Summary: Based on James 3: 3-12, this message looks at the sins of loose lips and the way of dealing with them through discipline and a change of attitude.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, what does the phrase “Loose Lips Sink Ships” remind you of? For some of you it may be a war-time poster. This phrase originated during World War I in England. Enemy spies frequented local pubs listening on the seamen’s conversation, until after a few pints of beer they would talk about where their ship was going and when. The information was then forwarded to German submarines which targeted those ships and many lives were lost because of what someone uttered carelessly. Posters were printed and placed in conspicuous places with this warning: Loose Lips Sink Ships!
Or, perhaps you are reminded of the movie “Uptown Saturday Night” in which the comedian Flip Wilson played the role of a pastor who delivered a rousing sermon titled “Loose Lips Sink Ships.” In it he mentioned not only careless talk, but also loose lips out there going around kissing lips that don’t belong to them. Such loose lips sink relation-ships.
Well, today’s lesson from the third chapter of James could be titled “Loose Lips Sink Ships.” The Letter of James offers much practical guidance about how to live out our Christian faith. Now, what does it mean when we say something or someone is practical? It means that person has the ability to take knowledge and apply it in real life. We need that in our faith journey.
By the work of the Holy Spirit speaking through the Gospel, we came to believe in Jesus Christ as our Savior. We understand why He suffered and died for our sins and we believe in our hearts that He rose from the dead. Standing on God’s promises, we live in a certain hope of our place in eternity. We know where we are going.
But how do we live as followers of Christ until we get to heaven? The Bible teaches in 2 Corinthians 5:17 that those who are in Christ are new creations. The old has gone, behold the new has come. When Christ comes into our lives, we are born again. We die to the world and live for Christ. We grow closer to God and strive to be more like Jesus. These are wonderful theological truths. But how do we take a theological concept and apply it in practical ways to our every day life?
Well, the Letter of James provides concrete steps, the “how to” that we so desperately need for living out our Christian faith. James brings out many practical points: perseverance in times of trial, compassion for the poor, looking after orphans and widows, avoiding bitter envy and selfish ambition, resisting the devil, giving up boasting and bragging, but exercising generosity. All these practical things characterize our new life in Christ.
And, in the third chapter, James talks about taming the tongue. Turn to the back cover of your bulletin and follow as I read, starting with verse 3: If we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we guide their whole bodies. Or look at ships: though they are so large that it takes strong winds to drive them, yet they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great exploits.
How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire! And the tongue is a fire. The tongue is placed among our members as a world of iniquity; it stains the whole body, sets on fire the cycle of nature, and is itself set on fire by hell.
For every species of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed by the human species, but no one can tame the tongue – a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse those who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this ought not be so.
Loose lips sink ships. Many a sin has been committed by the tongue; by what we say and how we say it, and by what motivates us to say it.
Pastor Don ------ who now serves the congregation of ------------- in Las Vegas once shared about teaching his Confirmation Class the 8th Commandment, You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. Since he talked about the sins of the tongue, he decided to provide a memorable illustration which he kept hidden in a bag until the end of the session. Then he plopped in front of them a beef tongue. All the girls went, “Heeew, gross!!!” The boys went, “Cool!”
Well, I wanted to get some beef lips this morning but couldn’t find any at Safeway. Aren’t you glad? So let us at least figuratively look at the sins of loose lips. I identified seven: cussing, snapping back at people, vain talk, flattery, gossip, backbiting, and slander.