Tame that tongue!

Tame that tongue! – a sermon on James 3:1-12 by Rev. Colin Pretorius.

About 15 years ago, large parts of Victoria were ravaged by intense bushfires. In Australia’s all-time worst bushfire disaster, 173 people died and more than 400 were injured. In Kinglake, which was the most severely affected area, the fire was started by a spark from one of the power lines that a high wind had blown over. This small spark sparked a grass fire which in turn set a forest on fire. It grew rapidly in intensity, creating a true firestorm of fiery clouds and winds that set on fire even more areas. This small spark was the catalyst for the fiery hell that became known as Black Saturday. The vivid images of those awful events, of the fires, the destruction and loss of life have been scorched into our memories.

James makes use of similar vivid imagery to describe the destructive power and nature of an uncontrolled tongue. He has just pointed out to his readers that their faith should be expressed in their deeds; or to put it differently, their actions need to speak louder than their words. But to make sure that they understand that a living faith is also demonstrated by the way they speak, James turns his attention to the tongue. Although the tongue is tiny, he says, it is a tremendously powerful instrument which can control, corrupt, curse and destroy. And as we work our way through this passage this morning, we’ll see that just as a vital and living faith bursts forth in thanksgiving with deeds of care, compassion and mercy, it is also characterised by a controlled tongue bursting forth with words of grace and love. And James wants to highlight this by pointing to the enormous incendiary capacity an unbridled tongue has.

We’re going to be looking at our passage in three sections this morning:

    • The controlling tongue (1-5a)
    • The destructive tongue (5b-6)
    • The untameable tongue (7-12)