Summary: a living, saving faith will evidence itself by works
JAMES 3: 1 -- 12
Jesus says in John 13: 34 -- 35, "a new commandment I give unto you and that you love one another as I have loved you." When we do that, then we find out that often we have tongue trouble.
James was quite a preacher. He had a way of explaining what Christian life is all about. He gives us things to look for when one is growing to spiritual maturity. He says a living, saving faith will evidence itself by works. He made that very clear in chapter 2. But in this chapter he moves from the subject of faith and works to faith and words. James is using some doctors terms in this chapter. It’s like you are going to James and he says open your mouth and stick out your tongue. You can tell a lot about a person’s physical condition by their tongue. The tongue is also an indicator of a person’s spiritual condition. James talks to us about the importance of the tongue.
You know something? It was not until I read this the other day that I saw something I had never seen before. James begins this chapter by talking to preachers, and teachers. Look at verse 1. Those who spend a lot of time using words as they communicate with other people. So, he says one of these days preachers and teachers are going to face these words that we use again. Jesus put it this way in Matthew 12: 36 -- 37, every idle word that a person speaks he will give an account in the day the judgment.
I was reading the other day that the average person speaks about 30,000 words a day. I do know a few that I am pretty sure exceed that. But I just wondered about the words you and I have used so far today. What if we just had a recorder and it played back what we have said this morning to all that are here. Would those words give evidence that Jesus has worked a miracle in our lives? Our speech betrays us doesn’t it?
Well, we are studying the book of James and today his subject is the tongue. Let’s set back and enjoy, that isn’t the best word, but listen to what thus saith the Word of God.
James presents to us first of all THE DIRECTIVE NATURE OF THE TONGUE. Look at verses 3 -- 5. In those verses he is saying that the tongue has a way of directing life. Your life can be pointed in a direction by your speech.
I don’t have to go into detail about the bridal and bit used to guide a horse do I? But here is what I want us to see. Just a bit of a word can change your life forever. A man stands in front of a judge, the judge says guilty and that man’s life is changed forever. A young lady stands in front of a preacher and the preacher says do you and she says I do and her life is changed forever. Just a bit of a word.
Here is the second thing I want you to see about the tongue. THE DESTRUCTIVE NATURE OF THE TONGUE. Look at verse 5. It takes us about two years to learn to talk and about 40 years to learn to shut up. That tongue you and I have can be very destructive. One of the illustrations James uses is fire. Most fires start with just a little spark. A careless match placed here. Just a spark becomes very destructive.
In 1871 they said that Mrs. O’Leary’s cow kicked over a lantern and started a fire in Chicago. Before it was over, 17,000 houses were destroyed. 300 people died. 100,000 people were left homeless. All because of a little spark.
Bad words can burn like fire. Words can destroy a home. Words can destroy the fellowship in a church. The tongue has its own world of sin and evil. Lying tongues. Lustful tongues. Critical tongues. Gossiping tongues. Back biting tongues. Hateful tongues. Bitter tongues.
I want you to notice something in verse 6. Something new I discovered. The picture here is that the tongue is the axle of the wheel. The wheel of life and tongue affects the wheel of life.
I want you to notice something else in verse 6 that should get our attention. He says in verse 6, it is set on fire by hell. From time to time there are outburst of hell on this earth. Isn’t it a terrible thing that we would allow our tongues to be a channel by which the very fires of hell can burn on this earth? Listen, with the tongue you can poison a reputation. You can poison a testimony. You can destroy a life by words of the tongue.