As a follow-up from my previous post, I would like to suggest an interesting correlation between being made in God’s image and our speech. Consider the following.
The Bible declares that humanity is created after the image and likeness of the Creator (Gen. 1:26), also known as the imago Dei. In all the creative work of God it is humanity alone who is made after the divine image. Hence, the imago Dei is what sets every human apart from the rest of creation. Although God’s image and likeness (both are probably synonymous) is tainted by sin, Scripture indicates that a measure of the imago Dei remains after the Fall (Gen. 9:6; 1 Cor. 11:7; Jm. 3:9). It is not likely, therefore, that the imago Dei has entirely been lost due to sin’s corrupting effects. And, redeemed humanity reflects the image of Christ (2 Cor. 3:18; Col. 3:10; Rom. 8:29; 1 Jn. 3:2) in ways unredeemed humanity cannot. Upon regeneration, the imago Dei is so ignited in the human heart that the effects of the Fall are gradually reversed and believers freely and willingly pursue the righteous life God requires (2 Cor. 5:21; cf. also 1 Cor. 1:30; 2 Pt. 1:4). Part of this pursuit of righteousness includes human speech.
Interestingly, the imago Dei carries with it the privilege of ruling over the rest of creation (Gen. 1:26, 28; Ps. 8:6-8). The first indication of human speech is in connection with his dominion-having authority over animal life (Gen. 2:19). In the eschaton (upon Christ’s return), redeemed humanity will sit in judgment over the world and over angels (1 Cor. 6:3). Presumably, this judgment involves speech acts. No wonder the tongue is a fire! It may be used for good or for evil.
Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.
All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by human beings, but no one can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs?o Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.
—James 3:5-12 (TNIV)
George Stulac provides some strong admonitions from observing James 3:5-12 (p. 125).
Spread gossip, and people will not trust you. Speak with sarcasm and insults, and people will not follow you. Yet what is especially on James’s mind is not the reaction of others to your speech but the spreading of sin from your speech to the rest of your life. Be hateful with your tongue, and you will be hateful with other aspects of your behavior. If you do not discipline and purify your speech, you will not discipline or purify the rest of your life.