Summary: James tells us how control of our tongue is an important indicator of our walk of faith.
Communicating with words is one of the distinguishing marks of human existence. It makes possible the clearest level of understanding,
the conserving and transmission of knowledge from the past, and the sharing of information from one intelligent being to another. Like so
many aspects of human life, however, communication is a gift from God that can be abused.
James recognized his readers were having difficulty in the use of the tongue. He indicated there needed to be less talking about their ideas and more hearing of God's Word (1:19). They also needed to curb their unrestrained speech (1:26). Their discussion of faith and works had produced more heat than light(2:12). So James' "cut to the chase," so to speak. He turned his attention to a problem that he was sure was at the root of most of the conflicts within the church of his day. As we consider James' words about the use of the tongue, we find his instruction to be strangely relevant to our day as well, don't we?
As he speaks about the use and abuse of the tongue, james utilizes three sets of illustrations as he gives counsel conceming control of the tongue. Depending on how it is used . . .
1. The tongue can give special direction - vs. 1-4
There was a tendency, it seems, for those in the church of James' day to want to be in positions of authority without fully considering the
implications involved. With the privilege of teaching comes responsibility and accountability.
A. One must be sure his teaching is correct, lest he be guilty of heresy - v. I
B. One must be sure his teaching is consistent, lest he be guilty of hypocrisy - v. 2
But if his words are correct and consistent, they libve power to provide others with special direction. Even as a bit can change the direction a horse runs and a rudder can change the direction a ship sails, our words can change the direction of one's life to obedience to the Savior. But if our tongue is to give that special direction to others, our words correct with the truth of the Word of God and consistent with a life lived for the glory of God.
"Forge thy tongue on the anvil of truth and what flies up, though it be but a spark, will have light '- Pindar (ancient Greek poet)
"Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it.
Then you will be prosperoas and successful. " - Joshua 1:9 (NIV)
The Bible is the anvil of truth upon which we are to forge our words and actions, so that we might be prosperous and successful in being the light to a dark world that God calls us to be. Depending how it is used, the tongue can give special direction or . . .
2. The tongue can cause serious destruction - vs. 5-8
If our words aren't correctly aligned with the truth of the Word of God or consistent with a life lived for the glory of God, instead of providing special direction men need from God, we cause serious destruction.
A. James says inappropriate use of our tongue is like a wild fire - vs.5-6
"My heart grew hot within me. While I meditated, the fire burned; then I spoke with my tongue." - Psalm'39:3 (NIV)
1) The destruction it brings can start small - v. 5
2) The destruction it brings can spread swiftly - v. 6
B. James says inappropriate use of the tongue is like a wild animal - vs. 7-8
1) Inappropriate words have a life of their own - vs. 7-8a
Even as wild animals have a life of their own, words unfitly spoken have a life of their own. Once spoken, our words have their effect upon others. Better to have never spoken than to speak and not be able to undo the damage that may result.
"Speak without thinking, and your words can cut like a knife." - Proverbs 12:18a Easy to read)
2) Inappropriate words have a mind of their own - v. 8b
Wild animals have a mind to pounce on their victim and inappropriate words likewise, produce victims.
In his book, '(Three Steps Forward Two Steps Back" Chuck Swindoll tells of a woman who committed suicide and left a note in
which she wrote, "They said . .. " She never completed the thought. But whatever "They said" was painful enough for her to decide that
she couldn't go on living. Inappropriate words can, indeed, be deadly.
"Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it