Summary: James tells us the tongue is impossible to tame, and then tells us to tame it! Here’s how God helps us do the impossible.
James 3:1-12 February 9, 2003
Taming the Tongue
The Power of Words
I love you, you’re important to me, thank you so much, how can I repay you, you look really nice today, I like your new haircut, great job, this place wouldn’t be the same without you, I’m proud of you, you are irreplaceable,
I hate you, you disgust me, I wish you had never been born, I wish I were dead, you make me sick, I want a divorce, nobody cares about you, I’ll never speak to you again…
Sticks and stones can break my bones… but words can break my heart
Words are a powerful thing
The power of the tongue – 2-5
James says that the tongue, or the words that come out of our mouth, is the most powerful thing in our body. He compares it to other small things that have great power.
If you have ever stood beside a workhorse like a Clydesdale, they are huge and powerful animals, but they are led and controlled by this little bit in their mouth connected to a harness
The great ships that sail the seas are controlled by a relatively small rudder, Ocean tankers are turned around by a little piece on the stern!
A whole ancient forest can be taken down by one little misplaced spark that turns the whole world on fire.
These are small things that have great power – and so is the tongue.
The tongue of a great leader can turn a whole country around Churchhill’s rally cry in WWII, Martin Luther King, jr.’s “I have a dream” speech. For the good, Hitler’s speeches for evil, Kruschev’s “We will bury you” for fear…
Our words can bring about loving relationships, and it can end them.
The tongue has power over our own lives: James says in verse two that if we can only control our tongues, the rest of our body is easy!
The tongue has great power, but also great danger!
The Danger of the tongue – 6
The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. …8b It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
I think we all know when our tongues have got us into trouble. There are some people who say that they only open their mouths to exchange feet. But there is more to this than just saying the wrong thing: the tongue can do great damage.
There is a story of a woman in a village who maliciously gossiped about another lady and her family in the village. One day she found out that she was wrong about this lady and her family and had a change of heart. She went to the village’s wise man and asked how she could take back all the wrong she had done. The wise man told her to go home and kill her chickens and pluck there feathers and put them into a bag. After this she was to go back and see the wise man again, but on her way back she was to scatter all the feathers she had plucked from the chickens.
The lady did as she was told. When she got back to the man, he told her, " now go back and pick up all the feathers that you have scattered. " The woman was astonished at such a command and said, " By now the wind has carried the feathers through out the village and beyond." The wise man then told Her, And so it is with your careless words. They are like the feathers scattered in the wind. You can not retrieve them. " With that the woman with a broken heart because of the words she had spoken went her way, determined from that day forward to Watch her words.
It is not just gossip that does damage – hate, lies, coarse language, abuse outbursts of anger, malicious talk, bragging, breaking confidence: it all comes out of our mouths if we let it. Great evil can be done with our words.
The difficulty of the tongue – 7-8
7All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, 8but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
This is the problem – the tongue can do such huge damage, but we are unable to control it. It’s easier to tame a lion than it is to tame your tongue – that is saying something since a lion is just a big cat!
I think that on reflection, we have all walked away from situations wishing that we could take our words back – we responded in anger, we were hurtful, we told a story that was supposed to be kept secret… We may even think that we are a fairly controlled person, but there are times when our tongue gets away from us.