Watch Your Tongue!
Watch Your Tongue!
Watch Your Tongue!
Good morning children of the Most High God! We are going to continue our journey in the book of James this morning. We are covering the first half of chapter three this morning. What James covers in a few verses is undoubtedly something that we all struggle with at times. Let’s turn to the word of God this morning.
1 Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.
Now that is kind of scary, teachers are judged more strictly! When I was preparing this teaching, I wanted to leave this verse out. I knew some of you would be looking at me and thinking “Oh, your in trouble Bob!” Listen, if I ever say something that does not sound right or you question, please come talk to me. I need to know, and the last thing I want to do is misdirect or in anyway not present the risen Christ. Remember Christ said “it is better that a millstone be put on their neck and cast into the sea rather than mislead one of these, my children.”
James is telling us that we must carefully consider assuming a role of leadership, being a pastor, or a teacher of the word of God. God does not discourage people from assuming the position of a teacher, James is pointing out that there is a certain dignity in the position of teacher. Biblically, it is ranked second to Apostle and Prophet. Being a teacher of the Word requires a tremendous amount of study and an understanding of the dangers and responsibilities of the office.
Teachers within the church have an inordinately great opportunity to influence others within the congregation. That influence is meant to guide people to the cross and to help people apply scripture to their faith and life. Anything else is deception. As James points out, we see teachers mishandling the Word of God and not teaching the truth of God’s Word. Apostasy is rampant in today's church.
James is not teaching that there is a double standard here. Teachers are not required to live stricter lives than other believers. We are all called to live obedient Christian lives. Granted, “none are perfect, no, not one”. But none of us are to make excuses to stop reaching toward perfection. Look what James says next.
2 We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check.
In this verse, James takes his focus off of the individual teacher and includes the entire Christian community. Notice that James humbles himself and includes himself in this observation. The Greek word for “we all” is hapas, and it means all, whole, every-one. We all fall short at times. James the Just, the leader of the church at Jerusalem, brother of Jesus, had slip-ups too!
What is interesting is that James says “ stumble in many way” and then puts what we say at the apex of all sin, at the top. Our words are the one common sin among all believers. We can sin through our words, our texts, social media, and even body language. Picture a mountain of sin with our words being at the very top.
Now, when James is talking about the “perfect” person, he is not saying a sinless person. The Greek word for perfect is teleos and it means perfected, but the biblical sense James uses is to describe Christian maturity. More often than not, you can see a difference in the lives of believers who tame their tongues and those who do not.
James is saying that the person who controls the tongue, has allowed God to be the center of their thoughts, to fill their hearts, and is far less likely to say something hurtful or to fall into other sins. The more we control our tongue, the more we honor God and Glorify Christ.
James gives us two great illustration of controlling the body through control of the tongue.
3 We can make a large horse go wherever we want by means of a small bit in its mouth. 4 And a small rudder makes a huge ship turn wherever the pilot chooses to go, even though the winds are strong.
The bit in the horses mouth, which is small compared to the size of the horse, allows the rider, who is also smaller than the horse, control over the entire animal. The bit allows the rider to control the direction of the horse. When believers allow His Word to lead us, and Holy Spirit to direct our thoughts and words, He will guide our actions, he will help us tame our tongues and avoid falling into sin.
Similarly, the small rudder of a ship controls the direction of the entire vessel. What happens if the rudder of a ship is damaged or broken? The ship goes in whichever direction the wind blows. In a storm, a ship without a good rudder would crash. We have to pilot these vessels using the perfect knowledge and wisdom of Christ, and apply the fruit of the Spirit. Words and actions that honor God. There is incredible power in our words. Solomon, the author of Proverbs 18:21 tells us that:
21 The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.
The tongue has the power of life and death! The words you say influence those around you and your own path. Again, we choose. Do we use our words to speak life, hope, and truth into our lives and other’s lives? Are we reflecting Christ in our words, texts, our social media posts, and body language? Or do we use our words to destroy, tear down, alienate others, gossip, and shun?
We are either going to eat our words as rotten fruit or we are going to produce fruit of the spirit to achieve good results, that glorify God. That is the difference between speaking life over others and ourselves or speaking death over ourselves and others.
Imagine the difference in our lives and the lives of others if our thoughts and words were “yes” to what is true, what is good, what is right, and what is admirable and “no” to what is evil, wrong, hateful, hurtful, and un-godly.
