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Realizing the presence, promise, and power of the Kingdom of God.

The Tongue is Mightier Than the Sword

And the internet? Whoo boy!

James 3:1–5a

My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment. For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body. Indeed, we put bits in horses’ mouths that they may obey us, and we turn their whole body. Look also at ships: although they are so large and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires. Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things.

In his 2016 book The Kingdom of Speech, Tom Wolfe (bestselling author of Bonfire of the Vanities and The Right Stuff) says:

Speech is 95 percent of what lifts man above animal! … In hand-to-paw, hand-to-claw, or hand-to-incisor combat, any animal his size would have him for lunch. Yet man owns or controls them all, every animal that exists, thanks to his superpower: speech.

Speech makes man the apex predator in every land and every sea, despite being slow and without sharp teeth or claws. But why? How?

Mainly because of one thing we can do with speech—teach.

So, we allocate great resources to teaching. Using the gift of speech, we teach children to read (an extension of speech). Then we move on to mathematics and science. The result is impressive. Pre-adolescent children already have amazing levels of understanding of the world. No animal even thinks in those terms.

Thus, it’s impossible to explain the gospel to an animal. You can’t explain anything. Because they don’t have the gift of speech, there’s no such thing as explain in an animal’s world.

So, James is onto something big in today’s passage. Speech is power, and that power is most manifest when teaching.

Like the rudder on a boat, the tongue has the power to control things much larger than itself. But what larger thing does the tongue control?


Nowadays, the power of the tongue can be literally amplified by a microphone, or even more so by the printing press or, yikes, the internet.

The tongue gives a teacher the power to alter the course of a student’s life. They almost can’t avoid that.

But mass communication gives the speaker the power over everyone. A speaker or writer can alter the course of civilization.

The pen truly is mightier than the sword.

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These weekday DEEPs are written by Mike Slay. Saturdays' by Matt Richardson. Subscribe here:

The weekly study guides, which include questions for discussion or meditation, are here:

Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.

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