How often have your words to others caused them needless pain? How often have you gossiped about your neighbor? How often have you spoken rash words in the midst of your anger? How often have you thoughtlessly made an offhand remark without considering the consequences? Each one of us cause more harm and devastation in this world on a regular basis with our tongue then we will do in a lifetime with our fists. Don’t you understand that your tongue has made you unclean in God’s site? Jesus said, “what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, and slander.” Every time you thoughtlessly open your mouth you do harm to yourself, to your neighbor, and your grieve your heavenly Father. So how can you tame your tongue? How can you hope to — for even a day — stand firm against your sinful heart that yearns to speak all kinds of evil against your neighbor? Only the prayer of faith will sustain you.
In our text for this evening, we hear James tell us about the tongue’s power to direct and corrupt the whole body. He writes, “For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body.” We all stumble over the scandal of sin and none of us is perfect. If you think that you can stand on your own against the power of sin in your life, you are wrong and you will stumble and you will fall. It is because we cannot stand against that power of sin and death, that Jesus hung on the cross and died for us. But more than this, for the same Jesus Christ that hung on the cross and died for our sins and on the third day rose from the dead raising us up with Him to everlasting life, walked this earth with us; rebuked us in our temptation; comforted us in our trials; fed us in our hunger; and healed us in our sickness. The same Jesus who died for you also lived for you. And this same faith in Jesus Christ that saves you also keeps you safe.
Faith is not just some passive force that you intersect with at the moment of your death, it is active, powerful, and efficacious here and now. Each and every day, the power of sin in your heart seeks to express itself through the words of your mouth. And though the tongue is such a little thing, do not think that what is worked by that tongue is likewise inconsequential. James writes, “no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.” We cannot on our own keep the deadly poison of the tongue from its destructive work and the evil worked by the tongue becomes a poison to the blessings to our Lord and Father. But through faith in Jesus Christ are enabled to also confess the sin of the tongue through that same tongue and thereby receive forgiveness and that same faith called upon fervently in the prayers spoken by that same tongue can likewise bridle the tongue, neutralize its poison and quench its fire. For the faith that saves you is the same faith that keeps you safe. The prayer of faith will sustain you!