James goes on to say:
5 Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles!
I do want to make a point here before we continue. As a way of deciding which scriptures are relevant to themselves, some people read this chapter and think it is all about cursing or using curse words. It is not. I do not have to curse at someone to make them feel bad or to start trouble.
Running over others in conversation and not practicing intentional listening shows that we think what we have to say is more important than what they are saying. This behavior says to the other person “I am more important than you.” You might as well just say “You do not matter.”
When we boast about ourselves to others, we can make the listener feel less important, inferior, or less of a person. We end up minimizing their feelings and achievements. If we are making statements that stress:
• our ability
• our talents
• our self-sufficiency
• our triumphs
• our possessions
• our position
• our spirituality
• our accomplishments
We are probably attempting to make ourselves feel superior to somebody else. I can not tell you how many times I have had discussions with people who have to one-up whatever I say. Ever been there? They make the conversation about themselves. It is usually because they have a superiority complex. I recognize that they probably feel inferior and need some help seeing who they truly are in the eyes of God.
The point is that our tongue, with a few words can start a devastating fire that spreads out of control and can cause great damage to others mentally, physically, and spiritually. Scripture tells us:
6 The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.
This is a tough verse theologically. “The tongue is also a fire” means that the potential exists to use use our words in a destructive manner, much like was previously stated. The “world of evil among the parts of the body” is what can be confusing. We find the answer in “world of evil.” James connects these words in a way that signify the forces of the world that oppose God.
How many terrible things have we seen as a result of ill chosen or damaging words; relationships destroyed, marriages wrecked, churches divided, fights, wars, suicides, and even murder.
It is going to get bumpy here for a minute. When a person is using their mouth to dominate others, tear someone down, hurt someone, or belittle someone, that person is not being guided by Holy Spirit. That is the opposite of being Christ-like. It does not matter if they are a pastor, priest, minister, or laity. Name the sin, and words are involved, either through thoughts of the mind, text, social media, or verbally through the tongue. And what is the source of that fiery tongue? Hell itself.
If I am not speaking with the heart of Christ, under the influence of Jesus, what influence am I under? The world, which stands opposed to God. Who is the prince of the power of the air? The evil one, the enemy. So, who’s influence am I under? Scary question, isn’t it.
The idea is not that our tongue is only an instrument of discord and strife. By human nature, the tongue has the potential to be a divisive instrument of evil. But, by grace, the grace that is to permeate the heart and mind of every believer, the power of Christ, the tongue can become an instrument of positive blessing. God can mold an abusive tongue into a force for good and righteousness. God can and will mold those who are willing. I know he has done it in this very congregation! Can anybody here testify! Glory be to God! Thank you Jesus! Our final verse comes from the book of Colossians in which the Apostle Paul says:
6 Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.
To be effective in our walk with and for Jesus Christ, our walk must be accompanied with Christ like talk. The believer’s talk is to be gracious, not gruff, caring, not coarse.
In the totality of the Gospels, Jesus Christ was asked 183 questions by different people. Our Savior, our Messiah, our King, Jesus Christ asked 307 questions. There is a reason why Christ asks us twice as many questions. He wants us to search our hearts, he wants us to honestly reflect, and he wants us to make the effort to be more like him. To speak life.
I want to challenge each of us today. Reflect on some of the things you have said that may be hurtful or could be perceived as hurtful. Maybe the way you said something, a text you sent, a social media post, maybe even our body language. Any form of communication. Then ask yourself:
“What could I have done differently?”
“How did what I said make the other person feel?”
“Who else did it affect?”
“What can I do to make things right?”
Believers are called to a higher purpose. We all struggle with different things in our lives. One sign of a mature Christian is the one who humbles themselves and recognizes when they need to apologize or seek forgiveness, and then does it. If your words started a fire, and it is within your power, don't let it spread. Do not let your witness for Christ suffer because of pride or ego. The power of an apology and willingness to make things right speaks volumes about a persons maturity, walk with Christ and the power of Holy Spirit in their life.
The alter is always open in this church. If you need prayer this morning, we have amazing brothers and sisters who want to pray with and for you. You can come up, or simply raise your hand from where you sit. If you do not know Jesus Christ as your personal savior this morning, please let today be the day! Talk to Pastor Dakota, Pastor Paul, or me. We want to share with you the most amazing gift this world has ever known. God bless you this morning.