Summary: James gives four comparisons that define the tongue's destructive power.
THE INCREDIBLE POWER OF THE TONGUE
Introduction: Pugnacious and courageous Winston Churchill never lifted a rifle in World War II. Yet, this British Prime Minister’s
speeches roused the British to fight with the tenacity of bulldogs against Nazi aggression. In the darkest days of the War, this man rose to his feet and words from his mount literally transformed a nation’s fears into unyielding resolve to never accept defeat, even at the cost of “Blood, Sweat, Toil, and Tears.”
His inauguration as Prime Minister brought these powerful, stirring words to a people needing a fierce-kind of leadership: “You ask, what is our policy? I say it is to wage war by land, sea, and air with all our might and with all the strength God has given us. What is our aim? Victory, victory, however long and hard the road may be, for without victory, there is no survival. Come let us go forward with our united strength.” Words, soul-reaching words have altered the course of human events.
As laudable and eloquent as the Churchills, Lincolns, and Roosevelts have been, no one in history can match or
will ever match the words of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Simon Peter said it best, “Lord to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life (John 6:68). Leaders may have words to cause men and women to march fearlessly into the valley of death, but Jesus’ words reach beyond the grave and give hope to men and women everywhere. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He that believes in me will live even though he dies” (John 11:25).
Who could measure the impact of the Parable of the Prodigal Son. How many rebellious, sinful, broken men, women, boys, and girls came out of the pain of darkness into the joy of his light by hearing the love of God expressed through the parable? Or, how could we find a prayer that is any better in teaching us how to approach God than the Lord’s Prayer. How mighty has been the Gospel of Christ in transforming pagan, barbaric empires. One minister trained seven young people to share the words of the Gospel and took them to a remote Arctic region. The group brought some 50 people to Christ, practically the whole village. How great is the tongue’s power for good. Yet, James reminds us that the tongue can be devastating and destroy lives.
A. The Tongue Has Destructive Power—One the most prominent sins of church members lies in the use of the tongue. The longer people know each other in one church, they may find it easier to judge, criticize, and condemn one another. Many people resemble the snail. The snail is a very interesting creature, it may have taken a week to reach Noah’s Ark, but it ate well on the way. Naturalists tell us that the snail has teeth on its tongue. One scientist examining a snail’s tongue under a microscope counted 30,000 teeth on the organ. The snail keeps its tongue rolled up like a ribbon until it is needed and then it thrusts out this sharp appendage and saws through the toughest leaves and stems with comparative ease. Though our teeth form an ivory gate that protects our tongues, you would think that, like the snail, some people’s teeth are embedded in their tongues ready to slice, criticize, and vilify other people. James says that the tongue is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. David said in Psalm 39, “I will guard my ways, that I may not sin with my tongue. I will guard my mouth as with a muzzle.”
How many of you could make good use of a muzzle? As one Greek sage said, “I have often regretted my speech, never my silence.” If you find yourself slicing up someone’s character with the teeth in your tongue, STOP! THINK! Engage your God-given brain. Are you accurate or exaggerating? Are you making someone else look bad in the eyes of someone else? Is what you are saying necessary, or is it just pain malicious gossip to someone who is not part of the problem or part of the solution? Then, think about the fact that Jesus will call you to account for every idle word you speak. What if you stood before Christ today in judgment? Would you feel ashamed of the words that came from your mouth this week? Jesus said that believers are justified or condemned by their words.
A transformed heart should show transformed speech. Our words give evidence that we are genuine believers. Colossians 4:6 says, “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt so that you may know how to answer everyone. Salt adds flavor to any conversation. How? By turning the topic into words that are more palatable. You may change the subject, or you may build up a person’s good qualities as others seem to be bent on tearing people apart. Be the salt of the conversation. Have the words of grace, and in the world’s eyes, your belief in Christ will be believable. Take pleasure in hurtful words and be condemned as no better than an unbeliever.