15th Sunday after Trinity Sept. 29, 2019

Let us pray: Dear Savior, You always encourage us to use our tongues in a positive way—to sing Your praises, to confess Your truths, and to encourage others to turn to You in faith and love.  Today remind us just how important it is to do exactly that!  Amen


TEXT:  James 1: 17-27

Dearly Beloved By Christ:

My father was a teacher—in the school district’s hall of fame.  He used his voice to teach and seldom engaged in babbling words for word’s sake.  One of his favorite quips, which tells you a lot about him, was of Pres. Calvin Coolidge, or “Silent Cal” as the press called him.  (Can you imagine a politician today who didn’t like to speak tons of garbage?) Anyway, a man came up to Coolidge and said: “I bet the fellow over there that I could get you to say more than three words.”  To which Coolidge replied: “You lose.”


One of the most dangerous organs in our bodies is our tongue.  Yes, we can and should use it positively to encourage, teach, and build up others, but more often than not, we don’t.  We speak before we think.  And by extension, we tweet, we text, and we comment on social media before we think, too.  Very often our tongues get us into trouble.

Tomorrow I’m going to be covering the 2nd and third commandments in confirmation class.  The 2nd is interesting because it completely covers what James talks about in our lesson.  Luther’s explanation is right on point: “We should fear and love God so that we do not curse, swear, practice witchcraft, lie or deceive by His name, but call upon Him in every trouble, pray, praise, and give thanks.”

Considering how many people say: “God damn it” today, it’s a wonder there are any hammers left on this earth!  Isn’t it silly to think we can send a hammer to hell because we were clumsy with it?  Likewise, trying to always include OMG (O My God) in text messages or speech is the height of arrogance.  After all, isn’t God’s name holy and shouldn’t we use it as more than an afterthought?

I’m amazed at how caustic and nasty our speech has become in America.  Think of the word used for sexual intimacy by many.  They hurl such words around without much of a thought.  But why would you want to use such language about the most intimate expression of love between a husband and wife and “cruditize” it?  What does that reveal about the person’s heart?  And yet, in moments of thoughtless stress almost all people do this.  It’s like the tongue is disengaged from the brain.

Words can and do hurt.  They strike deeply in the heart and psyche and leave scars.  Often people will say hurtful things even though you know they really don’t mean it.  But the scar is still left behind.   And the hurt festers…..


Speech, our speech, defines us to the world.  You make your point through language, tone, and inflection.  It even helps shape our faces in how we look.  A classmate was a missionary in central Europe and was amazed that when traveling the trains a local could pick out the nationality of the people in the train car with phenomenal success.  Mind you, these people were not talking, just sitting there silently.  How did he do this?  He explained to my classmate: “Every language uses different facial muscles to form words.  If you know what to look for, you can see it in their faces and it identifies them.”  Does the usage of crude, nasty language do the same?  I think so.

So, what do you use language for?  Simple. To communicate.  But what are you trying to communicate?  Isn’t the chief rationale behind Christians to share the message of God’s love for us in Christ?  Isn’t it to always “let our light shine” and reveal that we’re well-adjusted and content because God’s Son came to give His life for us and thereby save our souls?  Isn’t it to lead people to this realization and to build them up instead of tear them down?  Yes, even when speaking to His enemies who sought to kill Him, Jesus was honest and caring, wasn’t He?  He never wanted to provide them with a roadblock they could seize on to reject Him.  And then He also acted on His words in a way that showed just how important human speech is to God.  Or as James says so well: “Every good and perfect gift comes down from above (including language)…He chose to give us birth through the word of truth.”   God used language positively to save us.  We should use it in that same manner.


Godly language has brought you all into communion with the Lord of all creation.  It has linked you to Him via the Gospel—the good news (language) of salvation in Christ.  Through such language you and I have been freed from the crude dirtiness of sin and been remade into Godly vessels of grace and mercy and peace.  Yes, language has freed us from Satan’s darkness.  The language of forgiveness has brought us into God’s light.

This is why James’ concluding words are so vital: “If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself  and his religion is worthless.  Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after widows and orphans in their distress and to keep yourselves from being polluted by the world.”

With the digital age the world communicates faster and with much more content than ever before.  Words are  piled upon more words and more words.  But do those words give glory to God?  Do they improve the lives of others?  Do they lead people into the light?  Or do they pull souls into more and more darkness?   Yes, actions speak louder than words, or at least equally fit together.

Silent Cal kept a tight rein on his tongue.  Do you?  Do you view language as a gift from God to be used accordingly, or do you view it as a vehicle to vent human garbage and spew out the sin that resides inside?  Remember: words spoken in haste can never be taken back.   But, but, they can be forgiven—and Christ has!  So, let His love that spawned that forgiveness control your tongue and reveal exactly who you really are to the entire world—His beloved ambassador of grace.  Amen