The Power of the Tongue
The other day, I read through James 3:1-12 in my quiet time and was challenged greatly. I encourage you to read through the passage before continuing on in this blog post.
"Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. 2 For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. 3 If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. 4 Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. 5 So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.
How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! 6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. 7 For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. 10 From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. 11 Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? 12 Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water."
The first half of this section shows the great power of the tongue. It is small and yet, it controls your whole body. Words carry with them great power. That is part of the reason James starts this section by warning teachers about their stricter judgement. It is because they are wielding words continually. And not only that, they are responsible for how they handle and care for the most important words in all of history - the very words of God.
The second part of this section warns against the great danger of the tongue. It starts small. But like a small fire in a forest, it has the potential to burn everything down.
Lastly, it is very capable of hypocrisy! In one moment, we praise the Lord with the tongue and in the next moment, we slander, hurt, and put down one of the people that God has made in his very likeness.
This passage is convicting. It is a great warning about the power and danger of the tongue. But how do we use the tongue well?
Luckily, James keeps writing. In verse 13-18, we see that the tongue is used well when it is used with meek wisdom.
"13 Who is wise and understanding among you?By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom.14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth.15 This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual,demonic.16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason,full of mercy and good fruits,impartial and sincere.18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace."
What is the key to using the tongue well? To boil it down - humility. Putting others before ourselves. Thinking of others before we think of ourselves.
Out of this humility and meekness comes a wisdom that leads to peace.
This is my challenge to those reading this post: Use your tongue well right now. Don’t use it to spread fear or panic. Don’t use it to tear others down. Don’t use it to create divisiveness because of your pride.
Rather, use it to build others up. Use it with a meek and humble wisdom. Use it to encourage and give others hope.
We are all stuck at home with those we live with. That might be family or roommates. Think about how your tongue has been toward those people. Think about how powerful and dangerous words can be. Now, think about what words born out of love could do. Think about what it would look like to put those people first - and let your words reflect that.
I hope this is a time for relationships to be strengthened and deepened with those we love. Use your words to do so.
Love you and miss you all church family!