Summary: Control your tongue, or it will control you.
Taming the Tongue
Rev. Brian Bill
March 2-3, 2019
Sermon Bumper: Words
Words have started revolutions, riots, revivals and reformations.
Join me as I pray the words of Psalm 19:14, Psalm 141:3 and portions of our passage in James 3:1-12 back to the Lord: “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer…Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips…because you say teachers will be judged with greater strictness, enable me to speak only what is true so I don’t stumble in what I say. Use my words to build up, not tear down. Though my tongue is small it’s dangerous if I don’t submit it to your control. Forgive me for ways I’ve poisoned people with what I’ve said. Help us now to hear your words. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.”
A week ago Friday morning I dropped our van off to get worked on and decided to run back home. I had just started to listen to a sermon by Paul Tripp on the dangers of our tongue tripping us up when I tripped on a hidden coat hanger frozen into the snow. I went down hard on my left knee and right elbow. I limped around last weekend, wondering if I had done some serious damage. Thankfully, nothing is broken.
How many of you have been tripped by your tongue?
Last weekend we learned this truth: We’re not saved by works, but saved people do God’s work. Today we move from proving our faith by our works to proving our faith by our words. Here’s a summary statement: Control your tongue, or it will control you.
I’m going to borrow an outline from Warren Wiersbe to help us work through the first twelve verses of James 3.
• The tongue has the power to direct (3:1-5a)
• The tongue has the power to destroy (3:5b-8)
• The tongue has the power to delight (3:9-12)
James illustrates the power of the tongue using six vivid word pictures -- a bit in a horse’s mouth, a rudder on a ship, an out-of-control fire, a dangerous animal, a bubbling spring and delicious fruit.
1. The Tongue Has the Power to Direct
Let’s look at verse 1: “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.” Because teachers were thought of as having a prestigious position, it’s likely too many were teaching topics they didn’t understand. Perhaps they were impressed with the authority and prestige of the office and forgot about the tremendous responsibility. I remember one time I stumbled through a hard-to-pronounce Bible name and without thinking said something like this: “Who’d ever choose that name for their baby?” I quickly found out that was someone’s mom’s name. That afternoon I had to make a phone call.
Here’s the principle: greater authority brings with it greater accountability. Because I preach and teach on a regular basis, I will be “judged with greater strictness.” The word “greater” in Greek is megas, meaning huge or large. This is humbling and frightening at the same time.
Teachers are not the only ones who get tripped up by their tongues. In verse 2 we read, “For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body.” Notice James is including himself and everyone else by using “we” and “all.” The word “stumble” is the idea of falling or tripping. Literally, it means this: “We all are stumbling repeatedly in many ways.”
How would you feel if everything you said this past week was recorded and broadcast for everyone to hear? Jesus said we’ll all be judged for the words we speak according to Matthew 12:36-37: “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” Remember this: your conversation reveals your character because what you say shows who you truly are.
James continues by saying if our tongues don’t trip us up, we’re “perfect,” or complete. If we’re able to muzzle our mouths, we’re able to “bridle” our entire bodies. James is circling back to a theme introduced in 1:26: “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.” The hardest sins to control are the trespasses of the tongue. Proverbs 21:23 says, “Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble.”
As a good teacher, James uses some unforgettable figures of speech to help us see the importance of being wise with our words.