Sermon – October 4, 2020

James 3 – Wisdom and the Tongue (mp3)

Those who profess God should control their tongue. Earthly wisdom is jealously self seeking but, true wisdom shapes the wise. Teachers should continue in humility and in a spirit of a learner.

1. Those who confess God should especially control their tongue
All stumble, and the most typical way we sin is with our speech. Yet, if we can control our tongue, we are in complete control of the entirety of our body. If we control our tongue, our thoughts, actions, words, everything will be in complete control. Horses, strong as they are, are controlled with a small bit. Yet, this must involve training, and our tongues have the same reluctance to be governed. The same is true of great ships, controlled with a small rudder.

It helps here to remember that our tongues can do a great deal good and a great deal of harm. An unruly tongue is one of the greatest and most unruly evils. Massive destruction in the dry west start with the smallest spark; so it is with the tongue. Friends, let not your tongue lead you into sin!

Finally, we need to know how absurd it is to praise God and curse men with the same tongue. True worship of God will not have contradictions, and true believers in God will search hard to avoid contradictions in their speech!

2. Earthly Wisdom is jealously self-seeking; but true wisdom shapes the wise
James clearly contrasts here the source of the two sources of wisdom. James portrays one as good, the other as evil. One source of wisdom as heavenly and from above and one from the earth and demonic. Friends, there is a great difference between those who pretend to be wise, and those who truly seek out God’s wisdom. As Luther instructs us, let us be those who put the best construction on everything!

3. Teachers must be especially careful in the use of their tongues
While James is wide with his comments in vv. 2 and following, in v. 1 he is much more narrowly focused. Teachers are not simply those who preach, or who have the status as elders, but any who seek to explain God’s word in a semi-formal setting. The purpose is not to weigh down people, but rather to become better teachers, leaving behind judgmentalism.