The Dysfunctional Tongue
This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger;
This Sunday we will continue to work through the glorious truth that God changes His people through the process of sanctification. He patiently wades through our dysfunction as we are transformed into His likeness. We will dive into the New Testament book of James.
As you recall, James is very practical with his teaching and in chapter 1 he begins to deal with the issue of the tongue. James begins his focus on the tongue by stating that “everyone should be quick to hear, slow to speak…” James will come back to the issue of the tongue throughout his letter and help us see that our tongue has a ton of power. Here are some examples of power that he identifies:
1. The tongue has the power to DIRECT
James states in chapter 3, ‘the mouth can make every animal obey.’ If you control the horse's mouth, you can control his body. If you can control his body, you can control his direction. It works the same for us as humans. If we can get control of our mouth, then we get control of our body, and if we control our body, we can choose our direction.
A good question to ask ourselves is: Which way are you speaking? What direction are you steering your life? Is your tongue a dysfunctional power that leads to even greater dysfunction?
2. The tongue has the power to DESTROY
Some of us are unaware that our tongue is a weapon in our mouth. How are you using your tongue? The power of life and death is in the tongue. This means that the tongue has the power to destroy one another, but it can also heal one another.
How are you choosing to use your words tomorrow when you go to your office, when you go to school, when you get back into your home with your husband or your wife, what are you going to say? How are you going to speak? If we’re not careful, we’ll see through our life that our tongue is just this small thing that can do big things. If you can make a small adjustment, which is taming the tongue, you would see big changes in your life.
3. The tongue has the power to DEFINE
Jesus said out of the heart, the mouth speaks. This means that whatever it is in our hearts will start to be what comes out of our mouths. Have you ever noticed or tried to start saying something out loud you don’t believe? Having a passion about or even stating things that you don’t believe is a challenge. That’s because our words come from our hearts.
James reminds us that our tongues point to our state of dysfunction. We see dysfunction spread from Adam to Eve—Adam blaming his wife and then Eve blaming the Serpent. We see it with Israel—false prophets lying about God’s will and the people following suit. We see it in our own lives when a harsh word to your spouse shatters trust. When an overbearing tone crushes your child’s spirit. When an impatient shout damages a friendship. When a clever joke makes people laugh at evil. When a revengeful remark ruins your gospel witness.
The reason James is addressing this issue is because he wants the church to be a community where God’s love is evident both in our deeds and in our words. The revival preacher of the Great Awakening Jonathan Edwards put it this way:
Resolved, Never to say anything at all against anybody, but when it is perfectly agreeable to the highest degree of Christian honor, and of love to mankind, agreeable to the lowest humility, and sense of my own faults and failings, and agreeable to the golden rule…
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