The great puritan pastor Thomas Brooks (1608-1680) spoke these informing words: “we know metals by their tinkling, and men by their talking.”
Isn’t it amazing how your words (though they may be few or many), can unveil your entire character? Usually you can guess what someone’s passion is by listening to what frequently comes from his or her lips. In addition to this, our words are not only revealing, but they can also be dangerous. Consider the following proverb, “When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable, but he who restrains his lips is wise” (Proverbs 10:19).
James 3:1-12 is a classic passage on the topic of speech. James begins by warning his readers that not many of them should become teachers, knowing that they “will be judged with greater strictness” (James 3:1). This is a very important truth all preachers and teachers need to understand. To be negligent due to a lack of study or to be crass so as to “relate” or to get a response is unacceptable. Such actions ought not to mark the preacher of the word of God. The preacher and teacher will stand before God one day and give an account. With this in view, James goes on to provide four actions the tongue has the ability to do:
The Ability to Control James 3:3-5
The Ability to Destroy James 3:5-6
The Ability to Poison James 3:7-8
The Ability to Bless and Curse James 3:9-12
Though the tongue is small, it has the potential for great influence. This is why we must take great care in what we say. We should endeavour to be quick to hear and slow to speak (cf. James 1:19). The book of Proverbs has much so say about our speech. Though we could look at many, consider three sample principles to remember: Speaking too much can lead to trouble (Proverbs 10:19); gentle speech can diffuse anger whereas harsh speech can provoke anger (Proverbs 15:1) and think before you speak (Proverbs 18:13). These principles provide practical wisdom in the use of our words.
Words can build up or they can tear down. Our words are a powerful tool. For this reason, the believer must watch their mouth and make use of their words to the glory of God. For those who love the Lord Jesus Christ, let us look to our Lord for grace and speak those words which give Him the glory.