Summary: None of us have the power to control our tongues. It is humanly impossible to do. But the Holy Spirit of God has all the power we need to use our tongues to glorify God and tell the world of all His mighty deeds. The question is..Do you want Him to?
THE TONGUE KEY TO HOLY LIVING
JAMES 3:1 12
"Better to be thought a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt." That is a word of wisdom I heard many years ago...but one that I haven't quite mastered yet. Someone also once said, "A closed mouth gathers no feet" and I suppose this is also true but for one who has chewed as much shoe leather as me may never find out for sure.
Is there anyone her this morning that ever had their mouth get them into trouble? Have you ever popped off a quick remark...one you knew was wrong but did it anyway. If we were to be completely honest...there's probably no other area in most of our lives that's caused us any more trouble than our tongues.
Today we've come to the 3rd chapter of James...a chapter that talks in very plain language about the tongue. And we could get very negative about this whole subject, but there are many positive things we can learn from this if we'll open our hearts and minds to what the Bible has to say to us in these verses. Read 3:1 12
One of the things churches are always on the lookout for is good teachers. In fact, we quit looking for good ones and will settle for any warm body that will take a stab at teaching. It doesn't matter a whole lot what their qualifications are as long as they have a willing heart. Right?
James begins this 3rd chapter almost like he was addressing a group of young people at a vocational conference and says..."Whatever you do, don't think of Christian service!" Watch out for this teaching and preaching stuff...cause it can bring you nothing but trouble....and on top of that God will put those who do teach under a stricter standard of judgment. And by saying this he intended to hit right at the heart of an important issue.
The tongue gives opportunities for many easy mistakes...and the more you talk the more risk you run of having your mouth get you into some sort of trouble. AMEN? Now, of course everyone is responsible for what they say...but the "mistakes" of those who hold public positions are wide open to closer divine scrutiny and a much greater divine reaction than those of Christians in a private capacity.
But James doesn't limit his argument simply to those who do teach in one form or another. James rightfully takes a very serious view of the tongue in all believers...and all of Scripture backs up his stance that there is hardly a sin more widely exposed and condemned than sins of speech.
Peter was a man who recognized that most Christians really do want to lead a good life and experience the blessings of God...yet he commands any who do desire this to "...keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking guile." And we already know that!
But you have to admit that we rarely stand along with the Scriptures in recognizing that our speech is the primary evidence of our fallen state. And we've not been told often enough, if at all, that a controlled tongue is the key to blessing. Let's look to James to see why the tongue is so important.
We've seen in verse 1 that teachers have a greater level of accountability for their words because others are looking to them for guidance. If we lead someone astray spiritually because of our mouth being out of line or biblically incorrect, the Bible says it would be better if we tied a rock around our neck and threw it in the river.
But if we could just control our tongues we could be perfect. And biblical perfection means maturity...the maturity that comes when God has brought us to be all that He intends for us in Christ. In other words, that we become like Him.
As Christians, we all fail...we make many mistakes. And most prevalent are the sins of speech....sins like a hasty word (engaging the mouth before the brain is in gear), the untruthful statement (the lie)...the sly suggestion...harmful gossip...innuendo...and any type of impure communication.
But James' purpose in this section of his letter is not to jump all over our case because of our wicked tongue. He wants to make the positive point that control of the tongue leads to control of ourselves and our entire lives.
He uses two illustrations in v. 3 4. As to the horse, a comparatively tiny thing...a bit, controls and directs all the power of this mighty animal. As to the ship, the point is essentially the same...a relatively small factor, a rudder, is the key to control and direction.
James sees the tongue in a similar way...it is little in comparison, but it boasts of great things. Now, the boasts of the bit and the rudder are not just idle boasts...they really do master the power of the horse and the storm. The same is true with the tongue...it can make huge claims and back them up!