Summary: The realities of the significance of your words
Part 3 – “Bite Your Tongue”
It’s hard to put toothpaste back into the tube isn’t it?
As I read through James chapter 3 over and over this last week looking and listening for where we were supposed to camp today, I really felt after several passes that God made it clear what we needed to talk about.
So let’s get to chapter 3 of James and walk down through this text.
Read James 3:1-12
Okay, so as we look into this idea of the tongue/speech/words/talk today there was one HUGE idea that jumped out at me.
Look at verse 2. James states the obvious (we’ve already covered it) that everybody stumbles. We all make mistakes. The Christian life isn’t about not falling down anymore, but it is about understanding that there is a reason to get back up. Then he goes on to say “If anyone does not stumble in word he is a perfect man able to bridle the whole body..” The bridle part will make sense in a minute, but what about this idea that if one does not stumble in word then….he is perfect?
You get the sense that your mouth, what you say (what comes out of it) is the real issue regarding your completeness in life. Colossians 1:28 teaches us that God’s goal for us individually is, through the Holy Spirit, to make us perfect or complete Jesus Christ. And we see in this passage that James says getting there (to that goal of completeness) has it seems EVERYTHING to do with your mouth…what you say. Because he says if you don’t stumble in word, then you are perfect.
Now that is both scary. Because the opposite of not getting it right with your mouth is not being all that God wants you to be. But it is also encouraging because it means that if you can somehow allow God to teach you how to get it right with your mouth, then you will be pretty close to getting where he wants you to be.
But how does this work? Why is it true that your perfection/completeness is directly correlated to your tongue/speech?
Look at Matthew 12:34b “For out of the depths of the heart, your mouth speaks. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things.”
Ohhh. That starts to clear things up a bit. James is saying that what you say and how you say it is really a heart issue. And since Jesus’ strategy for changing us is to do so from the inside out – it makes sense that the path to perfection starts in the heart and your mouth can only speak what is in it (your heart).
Okay, so that being true, let’s move on a bit.
James gives a few examples of how this is true. He paints pictures to describe how this works. v3 “Indeed, we put bits in horses mouths that they may obey us, and we turn their whole body. Look also at ships: although they are so large and driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires.”
And the tongue, he says, is just like that. It is a little dude that can really get you into a huge mess.
It is really amazing to think that a match (which is essentially a piece of wood) can burn down a forest of wood. Something so small can create such a wreck. Your tongue has the potential to defile your whole body, James says.
How is that? I mean it can hurt others clearly, which in turn might make things a bit difficult for you depending on who you’ve hurt….but how can it defile your whole body?
Well I am not sure, but this is what I think he is saying. He continues to say in verse 6 “[the tongue] sets on fire the course of nature (running with the fire analogy); and it is set on fire by hell.”
See if your what you say is not healthy we’ve already learned that this immediately implies that your heart is not healthy. And if your heart is not healthy then your entire body is going to suffer, right? This occurs both from the physical perspective but more importantly from the spiritual perspective which is what James is making reference to. I think that is why he so descriptively states that if your heart is spiritually diseased, then your mouth will express that and if your mouth isn’t expressing a heart driven by heaven, then it will prove a heart set on fire by….hell. And hell represents death or defilement of the whole body.