The Importance of Biblical Communication

Dr. Rob Green February 7, 2009 James 3:1-12



We believe in understanding how to apply God’s Word in very practical ways.  As a result, We have decided to begin a series on communication.  So we are going to take the next several weeks to think about and wrestle with the subject of biblical communication.

We all know the old slogan “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”

  • Whoever said that was a idiot and a liar.

The fact of the matter is that there is great power in speech.

Proverbs 18:21  -  Death and life are in the power of the tongue, And those who love it will eat its fruit.

Dateline some time ago had a show that caught my attention.  It was the number of teenage suicides based on teasing from others.  It was staggering.  Folks would choose to commit suicide on the basis of how others treated them. 

  • If we think about this issue of depression, many times despair and loss of hope comes from the mouths of others. 
  • Sometimes when children grow up in a home full of discipline but short on praise the children struggle to believe that they can ever please their parents --- which sadly is sometimes projected onto their view of God.
  • The desire for acceptance can be a powerful desire on the immature.  It can lead to drinking, sex, success, etc…..

Life and death are in the power of the tongue.

  • You have the ability to encourage, to strengthen, and to help others with your speech.
  • You have the ability to discourage and in some cases crush those with your speech.

I want to spend the next several weeks thinking about how the Scriptures practically apply so that we can develop relationships that allow us to probe spiritual issues and help others rather than to tear others apart and help them be godless.

    Several assumptions that I am coming to the table with:

Assumption #1:  Communication occurs at multiple levels, but we will focus on speech

I realize that some folks say that something like 50% of all communication is non-verbal.  There is no reason to engage in a formal debate as to how much communication is non-verbal.  However, I the bulk of our time will be spent on the verbal side simply because understanding the non-verbal is a bit subjective.

  • Give a personal example of how non-verbal and verbal communication didn’t necessarily match.  Many times this happens when we are tired.  In trying to stay awake and listen, it appears the opposite is true.  It is also possible that this occurs when we are trying to multi-task.  None of those task have our primary focus.

We won’t ignore it but I am not going to emphasize it. 

Assumption #2:  Communication involves more than just behavior, but also includes the heart

I will spend more time on this later, but I want us thinking that communication begins in the heart.  There is a lot to that, but for now let’s consider the fact that the heart is in play.

Assumption #3:  Communication through language is unique to human beings in order to relate to both God and others.

I fully believe that animals communicate.  In some cases they communicate some complex ideas (bee dance).  But animals do not have language.  A few animals have learned some phrases here and there and have been able to reproduce them in appropriate situations, but they are not able to compose and handle the flexibility and complexity of human language.

God built us to communicate with him.  He built us to relate to him.

Read James 3:1-12

I want us to consider today the importance of biblical communication.    Please turn to James 3.  I would like to make several points about the James 3 text and then I want to get into groups and have us reflect a bit on this subject.

Warning:  Be careful not be a teacher [you might be an idiot but it is only when you open your mouth that you prove it]

That is all well and good until we all face the fact at some point we are allteachers.  

Truth 1:  Our speech is not easy to control so we have to work at it

This point is made in several places in this passage.  The first is in 3:2.

  • Those who do not stumble have gained control over their whole bodies.

This general statement is made much more specific in vv. 7-8.

  • The comparison of course is with the rest of creation and how man has been able to tame the animals (some better than others of course)
  • But how no man can tame the tongue.

A description like (1) restless evil and (2) full of deadly poison is not exactly positive.

It is amazing how many times, even in the course of a week, where we say something and it just does not come out right.  Even if you did not mean any harm by it, the statement can easily be perceived as offensive.

  • I can think of several different occasions where I wish I had used different words.  I was not exactly sinful but my words were not as edifying as they could have been.

Here is an Illustration from Pastor Green

Shortly after I got out of college I had the opportunity to be the assistant coach of a high school soccer team.  One day the head coach could not make the game so I was the top dog.  The game was pretty good except for one element.  Their team was a lot bigger and stronger and they were roughing up our team pretty good.  I lost it --- some days you just lose it.

