Faithlife Sermons

Have You Tamed Your Tongue?

Highlights in James  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  20:28
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Have you ever said something you wished you hadn’t? There’s an old saying - Always remember to put brain into gear before engaging mouth. I know I’ve said things that I’ve regretted, either because my words were mistaken, misunderstood, or hurtful. It’s not easy to always say the right thing. James addresses this issue in our passage for today.
James 3:3–12 NIV84
When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. 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. All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.
James has already spoken of how to live our lives as disciples of Jesus Christ. Here he deals with how we should speak. Words are important. If we can control our words, we can control the other areas of our lives.
Matthew 12:36–37 NIV84
But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”

The power of the tongue

Three illustrations – a bridle, a rudder, a small spark,
More than a thousand firefighters battled a wildfire for two weeks in the Black Hills of South Dakota. The fire started August 24, 2000, and was not contained until September 8. Meanwhile, more than eighty thousand acres of valuable timber burned.
Janice Stevenson, forty-six, was arrested on suspicion of starting the fire. She pled guilty to second-degree arson, was sentenced to twenty-five years in the South Dakota State Penitentiary, and ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $42,204,155.48.
Federal investigators who filed charges against Stevenson say she admits stopping by a road on August 24, lighting a cigarette, and tossing the still-burning match on the ground. “Rather than putting out the fire,” an affidavit said, “she looked at it and decided to leave the area.”
Like starting a forest fire, producing a “wildfire” with our tongues requires little effort. Rumors, half-truths, grumblings, sarcastic remarks, hurtful things said in the heat of anger—all of these smoldering matches have the potential for burning down acres of office morale, family peace, and church unity.
Something very small can effect or produce something really great.
Proverbs 26:18–20 NIV84
Like a madman shooting firebrands or deadly arrows is a man who deceives his neighbor and says, “I was only joking!” Without wood a fire goes out; without gossip a quarrel dies down.

The problem with the tongue

Boasts of great things
Set on fire by Hell
Cannot be tamed
Praises God but curses men - displays hatred toward the brother
Lies, gossip, flattery, criticism
James 1:26 NIV84
If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.
The problem isn’t just with the tongue, however. What comes out of our mouths reveals what is in our heart.

The poison of the tongue

World of evil
Corrupts the whole person
It has not been unknown for someone to speak with piety on Sunday and to curse a squad of workmen on Monday. It has not been unknown to utter the most pious sentiments one day and to repeat the most questionable stories the next. It has not been unknown for someone to speak with sweet graciousness at a religious meeting and then to go outside to murder someone’s reputation with a malicious tongue.
Proverbs 12:18 NIV84
Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.

The purity of the tongue

James wants our words to be like fresh water, to produce good fruit.

The prescription for the tongue

God’s gift of a new heart
God’s gift of cleansed lips
Isaiah 6:5–7 NIV84
“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.” Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”
God’s gift of self-control
As the bit determines the direction of the horse and the rudder the ship, so the tongue can determine the destiny of the individual. God helps us control what we say.
Choose to speak only what is helpful
Ephesians 4:29 NIV84
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.
Psalm 19:14 NIV84
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.
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