takes is a little self-examination of our sins and weaknesses to find that the words of the apostle are actually not too strong at all. The tongue can cause more happiness or more pain than all other human instrumentalities. Throughout a lifetime, a single tongue can cause a world of happiness or a world of sorrow, one of pleasure or one of pain.
James mentions, in particular, a few of the evils of the tongue. But before he mentions these sins, he speaks, in verse 13, of a wise tongue. A wise tongue is one which usually says little because there is a greater amount of thought put into the words which are spoken. To be able to say the right thing, in the right way, and at just the right time is an extremely difficult thing to do, and very few people have this talent. It is an easy thing, for even one who seems to be a wise man, to make a slip of the tongue and fall from the high pedestal on which he has probably placed himself.
There are many types of sinful tongues, far too many to mention. But there are a few which especially stand out in our minds. First of all, there is that boastful tongue. The human ego can grow to a tremendous size. That big “I” has found its glory in many a mouth, and it is actually a very silly and irritating thing. We like to see a boaster fall and then are quick to say “That’s what he gets.”
Of all the evil tongues, it is the tongue of profanity that has the least excuse. Yet, it has many users and its use seems to be increasing rapidly these days. And we, as children of God, are not innocent of this profane tongue, how many times haven’t we, too, used profanity or even taken God’s name in vain, if not on the lips, at least in the mind?
Another type of evil that comes from the mouth is gossip. A bit of gossip starts out small, but often grows to hurt a reputation. The tongue of strife also is a “little fire which kindleth a great matter,” even as a small street quarrel can incite a riot.
Last, and meanest, is the tongue of the liar. A lie is never justifiable, no matter what the occasion. Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord (Proverbs 12:22). These “lying lips” were among the objects of divine hate in the Old Testament.
Yes, the tongue is indeed a “world of iniquity.” It is a little thing but the instrument of a great evil. Control of the tongue should be learned early in life; and, all through life, it must be by God’s help that we can master the tongue and speak or be silent. We must watch that tongue, that “world of iniquity.”