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Walk the Walk - Taming the Tongue

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Taming the Tongue

Intro
James 3:1–10 ESV
Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.
James 3:1-12
James 3:1–12 ESV
Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.
Pray
James 3:1–11 ESV
Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water?
Luke 6:45 ESV
The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.
One of the most prevalent axioms of our faith doesn’t come directly from this text today, but our text does, at least for me, bring it to mind.
And that is this text. Out of the abundance of our hearts our mouth speaks.
It’s true too. You don’t need the Bible, you don’t even need faith to tell you its true. You just need to live for a littel bit, and you will know that this truth is absolute.
I mean, you can fake almost anything for a while, but eventually, your words, either in private or public, will expose what was in your heart the whole time.
You see, words are the result of our thoughts. That is what Jesus is getting at. But they are also the guide for other thoughts. When James says that our tongues, or our words, are like the rudder on a boat, such a small part of a large vessel, but the very thing that guides it, we need to pay attention! We need to pay attention, because our tongues, our words, guide our lives, whether we acknowledge that or not.
One of the most prevalant axioms of our faith doesn’t come from this text today, but this text does, at least for me, bring it to mind.
Input becomes Output
What do I mean by that? Well, basically, whatever we put in to ourselves, will eventually be the very things that come out. So if you think good thoughts and read good words, then you will say and do good things. But James takes a view that serves as complimentary to Jesus’ words here. He is looking at it from a human point of view, and trying to show us the real challenge that we face!
You see, when most people hear that out of the abundance of our hearts our mouths speaks, we naturally respond, almost universally, in one way.
We stop talking.
We do! Listen this is something we have heard our whole lives! If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all! If there is nothing good in you just clam up!
That adage comes from this idea! If bad words come from someone with a bad heart, then the best way to show the world you have a good heart is to have good words! So if you have bad words, it is best that you don’t say them!
So whatever we put in to our lives, will eventually come out, Jesus says. If we are good, then good will come out. If bad, bad. By the way, now is a good time to mention that if you think you are good, that Jesus Himself asked why the rich young ruler called him good.
No, we are human, and therefore, we tend to settle towards the “not so good” side of the spectrum by and large.
Now I’m not saying that we are bad, rather, that we tend to think bad thoughts, especially about other people, right?
And not only bad thoughts, but just wrong thoughts. Humans tend to want to have an established opinion immediately after finding out about whatever situation they might be in…or whatever situation others might be in.
Have you heard about...
Y’all, know what I’m talking about. And listen, I don’t mean to go to meddling, but this is a real problem for Christians, and it effects everyone!
Have you heard about Juanita? It’s a shame, I know. Oh but did you hear about Arlo? Oh I can’t believe it!
That’s us right? We gossip. We talk about other people. We take what little we know and project it out into their entire lives! But we don’t do it in public, because we don’t want people to think we are bad. So we convince ourselves that if we do it in private, its okay. At least there, no one will know that we don’t like that fella, or don’t approve of this or that. There in the secret meetings between friends we can expose all of those things we disagree with, but would never want the world to know about.
James 3:6 ESV
And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell.
That output - words from an otherwise kind and loving soul offered to someone in private - it may seem innocent. It may seem harmless. But it can and will set your world, and maybe this whole world, on fire.
It can set things on fire, because our words, the output of our hearts, can become the input for our hearts, and the hearts of others as well.
So not only does input become output, but our output becomes our input.
Output becomes Input
It doesn’t take much to prove this point either. If in life, you find yourself in a string of bad luck, and you start saying things like, “Nothing ever goes my way,” you will find that everything starts falling apart!
But it really isn’t falling apart any more than it ever was before, you just happen to notice it since you are expecting it to happen!
So the output becomes the input, and then becomes a self fulfilling prophecy!
And our words said to each other, even those said in private are no different!
If all our output is bitterness, or anger, or judgement, or gossip, or back room deals, or whatever made up reality we push ourselves to believe, then our thoughts will tend toward those same ends! And the more we guide our thoughts with our tongues the more we will become those very things!
We will become bitter and angry. Nothing anyone does will ever be good enough. Or the things they do will always be questioned by us. We find evil in everything. And to be honest, we become the very source of that evil instead of its cure.
Basically, if we allow our tongues to follow the nature of the human heart, we will find that we will begin to fuel our lives on the misery and pain of others. We will look to failure. We will anticipate ill motives. We will seek to appease our own needs before ever even thinking of doing something for anyone else regardless of recompence.
We turn our hearts away from God and towards ourselves.
And when that happens, church, no matter how much light and love we think we are putting in our souls - whether through preaching, reading our bibles, praying; whatever - no matter how much of that you do, you can’t cram enough of it in there to change.
I mean, there isn’t even room!
No we have to let go of our pathological need for control and hand that rudder to God! We have to hold our tongue! We have place the bit in our own mouths and trust God to guide our words and ultimately our thoughts so that our hearts can be filled by Him alone! And when our hearts are filled with Him, we won’t even want to think the worst of people, because God Himself doesn’t!
