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Read Introduction to James


“And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell.”


and it is set on fire by hell

The word for “hell” here is Gehenna, the word that Jesus used most often for hell. This is the only occurrence in the New Testament use of this term outside of Jesus’ use of the word. 

Gehenna was originally the garbage dump in the valley of Hinnom outside Jerusalem to the southeast. They dumped every kind of filth imaginable into Gehenna. They threw dead animals and unburied criminals there. They even sacrificed children there in the name of the god Moloch. The idea of “set on fire by hell” means that the devil uses the tongue to do his damage. 

Pr 16:27 “An ungodly man digs up evil,

            And it is on his lips like a burning fire.”

Pr 26:21 “As charcoal is to burning coals, and wood to fire,

            So is a contentious man to kindle strife.”


An evil tongue finds its inspiration from hell. 


The tongue separates people from pastor and parent from child. Just a little gossip or rumor expanded for interest grows to immense proportions. It will set the rumor mill flying like a raging forest fire. 

People will pick on that sly remark, that innuendo, or that insinuation and carry it further into greater distortions. The rumor takes on a life of its own. The first thing we know reputations are ruined, and some people are alienated from one another. 

One of the most dangerous weapons we have in our arsenal is our tongue. It all depends on what we have in our souls. If we have attitudes of bitterness and anger, the wrong things will come out of our mouths. It is a very destructive instrument. 

When a person throws mud, he dirties his own hands in the process.