Summary: Fourth sermon in a series on the use and abuse of the tongue.
It should be the goal of every Christian to make sure that they avoid the tragedy of having a saved soul, but living a wasted life. This is the subject of our passage for today. James speaks to us about getting "real religion," that is, how to make sure we live out our faith in such a way that our life truly counts for something of eternal value. He tells us that one of the primary problems that must be overcome if we are going to live our lives as Christians as we should is the problem of a tongue out of control. James tells us that if our tongue is out of control, then our faith is of no benefit to us, to others, or to the cause of Christ.
The key verse in this passage is verse 27: "If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight reign on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless."
So as we look to this passage, we find that James first identifies . . .
1. The Problem - vs. 19-20
James tells us that the primary reason why many Christians are living wasted lives and are unproductive for the Lord is that they speak when they should listen.
Lack of listening, leads to jumping to conclusions; which often leads to taking offense, which leads to anger, and expressing anger in inappropriate ways through the misuse of our tongue. Such behavior, James tells us, "does not bring about the righteous life that God desires" (v. 20).
The Bible makes it clear that our relationship with God will impact our relationship with others.
"Whoever says he is in the Light and [yet] hates his brother [Christian, born-again child of God his Father] is in darkness even until now. Whoever loves his brother [believer] abides (lives) in the Light, and in It or in him there is no occasion for stumbling or cause for error or sin. But he who hates (detests, despises) his brother [in Christ] is in darkness and walking (living) in the dark; he is straying and does not perceive or know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes." - 1 John 2:9-11 (Amplified)
The Bible tells us that when we do not relate to each other as we ought, we cause others to stumble. This causes our faith to be worthless.
Now, James knew that our relationships with one another would be helped a great deal if we learn how to control our tongue.
That which hurts relationships the most are words we say to or about one another; and that which helps relationships the most are words we say to or about one another. Therefore, if we learn to control our tongues, we will do better when it comes to loving each other and living with each other in such a way as to draw others to Christ.
Jesus told us that the way we relate to one another as Christians is one of the differences the world needs to see.
"So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples." – John l3:34-35 (NLT)
So we must learn to listen so that we might speak wisely and appropriately, so that we might help others rather than hurt them.
General George Marshall is credited with giving the following advice for being an effective listener:
1. Listen to the other person’s story.
2. Listen to the other person’s full story.
3. Listen to the other person’s full story first.
This is the advice James is giving us here. If we will learn to listen to others, James tells us, we will avoid becoming angry and using our tongue in inappropriate ways. As a result, our faith will be lived out in such as to benefit others and bless God.
The story is told of Franklin Roosevelt, who often endured long receiving lines at the White House. He complained that no one really paid any attention to what was said. One day, during a reception, he decided to try an experiment. To each person who came down the line and shook his hand, he murmured, "I murdered my grandmother this morning." The guests responded with phrases like, "Marvelous! Keep up the good work. We are proud of you. God bless you, sir." It was not till the end of the line, while greeting the ambassador from Bolivia, that his words were actually heard. The ambassador replied, "I’m sure she had it coming."
Because our world is not geared toward taking the time to listen to one another, Christians who do take to time to listen can be mightily used of God to make a tremendous difference in our world.