Listen, if God thought the worst of us, He would have never sent His Son! Why on earth would He send such a precious gift to people you can’t stand or don’t respect? No God sent us that gift because He thinks the best of us! And when we allow Him to guide our thoughts AND our words, we will begin to think the best of this world, its people, and even our own situations too!
Memorialday
In a way, that is what this national holiday is all about.
Today we remember those who died for us. In our place. Those who, through no fault of their own, and through no intent of their own, were thrown into the fire of war. A world of unrighteousness. Those who could have easily looked for the worst in the situation and given up, but who chose to instead allow God to guide them through the fire. That fire, started by the tongues of men, burns with no care for class or position, or good and evil. No, what war teaches us is that once that fire is lit, it can only be put out with blood, and the fire doesn’t care if that blood is innocent, good, or evil. That is, in fact, the entire problem with war.
a. I say that, because the holiday we celebrate this weekend, Memorial Day, is a day that demands honesty.
…we commemorate the lives offered in sacrifice to this nation, and this world; and because of that sacrifice, the sacrifice of those who walked in our place, we owe them at least a little honesty.
[memorial day stats]
b. elaborate[this should all setup main point tangentally]
II. Some point here [our lives are guided by our thoughts and our words? thoughts more than words? Talk about boasting and trash talk? Small things (words, thoughts, actions) cause big change (rudder and ship metaphor)]
III. Some other point [for this week, maybe something about those who died fighting for us. something like…Today we remember those who died for us. In our place. Those who, through no fault of their own, and through no intent of their own, were thrown into the fire of war. A world of unrighteousness. That fire, started by the tongues of men, burns with no care for class or position, or good and evil. No, what war teaches us is that once that fire is lit, it can only be put out with blood, and the fire doesn’t care if that blood is innocent, good, or evil. That is, in fact, the entire problem with war.
And make no mistake. Wars begin with words. Our words stain us. Our thoughts change us. And if left unguarded, eventually, that stain becomes what we are and it is then church, that we have the potential to light a fire that we ourselves could never put out.
It is those brave souls we celebrate today who put it out. Those chosen few who hold honor and valor over political position and personal gain. Those few who walk into the great fires of this world, unafraid of being singed! Those special few whose hearts were guarded by God from the poison of this world, and whose hope carried them far beyond where bravery is able to bring us!
And make no mistake. Words alone didn’t get them their.
oldwarmovie
If you turn on the TV today or tomorrow, you will no doubt get your fill of great war movies. Some of them, like Patton, have moments when poignant words are offered. Motivational speeches that move men towards their destiny.
And those movies are great. Those ideas are neat. But they aren’t the truth.
IV. Story
Sure we might remember Roosevelt’s speech following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the day that lives in infamy. Or Wilson’s cry for the world to “be made safe for democracy.” Churchill calls out to us that “this is our finest hour,” while Patton tells us that if we need him, “you can always find [him] in the lead tank.”
And
Don’t get me wrong, those words are helpful, and can help to steer us for a moment, but they do you little good once you shoulder your weapon.
No, for those who have had the displeasure of battle, no speech is needed to spur you on toward your calling. It is already inside you. And from your heart - from your desire to bring down evil, or protect freedom - it is from those places your actions are born.
It is in the silence. Those prayerful moments when we wonder if we will make it out. Those solitary seconds spent holding back fear. Those fleeting chances to take hold of our destiny no matter what words we might want to say or here! Those moments when no one would blame anyone for cowardice and inaction, those are the moments when our hearts are exposed and our actions are guided by all that we have within us!
Savingprivateryanopening
The one movie that really gets that is Saving Private Ryan. The movie opens on dog green sector of Omaha beach. You see the beach, and then the Higgins boats. And then you see this shaking hand struggling to open a canteen. As the camera pans out, you see men getting sick, some men petrified and staring blankly in front of them.
There are no speeches. No yelling. Just brave men quietly steadying themselves for a seemingly impossible task.
And for 20 minutes outside of screams and barked orders, there are few words.
I remember when Kate and I saw the film I was broken. I couldn’t really watch it. It was like I was in shock while I was looking at it. And honestly, it is probably the best, and worst, 20 minutes of any movie ever made.
And it wasn’t made by the words. It was made by the actions. Not the actions of those actors, but of all the men who carried honor and duty in their heart. Men who were willing to lay down their lives, their preferences, their opinions, and take up the cause of freedom. Men who were willing to put out the fires caused by the tongues of those who have nothing to lose.
James 3:9 ESV
With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God.
James 3:9
That is the price of our words church. That is the fire we set when our output doesn’t match the input.
We set that fire when we speak ill of some while claiming the mantle of Christ. When we let our tongues rule our hearts we let loose all kinds of evil, not just into the world, but into our own hearts as well! How powerful the human tongue is! How much destruction it can cause! Listen, we have lost 1.3 million sons and daughters in war. Brave heroes who crossed the breach to bring freedom to the world! But understand that none of them, not a single one, ever started the wars they fought in!
No those wars were started by someone else. And if we trace it back all the way to the source, they were started by the tongue!
