Summary: Sixth in a series on the book of James. James give three observations about the tongue.
A Study of the Book of James
Sermon # 6
“Taming the Tongue.”
When was the last time your mouth got you in trouble? Have you ever said some-thing that you wish you had not? Or have you have been on the receiving end of a biting or thoughtless comment, and have felt wounded or slandered?
“A man working in the produce department was asked by a lady if she could buy half a head of lettuce. He replied, “Half a head? Are you serious? God grows these in whole heads and that’s how we sell them!”
“You mean,” she persisted, “that after all the years I’ve shopped here, you won’t sell me half-a-head of lettuce?”
“Look,” he said, “If you like I’ll ask the manager.” She indicated that would be appreciated, so the young man marched to the front of the store. “You won’t believe this, but there’s a lame-braided idiot of a lady back there who wants to know if she can buy half-a-head of lettuce.”
He noticed the manager gesturing, and turned around to see the lady standing behind him, obviously having followed him to the front of the store. “And this nice lady was wondering if she could buy the other half” he concluded. Later in the day the manager cornered the young man and said, “That was the finest example of thinking on your feet I’ve ever seen! Where did you learn that?”
“I grew up in Grand Rapids, and if you know anything about Grand Rapids, you know that it’s known for its great hockey teams and its ugly women.”
The manager’s face flushed, and he interrupted, “My wife is from Grand Rapids!” “And which hockey team did she play for?” [Sermon Illustrations @ www.bible.org/illus/ tongue, cf speech].
It is interesting to consider that one of the first things that a physician does when examining a patient is look at his or her tongue, since it is often an index to the health to the rest of the body. In the same way, that which is produced by the tongue – words – also furnishes an index to the health of the spiritual body – the heart. In Matthew 12:34 Jesus warned that “…For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.”
Everyday, you and I speak thousands of words. Some are carefully planned and selected; others are spoken impulsively. Some are spoken quietly; others are spoken with more volume. Some of our words are spoken with the desire to help and encourage; some with the motivation to hurt, belittle and retaliate. However, most of our words are spoken with little, if any, thought about how they will affect others.
James speaks to us about the importance of every word we speak. For each word will make an impact – both on God who records, evaluates and will judge every spoken word and on those who hear our words. In Matthew 12:36-37 Jesus warns, “But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. (37) For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”
James tells that this problem is both universal and continual. In verse two he says, “For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body.”
Every one stumbles and stumbling is embarrassing. You are walking along and your shoe catches on some uneven part of the sidewalk and you stumble. Your first thought, almost subconsciously is, “I wonder who saw that.” So you, put a little skip in your step and try to pretend that did in on purpose. But not all stumbles are just blows to our pride, some are moral or character stumbles, and the consequences are much worse.
One area in which we are most likely to stumble is in the area of speech. It is our tongues that reveal the conditions of our hearts. James makes three observation about the tongue.
First, The Tongue is Small But Powerful
The tongue is small in proportion to the rest of the body, but it can do great things. James uses three images to make his point.
First in verse three James says, “Indeed,” we put bits in the horse’s mouths, that they may obey us, and we turn their whole body.”
James says think of a powerful stallion standing 17 hands tall, he is turned to his master’s will by the use of a bit six inches long. Personally I find horses incredibly beautiful, incredibly powerful and healthier me at a distance of 50 feet.
Secondly, in verse four James says, “Look also at ships: although they are so large and are driven by fierce winds, yet are they are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires.”