A Community of Peace-Making – Gospel in Life

A Community of Peace-Making

Tim Keller |  January 3, 2010

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  • Christian Living and Obedience
James 3:1-18
RS 317-05


The book of James is a practical book that gives us instruction for obeying God’s law. It says if you believe the gospel, this is what your life should look like. In today’s passage, we consider how the gospel will affect your speech, your words, and your tongue.

Have you ever noticed that when you go to the doctor for a check-up, the doctor will look at your tongue to tell what’s going on deep inside? This is essentially what our passage is about. The tongue acts as an indicator for something deeper. Look at what’s on your tongue and you’ll learn an awful lot about your soul and your heart. Let’s look at three things regarding the tongue: 1) the power of words; 2) the poison of words; and 3) the healing of the poison.

James 3:1–18

The book of James teaches us how our faith should shape our actions and relationships. Chapter 3 focuses on our words, suggesting that what we say is a reflection of our heart’s condition. It emphasizes that words are powerful, potentially harmful, but also capable of healing.

1. The power of words

James points out the importance of words. For example, teachers will be judged for what they say. He uses pictures like a horse’s bit, a ship’s rudder, and a spark starting a fire to show how our words can have a big impact. This comes from being made like God, who creates through His words. Our words can build up or break down relationships, and their effects can’t be easily undone, much like a deep cut from a sword. This illustrates the biblical saying that life and death are in the power of our words.

2. The poison of words

Words can be life-giving or destructive. Lies and harsh words can cause confusion and push people away, while truthful and kind words can bring about good changes. It’s so important to choose our words carefully and kindly, avoiding dishonesty, overstatements, and manipulation, as they can hurt individuals, relationships, and communities.

3. The healing of the poison

Healing through words involves managing what we say and understanding how our hearts influence our words. When we spot and address things like arrogance, defensiveness, and meanness in our words, we start to understand our hearts better. What we say is determined by what fills our hearts, and only when our hearts are full of God’s love can we speak truthfully and kindly.

4. How can it be healed?

James mentions the tongue’s ability to do both good and bad. He contrasts the destructive fires of hell with the healing fire from heaven, seen on Pentecost, to show the power of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice. Jesus’s death on the cross, a perfect combination of truth and love, gives us the opportunity to change our hearts and words, as we become God’s cherished children.



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