The Power of the Tongue
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In the previous section, James downplays the importance of our words in favor of our actions. Primarily because, it is our actions, that prove we believe what we say we believe. Lest we begin to think then, that our words are unimportant, James uses this section of his epistle to underscore the importance of our words. In verse one, he writes, "Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we shall incur a stricter judgment."
What teachers say is important-so important, that the very act of teaching invites a stricter judgment. There is power in the spoken word. Power to instruct, to inspire to encourage and to motivate. And James says, that believers will give account for how they exercise that power.
Jesus had a lot to say about the consequences teachers will suffer who lead their students astray. In Matthew 5:19, He said: "Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven." (NIV)
And in Matthew 18:6 he said "But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea." (NIV)
Teachers, be careful what you say, because you are influencing us. Your words make a difference in our lives.
Words are so common, and so easy to manufacture that the importance of a single word can easily be lost in the sheer volume of words spoken, read or heard in a single day. How important is a word?
Ask a father who just heard his daughter say "I do" on her wedding day. Ask a mother who anxiously waited for her child's first word and heard "da da" for the first time. Do you remember the tension in the court room when O. J. was waiting the hear the word "not" before the word guilty?
Words can have powerful effects. When you consider that over a hundred lives were lost in WWII for every word of Adolf Hitler's book Mein Kampf, you begin to envision the power of words.
Words can be used for evil, but they can also be used for good. I can still hear the resolve in President Reagan's voice when he said, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down these walls." And shortly thereafter, the world changed.
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