There are some things that seem to instinctively conjure up feelings of fear, revulsion, and warning. Like snakes. Personally, I don’t like snakes. They simply creep me out. For most people, snakes almost always invoke a sense of evil and danger.
If you were to ask me, there are plenty of good reasons. Their beady little eyes, their stealth, undetectable movement, slippery smooth skin (yes, I know, scales). They’re sneaky, move sideways, and almost always appear ready to pounce on an unsuspecting victim. But if creepy and dangerous are all that it takes to be evil, why not sharks, spiders or even skunks for that matter?
Looking Back …
I believe the answer goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden. After Satan rebelled against God, he set his sights on Adam and Eve … taking on a serpent as his disguise. As a result, thousands of years later, we still associate snakes with some form of evil.
Recently, I was reading the book of James. Suddenly, I saw snakes in a whole new light. And the image that came to mind was uglier than the first. In chapter 3, James is urging Christians to recognize the importance of controlling what comes out of our mouths. He describes the human tongue this way:
“restless and evil, full of deadly poison.” (James 3:8 )
But it gets even worse.
“Sometimes [the tongue] praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God.” (James 3:9)
Have you ever done that? I know I have.
“And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth.” (James 3:10)
As I read that verse, an image of a snake’s dual-pronged tongue flashed through my mind. The NLT (New Living Translation) Study Notes describes improper speech this way: “gossiping, putting others down, bragging, manipulating, false teaching, exaggerating, complaining, flattering, and lying.” And goodness knows how many times we speak without even recognizing our hidden, less than admirable, motives.
One Simple Question
It’s so easy to picture evil as being heinous, sharp fanged, and full of lethal poison. Yet, when Satan, still furious at God, approached Adam and Eve in the Garden, neither were afraid. Nevertheless, God allowed this seemingly innocent encounter to set in motion both the most disastrous and glorious chain of events in human history. How did Satan strike? Weapons? Sorcery? Violence? How about pitch forks? Ferocious hissing? Or magic tricks? Nope. All Satan needed was one small, but greatly underestimated, tool—a tongue. With it, Satan was able to tempt his unsuspecting victims with one simple question.
“Did God really say…” (Genesis 3:1)
As Christians, we make every effort to guard ourselves from more obvious forms of evil. Murder. Adultery. Stealing. Yet, we often fail to recognize that what comes out of our own mouths is just as capable of inflicting pain, injury … and yes, even death.
“For whatever is in your heart determines what you say…for from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander.” (Matthew 12:34, 15:18)
How do we protect ourselves from “gossiping, putting others down, bragging, manipulating, false teaching, exaggerating, complaining, flattering, and lying?” The Bible says that above all else,
“Guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” (Proverbs 4:23)
And how do we guard our heart?
By being ever mindful of what God really did say and prepared to wield the mighty power of His Word against Satan and his schemes,
“I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” (Psalm 119:11)
(I am honored to partner with CBN. This article is featured in CBN’s Daily Devotion.)