Summary: A message from James chapter 3 on the power of the tongue
The Power of Words
CHCC: November 7, 2010
I saw a T-shirt the other day that said, “Lord, make my words sweet as honey because tomorrow I may have to eat them.” If you ever wished you could take back something you said, you can identify with that caption. Of course, if our words were sweet as honey, we probably wouldn’t have to eat them …
Back when I was a teen ager working at Burger Chef I came to work one evening, and the owner of the store took me aside. We workers had left the fire burning in the hamburger machine all night the previous evening, and he warned me never to do that again. In a vain attempt to break the tension in the air, I flippantly said, “Well, at least the place didn’t burn down.”
His already angry face turned suddenly angrier, and he said, “Son, do you want me to fire you right now?”
I quickly humbled myself and apologized for making light of what I soon realized was a serious situation. My casual words didn’t help the situation in the least.
Today we’re looking at James chapter 3 which deals with the Power of Words. It’s interesting to see who James first addresses when he brings up the topic of our words. In vs. 1 of chapter 3, James says, Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.
What do teachers do? They TALK. Professional teachers earn a living by constant use of words. In fact, many school teachers come home the first few weeks of school with their voices hoarse from talking all day.
James warns that teachers in the church will be judged strictly. Why is that? Because they hold a powerful shaping influence over their students. That shaping influence is the POWER of Words.
1. The Power to DIRECT: James 3:1-4
1Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. 2We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check. 3When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. 4Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go.
James mentions two items which were common to his first-century audience: the horse’s bit and the ship’s rudder. Both of these items are small but powerful. The horse’s bit is a small bar inserted into the horse’s mouth and attached to a leather bridle. This small bit enables the rider to control the horse’s movement. The rudder is a piece of wood at the back of a boat which is used to turn the boat.
If James wrote to an American audience in the year 2010, he might say the tongue is like the steering wheel of a car … or like a micro-chip in a computer. These items are small, but they exert enormous power. In the same way, the tongue is a small organ in the body, but the words which it creates are full of tremendous POWER.
History records that Hitler was a powerful orator. His words to the German people mesmerized them. They willfully turned over everything to him and the NAZI party. And his powerful words spewed out hatred and a call to racial and religious intolerance that ended up in the Second World War, the ruin of Europe and the death of over 50 million people. His powerful words tore the whole world apart.
In fact, James tells us in vs. 2 that anyone who has the power to control his tongue can control every other part of his body. Considering what James has just said, if you want to master your body and have complete self-control over yourself, start with the hardest part: the tongue. If you can conquer that, you can conquer anything.
(We might treat vs. 2 differently because it says no man can control the tongue – this is another scripture that makes it clear we must allow JESUS to live in us and to speak through us --- only He can control the tongue --- Usually when we say wrong things it is because our independent, egotistical, pride-filled self is doing all the talking. The only way to improve on what is said is to switch over from self talk to letting Christ talk within us. He’ll do it too, if we shut up long enough to let him. His words always edify, but our words often destroy.