That “the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity; so is the tongue among our members, that it defiles the whole body, and setteth fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell” (James 3:6). I believe that the tongue can be set on fire by God or hell from the person who owns the tongue because each person chooses to light a strange fire or Godly fire.
Now, the tongue can be a hellfire that burns Godly relationships, righteousness, sanctity, love, and truth.
So are we to believe that the tongue’s characteristics come only from hell? Are we to perceive the tongue as the most devilish instrument? Is there not anything to quench the tongue on fire from hell? Are we to live in fear and anticipation of the fire that our tongues can kindle?
The world thinks the tongue is inherently evil. It reserves an excuse from demons, that the tongue is bound (even by the chains of hell) to stay in the chains of slander, unrighteousness, perversion, and blasphemy. “It is better not to speak,” says the world. “If you have nothing nice to say,” the world passionately begs, “don’t say anything at all.”
How the world appears so concerned with right speech by shutting its mouth! But the world seeks silence as a remedy for the unrighteous tongue. What purpose, then, is the tongue if one must remain silent? Why did God give us tongues? Such remedial silence does not solve the issue—the strange fire—of the tongue. It only covers the strange fire. But this plan, indeed, has holes. So, what entails is the hot underside of wood and coal and fruits of smoke seeping through such holes which keeps the strange fire burning.
It is higher to think there is a holy fire (that is not strange) that sets the tongue ablaze. In other words, the tongue is more so an altar, wood, or coal with which a person sacrifices. A person sacrifices heavenly or hellish fire thereon.
To be sure, the tongue is a fire, but the properties of such a fire are up to the individual. As one cooks on the fire, he or she can ignite a gas or natural fire. So it is with the spiritual fires of the tongue. One can ignite the tongue with different fires.
So we read that “Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the Lord, which he commanded them not. And there went out fire from the Lord, and devoured them, and they died before the Lord” (Leviticus 10:1-2). And we read that “You shall offer no strange incense thereon” (Exodus 30:9). The altar is made for burning. But the altar’s purpose to burn does not determine the properties of the fire.
Do we not read that there was “a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire” (1 Kings 19:12). Of course, our tongues are meant to burn. But each person chooses the kind of fire to set the tongue on fire with. There is a fire to God and one that is strange, that is, a speech that is Godly and one that is demonic. One is from heaven. The other is from hell. The heavenly speech (or fire) is the speech God commands people to use, kindle, and keep aflame. Do we not read that we are to, “fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you” (2 Timothy 1:6).
Nonetheless, there is a fire that the Lord is not in, which is to say, a fire that is not authorized by God’s commandments. God authorizes one kind of fire. Thus, a strange fire is strange to God’s laws and statutes. This means that there is a kind of speech contrary to what God commands us to use.
The Christian knows not to quench the fire of the tongue through silence. No. “Silence,” the Christian says, “would hinder the gift of God in me.” The Christian knows it is better to say something than nothing. The Christian does not say “I can’t say anything nice.” “I will not say I can’t,“ the Christian says. “I can’t is not in my spiritual vocabulary.”
The Christian knows, instead, that he or she must. “I must say something nice,” the Christian says, “because there is a fire in me.” “I must speak the words that God commands me to speak because ‘God’s word is in my heart like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I was weary of holding it back, and I could not’” (Jeremiah 20:9).
The only I can’t the Christian can do is not speak God’s words. The Christian’s “can’t” is essentially a “can.” Thus, the Christian cannot keep silent for the sake of righteous speech bursting into flame. The remedy for strange fire is righteous and authorized fire (let us fight fire with fire!).
One should not look at silence as the remedy for unauthorized speech, but righteous speech. Does not Jesus Christ, the son of the living God, tell us that the Holy Spirit (who is that righteous fire) “will teach you at that time what needs to be said” (Luke 12:12). When one does not look at silence but Jesus Christ for the remedy of unauthorized speech or fire, they find the Word of God, the very fire that can burn in all of us.
Therefore, although silence appears to remedy unrighteous or unauthorized speech, it is actually Jesus Christ—the righteous and authoritative Word of God—who remedies all strange fires.