In his writings, James spoke of subjects that are of vital importance in the lives of believers. As a missionary, I have had the privilege to hear and witness many examples that illustrate biblical truth. One such example was the matter of the tongue. My African pastor friends used many illustrations in their sermons. One such example had to do with the annual fires that swept across rural countryside of the Brong Ahafo Region of Ghana, Africa.
The Apostle James wrote, “And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell” (Jas. 3:6). The tongue of a Christian is a potential instrument of blessings, or it can be used to dishonor the Lord. James spoke of this when he wrote, “Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be” (vss. 9-10). He then went on to pose the question as to whether a fountain sends forth from the same place both sweet and bitter water. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthian believers, “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (II Cor. 5:17). The results of the new birth will have a definite positive affect on a person’s speech if he allows the Lord to have control of his tongue. The mind controls man’s actions, including his words. In proverbs we read, “For as he thinketh in his heart, think pure things, and do good in all his ways. That, however, is not the usual behavior of all believers.
Some of my most interesting times on the mission field involved listening to the wisdom of the older African believers. Those who had grown up in an atmosphere of witchcraft and worship of all kinds of gods could speak from experience of the satanic powers that had once bound them in fear and superstition. They spoke with confidence and assurance of God’s love for them and of the joy and peace they possessed. Their wisdom in certain spiritual areas far surpassed that of their missionary friends.
James wrote, “Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? Let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom” (Jas. 3:13). Wisdom from the Lord does not cause a person to consider himself superior to others. A man with wisdom from the Lord will be identified by the works it produces. Faith and true wisdom walk together.