James 3:1-12 Taming the Tongue
Arguably, one of the most inconsistent members of the human anatomy, next to the mind which controls it, would be the tongue.
Have you ever given someone a piece of your mind?
Have you ever repeated something that you knew in your heart was just not right?
Today’s message is about the power of words and the effect they have on us and others.
“My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry”
“If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.”
From the beginning of his letter James was hinting as to the importance of controlling the tongue; in chapter 3 he cuts to the chase.
* He first informs us of THE POWER OF THE TONGUE!
At the beginning of chapter 3 he writes about the gravity of teaching the word of God.
It is of utmost importance because teaching carries with it tremendous influence.
Teachers must not compromise or dilute the truth.
We have the grave responsibility of telling others, not only of the good news but also of the bad; God’s judgment is just as important as His grace.
Yet even though teachers have a greater responsibility and will be judged accordingly we still miss the mark on occasion.
James reminds us that we all stumble in many ways. (2)
Yet if we are able to keep our tongue in check, then we have the discipline and ability to keep our whole body in check.
In other words, the way we control or don’t control our tongue is a good barometer of the discipline we have in other areas of life.
* James uses several metaphors to describe the POWER of the tongue!
The first illustration is that of a horse’s bit; although it is very small it has a lot of power.
Now, I am not a horseman by any stretch of the imagination but I do know that the bit is placed on top of the horse’s tongue.
That which controls his mouth controls his whole body.
Another analogy that James uses is that of a rudder of a ship.
The rudder of a ship is very small in comparison to the size of the massive vessel, yet it has the potential to control the direction of the entire ship!
However in both examples, the ultimate control lies in the hands of the rider.
The rider of the horse who can choose the direction and the gait of the beast and the pilot of the ship in charge of the rudder.
In other words, the direction our tongue takes us is a matter of the will.
* James then likens the tongue to a small spark that starts a great fire.
“Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.
The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.”
1. “It corrupts the whole person”
Luke 6:45 Jesus said,
“The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart.
For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.”
You can tell a lot about a person by the words that come out of his/her mouth.
Because words are a good indicator of what’s inside.
We can tell if a person is full of pride or humility; we can tell if a person is self-centered or selfless; we can tell by their words if they are jealous or happy when others are blessed; and we can even tell if they are full of bitterness or if their soul is at peace.
ALL THIS AND MORE CAN BE LEARNED SIMPLY BY THE WORDS THAT THEY SPEAK!!!
2. James tells us that not only does the tongue have the potential to corrupt the whole person, he also tells us that it “sets the whole course of his life on fire”
If there is enough flammable material and oxygen, it will burn indefinitely!
We have had massive fires in California and other parts of the nation that have destroyed countless lives and acres and in every case it started with just one spark!
It is similar with the tongue.
Prov 16:27 “A scoundrel plots evil, and his speech is like a scorching fire.”
“As charcoal to embers and as wood to fire, so is a quarrelsome man for kindling strife.”
3. In James’ analogy of the tongue, he writes that it “is itself set on fire by hell.”
So he tells how the tongue has the potential to corrupt individually; he explains the impact that it has on those around us; and he also reveals the source from which it comes.
A tongue that is full of evil comes only from hell.
John 8:44 Jesus told some of His listeners,
“You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desire.
He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”
NOT ONLY IS THE TONGUE POWERFUL, IT IS ALSO DANGEROUS!
Over time, man has been able to tame many animals.
Ill. Taking the kids to sea world. Killer whales to leap and splash, porpoises to almost walk on water with their tails, and giant walruses to clap on command.
Mankind has for centuries been taming animals, but according to James, no man can tame the tongue. He writes, “It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison”.
What kind of poison? You name it!
Lying, slander, backbiting, fits of rage, and gossip to name a few.
* For the remainder of today’s message, I would like to focus on gossip.
Because it seems innocent enough, yet it can cause irreparable damage.
But what does it actually mean to gossip.
I recently ran across a definition that seems very accurate to me. See what you think…
Ken Sande, in his book, The Peacemaker, describes it this way,
"To gossip means to betray a confidence or to discuss unfavorable personal facts about another person with someone who is not part of the problem or its solution."
Gossip can carry with it a variety of motives.
Here are a few of them derived from Ken Durham. (Speaking from the Heart)
The avengers believe they have a legitimate reason to spread gossip; to get revenge.
For some folks pay-backs are easy to exact and they can’t wait to do it.
Rom 12:19 “Vengeance is mine; I will repay, says the Lord.”
Some folks have a critical spirit. This spirit looks for the bad in others and constantly looks for something to complain about. This spirit stems from pride that says, “My way is always the best way” When this spirit enters a person, it urges them to look for the mistakes and shortcomings of others; and often leads to the spreading of hurtful information.
On one occasion the apostle Paul gave some advice as to why young widows should marry…
1 Tim 5:13 “Besides, they get into the habit of being idle and going about from house to house. And not only do they become idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying things they ought not to.”
The Greek word for ‘busybodies’ in this passage means “one who moves around’ indicating that some would go from house to house sticking their noses in other people’s business.
Any person who feels the need to make other people’s business theirs, will have no trouble repeating it.
Assumers assume something to be a fact with little, inaccurate, or no information at all!
They take a little bit of information, theorize and hypothesize, and draw erroneous conclusions.
It is almost as if something inside them is wishing that the hurtful information is true.
I think it is safe to say that assumers are wrong 100% of the time.
Some folks hear controversial information and can’t wait to tell it to someone else.
1 Pet 4:8 “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”
As opposed to spreading information that is potentially harmful it would be best to apply the honorable practice of “giving the benefit of the doubt”.
For the impatients, it’s more important to expose the wrong instead of helping the person overcome it.
Proverbs 20:19 “A gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid a man who talks too much.”
Trust is hard to come by. Sometimes it takes years to build trust; but a liar and a gossip can ruin that trust with just a few careless words.
Someone once said that a member 3inches long (the tongue) can destroy a man 6 feet tall.
Proverbs 18:8 “The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to a man's inmost parts.” Often times gossip seems innocent and unassuming.
It may sound pleasant and seem good to the pallet of the mind but it can be detrimental to a person’s reputation.
No matter how juicy a story may sound, we don’t have the right to repeat it, even if it is true!
3 John 14 When speaking of Diotrephes, John wrote, “So if I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, gossiping maliciously about us.”
In John’s absence, there was a man in the church who was gossiping maliciously about him.
Those who promote scandals usually have an agenda; and oftentimes it includes POWER!
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”
As children of God and ambassador’s of Christ our words should be full of grace and seasoned with salt.
In this way we will not only build others up according to their needs, we will also bring glory to God with the same tongue we are praising Him with today.