Add your own illustration that makes the point about a time when you didn’t use your speech the way you wanted.  I think the coaching illustration is good.  We all have seen coaches that have “lost it”.  Whether it is the way they have communicated to their players, the officials, or even the other team. 

Ephesians 4:29 is an important verse to remember at these times

29Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.

The point we are reminded of in James is the power of the tongue.  So we must really work to communicate biblically.

Truth 2:  Our speech has great power

In vv. 3-6 we have a whole series of short illustrations

  • Horses
  • Boats
  • The size of the rudder on our rowing sculls.
  • Fire
  • California fires

Each illustration is meant to demonstrate the significance or the power of the tongue.  Our words have the ability to do tremendous help and they have the ability to do tremendous harm.

 Another Rob Green illustration: 

Before I knew Stephanie I had met a girl my sophomore year of college.  I really liked her and I wanted her to like me as well.  I had my part down but she was struggling to fulfill hers.  So I would be around her when I could and I really tried hard to get her in line with my thinking about a great many things (relationship with me was just one of them ---- I found her Christianity a bit problematic --- the movies she would watch, the music she would listen to, the things she would do on the weekends).  So apparently I decided that I would take charge.  I would be her holy spirit, I would be her father telling her to like the right kind of guy (me, of course), and I would her “friend.”  Needless to say, things did not work out so well.  She told me one day “I hope I never see you again.”

  • I was a nice guy for the most part
  • I had a lot of things that girls might be interested in (I wasn’t a total nerd, I did not beat them, well that’s about what I had to offer)
  • But I destroyed that girl with my speech

Think about a time when your words destroyed someone.  It wasn’t your intent.  Like Rob’s illustration, he was trying to help, but the result was not what he imagined, because of the words he used.  

I can think of some friendships that I have handled in a similar fashion.  In the early part of the friendship, I thought it was my Christian duty to point out their errors, faults, and sins.  I was not very discerning regarding whether the behavior was actually sinful or was that their action did not fit my perception of what a Christian did.  I took it upon myself to judge and then also help them see the errors of their ways.

I could tell you other times when my words were much better and resulted in a meaningful ministry opportunity.  In other words, when my words were good they were good and when they were bad they were bad.

Truth 3:  God wants us to use our speech for godly purposes rather than for hypocritical purposes.

In vv. 9-12 we see God’s ultimate goal for our tongues.  He wants us to praise the Lord – to extend our voices in honest praise to him and to use our speech to encourage and help each other.


The way we use our tongues

  • With each other will determine the character of this class
  • With our spouses will determine the character of our marriage
  • With our parents will determine the relationship we have (good or bad) with  our parents and in-laws
  • With our co-workers and bosses will determine the kind of work place we have
  • Will impact the kind of relationship we have with the Lord.  The more that Jesus is #1 in your speech the more of the other pieces will be sorted out as well.

Read Prov. 4:23 / Matt. 12:34-37/ Luke 6:45

What do these verses add to our discussion on communication?

Dr. Rob Green


Pastor of Counseling and Seminary Ministries - Faith Church

Pastor of Counseling and Seminary Ministries - Faith Biblical Counseling Ministries

MABC Department Chair, Instructor - Faith Bible Seminary


B.S. - Engineering Physics, Ohio State University
M.Div. - Baptist Bible Seminary
Ph.D. - New Testament, Baptist Bible Seminary

Dr. Rob Green joined the Faith Church staff in August, 2005. Rob’s responsibilities include oversight of the Faith Biblical Counseling Ministry and teaching New Testament at Faith Bible Seminary. He serves on the Council Board of the Biblical Counseling Coalition and as a fellow for the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors. Pastor Green has authored, co-authored, and contributed to 9 books/booklets. Rob and his wife Stephanie have three children.

Read Rob Green's Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Green to Faith Church.