Summary: A study of the power of the tongue as taught by James.
The Power of the Tongue
Scripture Ref: James 3:1-12
Proverbs 3:27; 10:19; 12:6, 18, 19; 13:3; 18:21
Other Ref: The Bible Knowledge Commentary
Based in part on a sermon by Rev. Alan Perkins, Pastor, Journey Christian Church
a. My message today was inspired by a recent act of love by my wife. A couple of our family members are experiencing a trial that she has experienced in her past. I listened as she lovingly talked to them and was reminded of just how powerful the spoken word can be.
b. I am reminded of several television commercials that capitalize, to an extent, on the spontaneity of children.
(1) The Disney commercial where the little girl, in an elevator full of adults including her mother, announces to the world that her parents refer to her baby brother as “our little souvenir” of a Disney cruise.
(2) Another commercial for some sort of breakfast bar displays different children saying different things, such as the one little boy telling the bride, “My Mom said she can’t believe you’re wearing white.”
(3) At face value, these little snippets are funny, but are they really? In reality they display an improper use of the tongue by adults.
c. Has your tongue ever got you in trouble? Do your ears ever burn embarrassingly after having made a comment you did not realize was harmful or hurtful until it was too late? It’s a disease frequently referred to as “hoof-in-mouth.”
A group of frogs were traveling through the woods, and two of them fell into a deep pit. All the other frogs gathered around the pit. When they saw how deep the pit was, they told the two fallen frogs that they were as good as dead. The two fallen frogs ignored their comments and tried to jump up out of the pit with all of their might. The other frogs kept telling them to stop, that they were as good as dead. Finally, one of the fallen frogs took heed to what they were saying and gave up. He lay down and died.
The other fallen frog continued to jump as hard as he could. Once again, the crowd of frogs yelled at him to stop the pain and just die. He jumped harder and harder and finally made it out. When he got out, the other frogs said, "Did you not hear us?"
The frog explained to them that he was deaf. He thought they were encouraging him the entire time.
This story teaches two lessons:
· There is power of life and death in the tongue. An encouraging word to someone who is down can lift them up and help them make it through the day.
· A destructive word to someone who is down can be what it takes to kill them. Be careful of what you say. Speak life to those who cross your path.
2. The Power of the Tongue
a. We have all heard, and probably used the old saying, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.”
(1) Our words are more powerful than we may realize.
(2) Words can be much more destructive than sticks and stones, or even guns and knives. They can have a lasting effect that is difficult to recover from.
(3) Scripture even supports this. Read Proverbs 18:21—The tongue has the power of life and death…
b. Words, whether good or bad, pierce deep.
c. Read Proverbs 12:18—Reckless words pierce deep like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.
(1) Words spoken in haste, with no intention of hurt, can in fact pierce like a sword.
(2) Words spoken from a wise heart, however, can do just the opposite; they can heal and bring encouragement.
(3) Discuss the Pygmalion effect, the self-fulfilling prophecy.
d. If the tongue wields such power, it would seem that some times it would best be left idle. That is to say, we should recognize when it is time to speak, but more importantly, when it is time to remain silent.
e. Proverbs has even more wise teachings on this subject.
(1) Proverbs 10:19—When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.
(2) Proverbs 12:6—The words of the wicked lie in wait for blood, but the speech of the upright rescues them.
(3) Proverbs 12:19—Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue lasts only a moment.
(4) Proverbs 13:3—He who guards his lips guards his life, but he who speaks rashly will come to ruin.
Alan Redpath once formed a "mutual encouragement" fellowship at a time of stress in one of his pastorates. The members subscribed to a simple formula applied before speaking of any person or subject that was perhaps controversial.