Text: James 3:1-12

Sunday September 12, 2021 (Pentecost 16)

Trinity – Creston/Mount Ayr

Grace, mercy, and peace is yours from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Our text for this 16TH Sunday after Pentecost is the Epistle lesson from James 3 that was just proclaimed.

Let Us Pray: Dearest Jesus, send your Holy Spirit to that redeemed by you we are enabled to speak words of love and encouragement to bring glory to God and souls to Jesus. Amen.

Dear Fellow Redeemed in Christ:

We live in an age from which there has emerged an accepted norm of continual outrage—seething disgust, open anger, and attacks directed at issues, events, and other people.

A “protest” culture is on the upswing, oftentimes getting way ahead and in the way of those trying to undertake sincere, meaningful actions toward beneficial change.

Sticks and stones indeed break bones—a violent mob roaming the streets gives hard evidence of that—but in these gray and latter days, it often seems that words, especially those spoken with ill will, have lost even more of whatever little value they had left as a means of influencing our fellow human beings.

One commentator recently suggested that the verbal tools of outrage have now reached a sad state of “hyperinflation.”

Like a dollar that shrinks to nothing in its purchasing power, our words have devalued to the point that almost every line of verbal reasoning—it matters not whether such words are rational or irrational—has lost its power.

One can no longer say anything surprising enough, shocking enough, or just plain sensical enough that it will really grab anyone’s attention or make a difference—much less contribute to the resolution of disputes between opposing parties.

Rather than talking with one another, we disingenuously talk past or militantly talk at our neighbors. One might rightly ask, “How did ever we arrive here?!”

Interestingly, James, under timeless truth given from the Holy Spirit, firmly takes issue with the notion that human speech has somehow “lost its mojo.” Quite the opposite.

The brother of our Lord Jesus begs us carefully to consider our own life experience and to acknowledge once again the fiery power of our words—harmful and beneficial—so that our sin-infected tongues would be gladly directed to a higher purpose: the glory of God and the blessing of Christ’s body.

Wherever and whenever we fail with our tongues—in destructive words that thoughtlessly emerge or in words of comfort, healing, and reconciliation that are intentionally withheld—altering the course of life for the worse, James asks you vigilantly to remember that:

The Human Tongue Is Capable of Inflicting Great Damage, but Christ Has Restored Your Tongue to Accomplish His Good.

I. Our tongues have achieved master status at setting “fires” (vv 2–6).

A. Damaged ever since the fall, as devilish arsonists, our tongues speak in sinful, self-centered arrogance and/or with intent to do murderous harm to our neighbor’s reputation (vv 7–10). All these kinds of wicked speaking are especially breaking the First, Second, and Eighth Commandments.

We are anxious to share juicy gossip about someone without a care or concern about for their soul and that they are a child of God as well.

1. In some instances, this is willful iniquity.

a. Holy Scripture sets forth numerous examples of blasphemy against God and false witness against neighbor.

b. Likewise, our contemporary culture is screaming with painful examples of damage the “tongue” wreaks. James’s lament about the harmful capacity of the tongue applies not just to face-to-face conversations and confrontations.

We poor, miserable sinners have become quite adept at making use of the plethora of communications technologies currently at our fingertips. (Facebook or Twitter)

2. At other times, we don’t even realize when or how we’ve set something or someone ablaze to their great harm! Do we need a “James” in our life, occasionally to enter in and seriously challenge us with the hard question, “Is something burning?”

Maybe you think not. But then again, on closer examination, you may find that your loose tongue suddenly has already set the forest of your life—and the lives of those people around you—roaring ablaze (James 3:6–8).

B. James warns us even as regards our tongues speaking in God’s name.

1. Redeemed by the shed blood of God’s Son, as baptized saints, we speak God’s truth in love to everyone, in full testimony to the source, content, and glory of the Gospel: Jesus Christ.

2. All who are in Christ, as members of the priesthood of all believers, have been called to such speaking (1 Pet 2:9).

3. But those who have been called to teach (that is, preach) in the church are confronted with the special burden of warning against teaching falsehood in the place of genuine Gospel (v 1), for this can quickly destroy saving faith in those who hear it.

a. The Word proclaimed in its truth and purity gives rise to saving faith in those who speak and hear it (Rom 10:17).

b. A false gospel (as if it were even possible that such a thing could be “gospel”) gives rise to the damnation of the souls infected by such teaching (Gal 1:6–9).

II. But Jesus has restored our tongues to his great good by enduring the fire of God’s wrath against all our sins—including sins of the tongue—in our place.

A. He undoes the chaotic damage arising from sin, death, and the power of the devil.

1. Jesus has undone the damage by fulfilling the Law perfectly, despite suffering the scorn and abuse of evil men, while perfectly relying on the word and promise of our heavenly Father (cf Is 50:4–10).

Christ’s death upon the cross has effectively extinguished the fiery danger of God’s judgment into hell for all who use their tongues to confess his name.

2. Jesus has undone the damage by preaching the healing, life-giving, divine Word that sets all things right where all has gone so terribly wrong (cf Mk 9:17–27).

Such preaching—for our forgiveness, life, and salvation—continues today through those whom God has called to serve in the Office of the Holy Ministry.

B. Therefore, we continue to train and use our tongues as instruments that are able to accomplish so much good (vv 3–5).

1. To bless those who persecute us (Rom 12:14), so that in spite of our sins we would live in the spirited freedom of continual repentance, absolution, and reconciliation toward one another.

2. To bless God in the purity, truth, and righteousness that have been poured out upon us, to his eternal praise and glory.

Lord God, heavenly Father, in the sending of your Son, you utterly quenched the threatening fire of condemnation under the Law for all who believe in him.

By your Means of Grace, continually send your Holy Spirit to tame our tongues, that from them the cleansing pure fountain of the Gospel may continually spring forth. Amen.

The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.