Summary: Let me begin by asking you a question that you will probably prefer not to answer. When was the last time your mouth got you in trouble? Have you ever said something this you wish you had not?

“Taming the Tongue”

James 3:1-12

Let me begin by asking you a question that you will probably prefer not to answer. When was the last time your mouth got you in trouble? Have you ever said something this you wish you had not? If I were to ask you what is the most hurtful thing anyone has ever done to you? I suspect you might describe some horrible words that were spoken to you. When we speak those kinds of words we often wish we could simply reach out and grab them and pull them back in. But as you know that’s impossible. Once we have spoken them the damage is done. We can say that’s not what I meant; what I meant to say was... Doesn’t matter. We can say well I was angry; I was emotional and we can even apologize but still the damage has been done.

All of this should remind us that in the area of relationships there may not be anything more important than learning to control our speech. James begins this passage by addressing those who are considering becoming Bible teachers. He says to them not many of you should be eager to become Bible teachers for this simple reason. You will be judged with more strictness. Bible teachers will be judged by God and also by those who hear them teach. James doesn’t say this to discourage those who want to teach, he simply wants all of us to take this responsibility seriously. The reason is simple. Our words have power and if you are in charge of a class in a place of leadership you have the capacity to shape lives. If you plan to teach you must be spiritually qualified. Teachers must practice what they teach. Teachers must be careful what they say with both their words and life. If a doctor neglects his own health; if an accountant can’t balance his checkbook; if an attorney violates the law it contradicts what they stand for. Likewise if a Bible teacher uses their words to tear down their students it contradicts what they stand for.

James continues to speak to the teacher but now he enlarges his audience as he says we all stumble in many ways. Notice here in verse two that James uses the word “we.” In other words, he too makes mistakes with his words. All of us do. At the same time we show our maturity when we control our tongue. The text here teaches that if a person disciplines his tongue he can control his whole body as well. If we can bring the tongue under control we will be able to keep other areas of life in check as well. In other words the tongue is pour biggest problem.

You see what we say and often what we don’t say are very important. Sometimes it is about saying the right words at the right time but it is also about controlling your desire to say something you shouldn’t. Let me give you a few examples of an untamed tongue. One that is out of control.

• When we Gossip

• When we are critical

• Bragging

• Manipulating

• false teaching

• complaining

• flattery

• lying

• spreading false words/rumors

Rumors have started through the years and many of them have been hard to stop. A rumor has been circulating since 1975, 45 years now, a rumor stating that Madelyn Marie O’Hare was trying to ban all religious programming. To take it all off radio and TV. Through the years I’ve had well-meaning people bring me one of these petitions for the congregation to sign. No such petition was ever filed with the FCC.

In 1997 someone started a rumor about Gerber products, the baby food company. Someone stated that Gerber had been involved in a class action lawsuit and would give a $500 check to families who have children and had used their products. Well who didn’t use Gerber baby food? Supposedly all the parents had to do to get the money was to send in a claim form with a copy of their child’s birth certificate by a certain date.

The rumor caught fire. Notices were posted in hospitals. Notes were sent home with children by school teachers. It was everywhere. Gerber posted notices on the Internet; tried to track down the rumors-called the media but in a three-week period before the deadline they received 18,000 phone calls and it ended up costing them millions of dollars. All because someone started a prank/a rumor.

How can something as small as the tongue cause so much damage? James gives us three illustrations of how this works.

Vs. 3 a horse by nature is wild. Unmanageable. To tame the horse James tells us that all you need to accomplish this task is a small bit and you place it into the horse’s mouth over its tongue. From that point on the rider pulls on the rains that are connected to the bit and the rider can control that massive animal. Horses are measured by the hand. A stallion could be 17 hands tall yet the six-inch bit can control him.

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