The Tongue – Part 2

As I mentioned last week the word “tongue” is used 575 times in the bible (140 x in the Psalms; 87 x in Proverbs). We will not be looking at them all. Last week we scanned how the word is used in Job and the Psalms. This week we will peruse Proverbs and then jump into the new testament book of James and see the power of the tongue.

This past week I listened to two speeches by one of my historical hero’s, Winston Churchill. Churchill commanded the English language and used it powerfully to motivate and inspire. However, Winston also had a caustic side to his speech. None was better at insults than Winston Churchill, who had no love affair with Lady Astor. Actually, the feeling was mutual. On one occasion, she found the great statesman rather obviously inebriated in a hotel elevator. With cutting disgust, she snipped, “Sir Winston, you are drunk!” to which he replied, “M’lady, you are ugly. Tomorrow I will be sober.” On another occasion Churchill and Lady Astor engaged in verbal sparring when she told him, “If I were your wife, I’d put arsenic in your tea.” He responded, “If I were your husband, I’d drink it.”

The tongue … our speech … our words can be a source of great healing or great hurt. Let’s let Proverbs demonstrate this:

Proverbs 10:31–32

31  The mouth of the righteous brings forth wisdom,

but the perverse tongue will be cut off.

32  The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable,

but the mouth of the wicked, what is perverse.


Proverbs 12:18

18 There is one who speaks rashly,

like a piercing sword;

but the tongue of the wise brings healing.

(Be careful when you draw your sword!)

Proverbs 15:2

The tongue of the wise makes knowledge attractive,

but the mouth of fools blurts out foolishness.

Proverbs 18:21

21 Death and life are in the power of the tongue,

and those who love it will eat its fruit.

(Did you ever think your words wielded such power?)

Proverbs 21:23

23 The one who guards his mouth and tongue

keeps himself out of trouble.

(Great Counsel)

I commend you to a study of how Proverbs addresses our speech. Now let’s see James.

James 1:26

26 If anyone thinks he is religious without controlling his tongue, his religion is useless and he deceives himself.

(Has the Gospel reached our tongue?)

James 3 is the central passage in the New Testament on the tongue and its powerful effect. See How the Apostle describes the tongue: (We will look at three)

James 3:2–3

For we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is mature, able also to control the whole body. Now if we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we direct their whole bodies.

(Bits in horse’s mouths. Relatively small, but able to turn those massive animals.)

James 3:4

And consider ships: Though very large and driven by fierce winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs.

(Rudders on Ships)

James 3:5–6

So too, though the tongue is a small part of the body, it boasts great things. Consider how a small fire sets ablaze a large forest. And the tongue is a fire. The tongue, a world of unrighteousness, is placed among our members. It stains the whole body, sets the course of life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

(The Tongue is like a small fire that can set an entire forest ablaze … That’s powerful!)

A southern California golfer provided a good example of how a small spark can start a big blaze. The man was golfing at the Shady Canyon Golf Course in Irvine and accidentally chipped his ball into the rough beside the fairway. On his next swing, his club hit a rock, which caused a small spark. The spark landed in the dry grass and set the rough on fire. Fire officials say 150 firefighters were called to battle the fire that quickly spread through vegetation next to the course and over two dry, brushy hillsides nearby. Authorities said the man, who was not identified, would not be charged.James tells us that the tongue is like that spark: While it is small, it can have a huge negative impact of destruction, or (James 3:10) it has potential for great delight.

Unlike Job’s friends, let’s choose our words with care and wisdom.

See You Sunday,

Pastor Byron