WHETHER BY THE TONGUES OF EVIL PEOPLE WHO CLOISTERED THEMSELVES TO HEAR ONLY THE SAME EVIL WORDS, OR BY THE TONGUES THAT WERE HELD SILENT WHEN INIQUITY WAS FIRST WROUGHT! OUR TONGUES, WHICH PRAISE AND BLESS GOD, ARE THE VERY INSTRUMENT THAT HAVE BROUGHT THE DEMISE OF THESE BRAVE SOULS! AND THAT SHOULD STRIKE US ALL TO THE CORE! I AM NOT TALKING ABOUT SOME COSMIC “WE” OUT IN THE UNIVERSE, CHURCH! I AM TALKING ABOUT US! EVERY LITTLE MOMENT WHEN WE ALLOW OUR TONGUES TO BREED EVIL WE CONTRIBUTE TO THE STRIFE OF THIS WORLD! EVERY LITTLE MOMENT WHEN WE HOLD OUR TONGUES AND THEREBY HOLD OUR ACTIONS WHEN WE SEE SUFFERING OR INJUSTICE WE FOSTER THE GROWTH OF APATHY AND EVIL! EVERY LITTLE MOMENT WE SPEND ALLOWING OUR TONGUES TO RULE OUR BODIES WE INCH FURTHER AWAY FROM THE IDEAL THAT CHRIST HAS FOR US ALL, AND FOR THIS WORLD!
AND HEAR THIS CLEARLY, CHURCH, THAT DOESN’T BEGIN WITH “THEM” OUT THERE, THAT BEGINS WITH YOU AND ME RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW!
Two Percent
It begins with our output matching our input, and our input matching our output.
VI. Wrapup
You know of all the things we say as a church. Of all the times we tell someone they are sinning, or talk trash about other believers, or as someone have they heard about so and so. If we would just add all those up for a second, and ask ourselves honestly - “how many people have you shown Christ to?” How many have you invited to church? How many have you seen on the side of the road and stopped to help? How many kind words, which lead to kind actions are there to be had? We have to ask ourselves that, church, not to justify our faith, but to honestly assess if our output matches God’s input!
Ask yourself honestly. Because there is the answer right there.
Matthew 28:18 ESV
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
Two percent. That is how many people ever share their faith with another person. It is also roughly how many people invite others to be a part of their church family. Just two percent. That means that 98% of us hold our tongues about faith.
I wonder, do 98% of us hold our tongues about our opinions of others too? Since we are unwilling to talk about God, or to show other’s God, do 98% just never speak ill of anyone or anyting?
Sadly, we all know the answer. No we are all too willing to talk about the struggles of others, or the gossip of the day. And when we do that, when we spend our time speaking ill of others while in the same breath praising God, we ignore the call of God in all of our lives.
Matthew 28:19 ESV
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
When I heard about another bombing, and saw the reaction of the world, I was struck by the feeling of numbness I had. It isn't that I didn't hurt for those families, I truly do. I can't even imagine their loss. It is just that I have grown sort of 'un'comfortably numb by the situation in which we find ourselves.
It is time for us to be serious about our faith. To go all in.
Seemingly daily, we experience a tragedy, or at the very least, a situation that requires our immediate attention - at least that is what we are fed by those who profit from our attention. Accordingly, the things we are told must continually escalate in severity in order to have the same effect in our lives and habits.
If we are going to walk the walk with Christ, we can’t praise Him and then turn and look to one of His most beloved creations, whomever they might be, and speak ill of them. You just can’t. We must let go of control of our lives and hold our tongue when we think evil, but let our tongue loose when we see evil. But we must do so in love, just as Jesus did.
Luke 6:32–36 ESV
“If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.
You won’t always get it right, I won’t always get it right. But we need to try.
You won’t always get it right, I won’t always get it right. But we need to try. We need to tame our tongue and tame our souls to just be. Just breathe. Just experience whatever God has given us in this moment. Stand up for God. Stand up for hope. Stand up for peace. Stand up for love. Stand up for truth.
Stand up for God. Stand up for hope. Stand up for peace. Stand up for love. Stand up for truth.
That all starts here today. And it starts when we tame our tongue, and with the words we say.
Because of that, every moment begins to feel like a reaction to some external "thing." We cease to be what we are, and begin to be a reaction to what has been fed to us by this world. We lose what makes us useful and necessary, and instead, become a cog in the machine of society.
Invitation
When we do that, we lose our leverage for change.
But we are so much better than that. We have such a higher calling! We weren't made to choose sides or become factioned off against one another in the largest playground battle in all of history! We aren't meant to superficially show our disdain for evil while we, in the same moment, harbor evil thoughts for anyone who may not think or look like us!
We are meant to change this world for the good. To throw off the obvious attempts of this world to subjugate us to one particular line of thought, or way of thinking and to instead take on the sorrow and pain we find, bravely helping others to know they aren't alone in the darkness of this life.
And then, having knelt to join our brothers and sisters, we can rise together a people no longer factioned by religion, race, politics, or class. We can look each other in the eye and say, "I may not agree, I may not even understand, but I respect."
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