The Power of the Tongue

Take a moment and read James 3:1-12.


Did you ever play the "silent game" growing up? Perhaps your parents attempted to seek peace and quiet on a long road trip and leveraged the competitive spirits between you and a sibling by making a game out of silence? For five dollars I would have played the game with fierce determination! However, as children wasn't it hard to be quiet for more than a few minutes? That's because the tongue seems to have a strange power over us, huh?

James jumps into chapter 3 with a strong message about the power of our tongue and words. Interestingly enough he begins with a warning about those who teach. In fact, most should not. There is a higher standard held to those who do and, as a result, is a gift reserved for those truly called. 

Once beyond that little piece of advice, he goes into three illustrations about the power of the tongue.

First, he uses the image of a bit in a horses mouth. I use to ride every week and it was one of the most enjoyable routines I've ever had. As a rider, the power of the bit in the horse's mouth was matched by none. The bit led the horse and instructed it where to go. Such a small instrument for a large animal and yet it held such great power.

He also draws a comparison to the power of a rudder to steer a large ship. Once again, small in size compared to the body of the ship but powerful enough to send the ship where it needs to go.

In the final illustration, we get this picture of what starts out as a spark building into a full-fledged fire. In the same way, our tongue can say something small that has the potential of causing far more damage than we can imagine.

A little bit of gossip in the name of "sharing some information" spreads throughout your church or workplace and brings shame to another. Out of anger, you say something hurtful to your spouse and it stays with them, leading them to think less of themself. You say a little white lie to get out of trouble but in an attempt to hide that one lie you begin telling more and find it hard to keep it all a secret to the ones you love most.

The tongue has the same power and does lead our ways to such great extent; probably more than we know. It says in verse 8 that no one, and it means no one, can tame the tongue. Man can tame all sorts of animals yet cannot control a small part of its own body.

We must, above so many other things, guard our mouth! It's impossible for a spring to produce both fresh and salty water. It's also impossible for a tree to bear two different kinds of fruit. In the same way, our mouth cannot be a producer of both good and evil, spouting curses and blessing at the same time. Our mouths cannot be a producer of two different hearts at once, however, because of God's grace, we may produce good even though are past has sprung forth evil.

God created you (and your mouth) to honor and worship Him. He has "set eternity in [our] heart." He didn't create you to gossip, hurt, or lie, so don't act outside of this! Worship him and love others as you were created to do.

Most people do not fully comprehend how their words affect those around them. And it's not even the words themselves, but how they are said. I am a fairly straight-forward person and had to learn that tactfulness has a place in responding to others. Shooting down someone's idea at work or blowing past someone's thoughts as irrelevant are hurtful as well.

Encourage your spouse. Fully listen to your co-workers idea and even if you don't agree, respond in kindness and genuine support of their thoughts. Let's be people who uplift, support, honor, and respond in truthfulness to people. Furthermore, and above all else, may our words be pleasing to God, whom we worship and adore.


Questions/Thoughts

  1. Do you feel any conviction about your words or the use of your tongue? Perhaps it's gossip, hurtful expressions, or lying. If so, repent before God, ask for forgiveness, and make a commitment to seek restoration in this area.
  2. How might you grow in tactfulness and kindness to others words and thoughts?