2019-9-22 The Dangers of the Tongue

Cornerstone EPC                                                                              Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734                                                                          September 22, 2019

“The Dangers of the Tongue”
James 5b-12

Last week we noted the difficulty involved in taming the tongue.  We return to the same theme this week—and we note both the virulent dangers associated with the tongue and the hope we have in Christ for rectifying an apparently hopeless condition.  Let us hear God in His Word today, and may He ever shape us by this Word into the likeness of His Son, Jesus Christ.


Let’s look first at the inherent dangers of the tongue.  James, led by the Holy Spirit, calls the tongue a small fire—but he also notes that this small fire produces great blazes.  Just as we see great forest fires kindled from relatively insignificant sparks, so also we see great damage wrought by such a small body part.  The tongue can damage far out of its proportion to its size.

James continues, telling us that the tongue is a fire—a world of unrighteousness.  The tongue stains the whole body.  The amount of sin we can commit with the misuse of the tongue stains our souls almost indelibly—save, praise God, for the Person and work of Christ.  It sets on fire the entire course of our lives.  The tongue, uncontrolled, scorches our souls and those around us.  It gains it power to do this from hell itself.  The tongue, James says, is set on fire by hell—and the evil one enjoys particular success as he incites humans to misuse their tongues.

The tongue, says the Lord through James, cannot be tamed—though almost all else can be.  Beasts, birds, reptiles, and sea creatures can be tamed and have been tamed.  The tongue, and the taming of it, is a different matter altogether.  The tongue, according to our text, is a restless, or uncontrolled, evil.  It seems to work without bound.  It is, as James says, full of deadly poison.  The Greek is stronger than the English here; my translation is very full of deadly poison.  The tongue is full to overflowing of venomous words and expression.

We see the innate, real danger of the tongue.  Now let’s examine the tongue’s evident damage in greater detail.  The chief damage is cursing—pronouncing ill sentiments and wishes over others, at times with foul language.  This is of particular distress when we consider that we use the same implement to bless our Lord and Father as we use to curse people around us.  It is of further distress to note that those whom we curse are made in the image of Him Whom we bless.  James, through the Spirit, cries out to his brothers and sisters, “These things ought not to be so.”

After all, such is not true in nature.  Things produce after their kind.  No spring produces both fresh and salt water, and no salt pond produces fresh water.  No fig tree bears olives, and no grapevine produces figs.  Yet we bless our Creator and curse those fashioned in His image.  We were made for the former, and we are to run from the latter.  Yet the latter happens too often.  The evidence, simply, is that James, led by the Spirit, addresses it—and addressing it presumes its existence.

What can avail to help us?  Apparently, we need this help—and it may be that one or several of us feel keenly the need for such help.  There is no natural help for this condition—but do not despair beloved ones, for there is supernatural help.  God Himself, through Christ, will help us to tame the tongue—and, as we yield increasingly to the leadership of the Holy Spirit in our lives, we will find Him increasingly taming our tongues for His glory.

The ordinary means of the foregoing is God’s Word, the Bible.  Let us note what Scripture says concerning our rightful speech.  Paul, writing to the church at Ephesus, writes, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29).  Hence, our speech is to build up others—especially those of the household of faith, but also those outside God’s saving love, in order that some, by His Spirit, may be drawn inside His saving love.  Paul writes in a similar vein to the church at Colosse, saying, “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer everyone” (Colossians 4:6).  Here Paul urges more pointedly grace-filled speech—a speech that illustrates God’s unmerited favor to those who are in Christ.  Many a set of ears in this world needs desperately to hear such speech.  Therefore, may God, by His grace and for His glory, keep our tongues from unwholesome, injurious speech.  May He also, in place of these, empower our tongues for saying what is true, edifying, and gracious.  May people have benefit from our speech, and may God have His rightful glory from our speech.