Sermon: The Power of the Tongue James 3:1–12 -- By: Daniel L. Akin

Journal: Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
Volume: SBJT 04:3 (Fall 2000)
Article: Sermon: The Power of the Tongue James 3:1–12
Author: Daniel L. Akin

Sermon: The Power of the Tongue
James 3:1–12

Daniel L. Akin

Daniel L. Akin is Dean of the School of Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Dr. Akin has served as dean since 1996 and has also served on the faculty of Southeastern Seminary and Criswell College. He has an extensive speaking ministry, especially on the topic of marriage and family, and is the author of the forthcoming commentary on 1-3 John in the New American Commentary series.


It is one of the smaller organs of the body. The weight for a male is about 70 grams, for a female, 60 grams. However, its potential for evil is so great that God saw fit to imprison it behind a double jailer: the teeth and the lips. I am talking about the human tongue.

Why is it that this small 2–3 inch skeletal muscle covered with mucous membrane is so dangerous and lethal? An initial investigation could lead one to the conclusion that the problem is its location. Recent research has revealed that there are few places more infested with harmful bacteria than the human mouth. More than 100,000,000 microscopic critters live in there. Fungus grows in the oral cavity. In 1999 Medical PressCorps News Service reported that a study led by Dr. David Relman, assistant professor of medicine and of microbiology and immunology at Stanford University, found evidence of 37 unique bacteria in the human mouth that microbiologists had never before recorded. Dr. Alan Drinnan, a professor of oral medicine at the school of Dental Medicine at the State University of New York at Buffalo, found this rather mundane. He said, “It’s really no big surprise. It just reiterates what has been known a long time: That there are many bugs that you can collect from the mouth but can’t grow in vitro, in a lab.” It is not a pretty picture. Mouths have viruses that may cause disease. The top of the tongue is the main breeding ground for bacteria that attack the teeth and gums. The white blood cells from another person’s saliva will attack once inside your mouth. Indeed you are better off, in one sense, kissing a dog like my Great Dane Samantha, than you are kissing another human, because at least a dog’s mouth contains many enzymes that fight infection!

However, as interesting as all of this is, the problem is not the tongue’s physical location, but its spiritual connection. For in terms of spiritual anatomy, the tongue is directly wed to the heart, and it is the heart that motivates and manipulates the tongue for good or evil, to bless or curse. Jesus understood this very well. In Matthew 12:35–37, He said, “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure ...

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