Summary: The tongue is the meanest member in our church. The tongue is a fire and a world of iniquity.
Would you take your Bibles please now, and turn to James chapter 3 as we continue our journey with James. He has left us bruised and bleeding, but blessed. And, I want to read the first 12 verses of chapter 3. James chapter 3: “My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation”—that is, don’t just jump up and profess to be a religious teacher, because one day what you teach is going to come under the close scrutiny of the judgment of God—“For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body. Behold, we put bits in the horses' mouths, that they may obey us; and we turn about their whole body. Behold also the ships, which though they be so great, and are driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small helm”—or rudder—“whithersoever the governor listeth”— that means wherever the captain wants the ship to go—“Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell. For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind: But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be. Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter? Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either a vine, figs? so can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh” (James 3:1–12).
I want to speak this morning on this subject, “The Meanest Member in our Church.” Would you like to look around and cast a vote? The meanest member in our church.
Now, some people are very mean. When I was a little boy, my mother used to tell me of a man who was so mean that he gave his little boy a penny to go to bed without any supper. And, then in the middle of the night, that man stole that penny from his son. In the morning—he scolded the son for losing the penny, whipped him, and made him go without breakfast. Well, I thought that was perhaps the meanest man I’d ever heard of. But, there’s something even meaner than that. I want to speak about the meanest member in our church.
And, if you’re wondering who it is, I want you to look in verse 6: “And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members…” (James 3:6). The tongue is the meanest member in our church. The tongue is a fire and a world of iniquity. And, I want us to think this morning about the tongue, the subject that is in everybody’s mouth. And, so it refers to you and to me. So, I want you to listen very carefully.
I. The Influence of the Tongue
James says three things about the tongue. First of all, he speaks of the influence of the tongue. And, then James speaks of the iniquity of the tongue. And, then James speaks of the inconsistency of the tongue. So, I want you to notice those three things. First of all, I want you to notice the influence of the tongue.
Now, James is saying the tongue, though it be very small, is very powerful, and very influential, and therefore the tongue should be handled with care. The tongue can direct, the tongue can destroy, the tongue can delight, the tongue is a very powerful thing. And, James illustrates that by showing us three very small things that have great influence.
A. The Tongue is like a Bit in a Horse’s Mouth
First of all, he says the tongue is like a bit in a horse’s mouth. Look in verse 3. He says, “Behold, we put bits in the horses' mouths, that they may obey us; and we turn about their whole body” (James 3:3). Can you imagine? Here’s a little lady riding a great fiery steed, a powerful horse, and with just that little piece of metal in his mouth, she makes him go this way or that way. She makes him start, and she makes him stop. Just a little piece of metal controls the whole horse. Some of us had difficulty learning that.