Summary: The tongue is such a small part of our body but can get us into so much trouble if it’s not tamed.
A man was eating breakfast and reading the newspaper one morning, and as we men do, he was absolutely absorbed with what he was reading. His wife was getting ready to go to work and popped into the kitchen and asked that most dreaded of all questions, "Honey, do these pants make me look fat?" To which by the way, there is no truthful answer. But the man, still absorbed in his paper, said something without thinking that he’s still paying for. He said, "No dear, it’s your hips that make you look fat."
How many times have you been in a situation where you’ve done everything right only to have what you said or the way you said it get you in trouble? I’m sure that we’ve all been in situations like that, and I’m very sure that we’ve all said things that we later regretted. Heck, we may have even gotten to regret it as soon as we said it. It’s just so easy to let something blurt out of your mouth. You know, it pops into your head and you just have to say it. And so often, almost always, if we haven’t processed it in our heads, in other words, if we haven’t thought about it first, it’s going to be the wrong thing to say. But 9 times out of 10, we say it anyway, and then have to suffer the consequences.
As you all know, I’m a big football fan. And lately I’ve been watching this sickening soap opera involving the Philadelphia Eagles and one of their wide receivers, who will remain nameless. It’s been a real mess, but the end result is that he was suspended from the team and will not be returning to play with them. And the whole thing was not because of his performance on the field, the guy’s great. But he ran off at the mouth one time too many.
So you see, more often than not, it’s not what we do, but what we say that will have a more lasting influence on the people that we deal with. Remember, a couple of weeks ago, we said that a spiritually mature person speaks less, listens more, and responds thoughtfully. And in this passage of James he tells us that if we can just gain control of our tongues that we will be infinitely better off and well on the road to spiritual maturity.
Now, James begins the subject with a pretty interesting warning. He says that, "Not many of you should presume to be teachers." Now, why did he feel like it was necessary to say something like that? I mean, we would never presume that we know so much more than somebody else that we could instruct them on what they need to do, would we? Recently I told my wife that I was amazed at just how often she knew what I needed to do. And fortunately I lived to tell about it. But, we all do it, some more, some less, but we all do it. We just know that we know how that other person should act or what they need to do.
And listen, James did leave the door open here. He indicated that some people do need to be teachers. Bosses need to teach workers, parents need to teach children, pastors need to teach congregations. But he did give the warning that when you teach, when you tell somebody what they need to do, you better watch what you say, because if you lead them astray God’s going to hold you accountable for it. Think before you speak! Speak less, listen more, and respond thoughtfully.
But it’s so hard. I’ll be listening to a conversation that I’m not really even a part of, and they’ll start talking about something that I do know something about, and I just can’t wait to expound upon my wealth of knowledge on the subject. And then, and this is a worst case scenario, how many times have you heard somebody gossiping about someone else, and you knew some juicy detail that they didn’t know? Oh, the agony!!!
James says that we’re all human, and that we’re all going to slip up from time to time and let something slip out of our mouths that should have stayed in there. A comedian once said, "Watch your tongue, it’s in a wet place where it’s easy to slip!" So, don’t worry too much. We’re all going to be guilty of slips of the tongue. But James says that we should do everything that we can to gain control over it. He says that a person who does so is a complete and mature person, and is able to keep, not just the tongue, but their whole body in check.