Summary: First sermon in a series of the use and abuse of the tongue.

Communicating with words is one of the distinguishing marks of human existence. It makes possible the clearest level of understanding, the con¬serving and transmission of knowledge from the past, and the sharing of information from one intelligent being to another. Like so many aspects of human life, however, communication is a gift from God that can be abused. Whether our tongue is used for cursing others or cussin’ others, we must guard against such abuse.

In this passage, James tells us about the use and abuse of the tongue.

De¬pending on how it is used, the tongue ...

1. Can give special direction - vs. 1-4

There was a tendency, it seems, for those in the church of James’ day, to want to be in positions of authority, without fully considering the impli¬cations involved. James points out, however, that with the privilege of teaching comes responsibility and accountability.

A. One must be sure his teaching is correct, lest he be guilty of heresy - v. 1

B. One must make sure his teaching is consistent, lest he be guilty of hypocrisy - v. 2

But if his words are correct and consistent, they have the power to provide others with special direction.

Even as a bit can change the direction a horse runs and a rudder can change tfep direction a ship sails, our words can change the direction of one’s life. But if our tongue is to give that special direction to others, our words must Ife correctly reflect the Word of God and our lives must con¬sistently reflect a commitment to the glory of God.

"Forge your tongue on the anvil of truth and what flies up, though it be but a spark, will have light."

The fact is that though you may not occupy a formal teaching position, every Christian must understand that they occupy informal teaching posi¬tions. Each of us is in a position to influence someone, whether it be our spouse, our kids, our friends, our co-workers, or even strangers.

Josiah Wedgwood, English maker of the famous Wedgwood pottery, was showing a nobleman through his factory one day. One of Wedgwood’s employees, a young boy, was ac¬companying them. The nobleman was profane and vulgar. At first, the boy was shocked by his irreverence; then he became fascinated by the man’s coarse jokes and laughed at them.

Wedgwood was deeply distressed. At the conclusion of the tour, he showed the nobleman a vase of unique design. The man was charmed by its exquisite shape and rare beauty. As he reached for it, Mr. Wedgwood purposely let it fall to the floor. The nobleman uttered an angry oath and said, "I wanted that vase for my collection, and you have ruined it by your carelessness!" Wedgwood answered, "Sir, there are other ruined things more precious than a vase which can never be restored. You can never give back to that young man, who just left us, the reverence for sacred things which his parents have tried to teach him for years. You have un¬done their labor in less than half an hour!"

Yes, depending on how it is used, our tongue can give special direction or it ...

2. Can bring serious destruction - vs. 5-8

If one ’s words are not correctly aligned with the Word of God or consis¬tent with a life committed to the glory of God, then rather than providing special direction to the lives of others, they will bring serious destruction.

A. James likens inappropriate use of the tongue to a wild fire.

David explains how our emotions often boil over into words:

"My heart grew hot within me, and as I meditated, the fire burned; then I spoke with my tongue." - Psalm 39:3 (NIV)

Now, it is important for us to understand that though God made us emo¬tional creatures, our emotions are not to rule our lives. As believers, the Holy Spirit is to rule our lives. When He does, our emotions are kept in check and will serve us well. However, when our emotions are allowed to rule our lives, then we find that they often will spill over and be ex¬pressed to others in words that are not appropriate.

Instead, we should do as David did in this Psalm, we should express those emotions To God in prayer. In doing so, He will then enable us to get over the hurt, anger, frustration, etc. and show us how to express those emotions in a way that will honor Him and benefit others. When we fail to go to God with our feelings, however, we will find they will overflow in words to others that are destructive. This is what James de¬scribes here.

1) The destruction it brings can start small - v. 5

To uncover the processes that destroy unions, marital re¬searchers studied couples over the course of years, and even decades, and retraced the steps of those who have split up back to their wedding day. What they found is unsettling. None of the factors one would guess might predict a couple’s durability actually does: how in love newlyweds say they are; how much affection they exchange; how much they fight or what they fight about. In fact, couples who endure and those who don’t look similar in the early days. Yet when psy¬chologists Cliff Notarius of Catholic University and Howard Markman of the University of Denver studied newlyweds over the first decade of marriage, they found a very subtle but telling difference at the beginning of the relationships.

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