Summary: Why must I watch what I say? What’s the solution?

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A stock boy at a grocery store was asked by an elderly lady, “Can I buy half a head of lettuce?” He walked back to the manager’s office, not realizing that the lady followed him. He said to the manger, “You’re not going to believe this, but there’s an old bag out there who wants to buy half a head of lettuce.” He turned around and saw her standing right behind him. Quickly he added, “And this fine lady would like to buy the other half.”

Someone has said, “Remember your tongue is in a wet place and can slip easily.”

When you’re not feeling well, the doctor will often say, “Stick out your tongue.” Your tongue reveals what’s going on inside of you—not just physically but also spiritually.

“We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check” (v. 2).

“Stumble” – “Sin”

“We all stumble”

• “Who can say, ‘I have kept my heart pure; I am clean and without sin’?” (Proverbs 20:9).

• “There is no one who does not sin” (2 Chronicles 6:36).

• “There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins” (Ecclesiastes 7:20).

• “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

• “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8).

• “If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives” (1 John 1:10).

“In many ways”

• One of the easiest ways to sin is with our tongues. We always have the opportunity to say something wrong. We can’t do everything, but we can say everything.

• When Paul describes man’s sinfulness in Romans 3, he talks about man’s evil tongue: “‘Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit.’ ‘The poison of vipers is on their lips.’ ‘Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness’” (vv. 13-14).

• We can sin with our tongues in many ways. Imagine there is a recording of all of your conversations of the past week. Which of the following “sins of the tongue” would you be guilty of: bragging, lying, flattering, slandering, gossiping, verbally abusing others, cursing, making off-color remarks, talking behind another’s back, passing on rumors, shading the truth, arguing, yelling, being sarcastic?

• This is probably one of the reasons why James says, “Not many of you should presume to be teachers.” Teachers use their mouths. That’s potentially dangerous.

“Perfect” – Two interpretations:

• Sinless perfection: Hypothetically, if you had the ability to not sin with your tongue, you would also have the ability to not sin in any other way.

• Spiritual maturity


Three reasons:

a. My tongue directs WHERE I GO (vv. 3-4).

The tongue is small, but it has tremendous influence.

(1) The tongue is like a bit.

“When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal” (v. 3).

(2) The tongue is like a rudder.

“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” (v. 4).

b. My tongue can destroy WHAT I HAVE (vv. 5-8).

(1) The tongue is like a small spark.

“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” (v. 5).

“Consider” – “Behold” (KJV) = “Wow”

“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” (v. 6b).

“Corrupts” – Like smoke damage

“Course of nature” = “circle of life”; chain reaction

You come home from work and you’re tired and grumpy. A husband, tired and grumpy, walks in house and yells at his wife. The wife yells at the oldest kid. The oldest kid yells at the baby sister. The baby sister goes out and kicks the dog. The dog bites the cat. The cat comes in and scratches the baby. The baby bites the head off the Barbie doll. Wouldn’t it be a whole lot simpler if the husband had just bit off the head of the Barbie doll himself?

“Hell” – Can refer to the satanic host; they use the tongue as a tool for evil

“He who guards his mouth and his tongue keeps himself from calamity” (Proverbs 21:23).

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