Brian G. Najapfour. The Gospel-Driven Tongue: Lessons from James on Godly Conversation. Grandville, MI: Reformed Fellowship Inc., 2017. Paperback. 72 pages.
While Psalms is the anatomy of all the parts of the soul, this book illustrates James as the spiritual anatomy of the human tongue. Brian Najapfour’s passion as a loving pastor reflects the general tone of his exhortations. His rich experience in both ministry and authorship is lucidly expressed in colorful illustrations and stories as well as precision of thought throughout the book.
The book sprouted out of concern for keeping godly and edifying conversations, particularly in today’s society of brevity in expressions, ambiguity of sense, and even profanity of speech. As the title suggests, the book’s size fits nicely to administer to people with such issues on their daily conversations. As a common twenty-first-century adage says, “People who talk a lot are less likely to read.” Hence, anyone who picks up this book would likely appreciate it because of its brevity and straightforwardness. The author’s candor also reflects the practical application of his composition—the tongue is meant for that which is building up one another in truth and love. The style of writing also reminds me of the Puritans—full of picturesque imagery, illustrations— very pastoral, loving and yet firm, bare and marinated in God’s Word.
The structure is simple and easy to follow. Najapfour gathers all textual references from James as well as other passages about the tongue and meticulously dissects every aspect of its sins. Each section plunges deeper into details, presenting a deductive approach. The chapters also weave along the individual’s accountability to guard his tongue and the necessary precautions to avoid pitfalls. Najapfour introduces an excellent lead by starting the whole subject matter with hearing. He confirms the initial problem with the tongue as always related with failure to listen. He emphasizes three guidelines, namely, the content, the intent, and the conduct of our listening that should affect the ways we speak. Moving to chapter 2, the general idea promotes our conversations as the litmus test of our hearts and serves as a signpost of the deeper aspect of our spirituality. This chapter sets the stage in demonstrating the natural inclination of the tongue which is then picked up by the next chapters. Chapter 3 introduces a practical rundown of the depravity of the tongue from which no one is exempted. Chapters 4 and 5 then dive into specifics with explicit and graphic contents of the nature of the tongue. The last chapter exposes the tongue’s abilities and instabilities. This chapter also highlights the gospel message and our complete inadequacy to change our tongue, which serves a suitable conclusion for the book.
The strength of the book is its vivid representation of what the tongue is capable of in both destruction and edification. It draws the readers to a realized awareness of sins of speech and offers a direct response by pointing out its consequences. This leads to a deeper emphasis on keeping close watch over daily discussions and other practical implications. Despite its forwardness, the book is undeniably family and church oriented. It helps readers to think of the implications within their family circles, children, and their spiritual brothers and sisters in the church. The stirring study questions after each section are another unique forte of the book. This stimulates self-reflection and time for spiritual digestion. The simplicity of words used also invites clarity and incorporates a wider audience including both children and adults alike.
The tongue is the most candid yet lethal and unstable part of the human body. It deserves adequate attention and precautionary measures to firmly guard it. Consequently, the book’s rare combination of perspicuity, complexity, brevity, and practicality to address this issue makes it a must have for any person in the church and particularly for people struggling in this area.
Mr. Theonikko Del Mundo is currently studying at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, Grand Rapids, MI.