Summary: Let’s do more than just beat ourselves up about our tongue. Let’s examine the problem and find real solutions.
Passage: James 3:1-12
Intro: It’s perhaps typical when preaching on this passage to hand out the whips, and encourage everyone to beat on themselves and each other!
1. we all have plenty of experience with the power of the tongue.
2. we have been wounded, and we have wounded others.
3. some of us have been deeply scarred by the words of others, and we have left scars ourselves.
4. but let’s do more today than just participate in another group beating!
5. but let’s get it out of our system! Nudge the person next to you and say, “Are you listening to this?”
6. OK. That’s the end of that. No more.
7. as we look at this convicting passage, we will find great hope as we understand how powerful words are, why they are so powerful, and then look at the positive two-part solution God gives us to this universal problem.
I. What We Say Impacts Our Whole Life.
1. the standard approach to verse 2 is simple.
2. “If anyone could be found who never sins with his tongue, he would never sin in any other way, either.” Donald Burdick
3. but wait! James goes on in vv3-5 to describe in three examples another principle.
4. horses and bridles, ships and rudders, sparks and forest fires all teach the same thing.
5. that is, that a small thing can have a huge impact on something many times it’s size.
Il) ships rudder is to be 1/57th the size of the hull.
6. and in fact, in v6, James applies this principle directly to the tongue.
7. it “corrupts” the entire person, ruining his entire life.
8. so if we back up then to v2, we find this understanding:
9. if a man can control what he says, he will keep from messing up his whole life because of his words.
10. people, in fact, should be cautious about becoming teachers.
11. teachers speak and people listen, and the potential for the words of a teacher to pollute the lives of many people is very real.
PP Hitler and Billy Graham
12. there is no doubt of James intention here.
13. this thing we call the tongue has huge power to impact our lives and the lives of others.
Il) “stick and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” is foolish
Il) years ago, a young singer named Karen Carpenter died of heart problems brought about by a long battle with bulimia. Apparently a writer had once referred to her in an article as “Richard Carpenter’s chubby little sister.”
Il) pastors think that what we say just “goes out into the air” if we don’t record it. But it has an impact.
14. why is it that our words have such power?
II. Why Words Are So Powerful
1. how can words, little scratches on paper or brief interruptions of silence, destroy lives?
2. in v5, James says the tongue is small, but “makes great boasts”
3. the word means “a prideful sense of importance.”
4. have you ever thought how easy it is to say something, to boast?
5. our lives are full of these statements, often said without thinking, but which require a demonstration.
6. most fights are started with words. Someone insults another, and soon there is escalation beyond the tongue to the other parts of the body.
7. we have all kinds of phrases that are in common use:
PP “I dare you”, “talks cheap”, “Can you back that up?” “Them’s fightin’ words”, “Put your money where your mouth is.” “Put up or shut up” “Chicken”
8. words are often a commitment to action; an action that upon further reflection is a bad idea.
-but pride comes into play, and that is when things get tough.
9. our tongue is connected to our heart with a very short line, often too short to allow us to stop our words before they “corrupt our whole person,” and “set the whole course of our life on fire.”
10. with our mouths, we make promises we will not keep, boasts we cannot keep, plans we should not keep. And very easily!
Il) how many people have gotten into an inappropriate marriage because they said “Yes” when they should have said “No”, and “I do” when they should have said, “I don’t”
11. the tongue gives voice to the flesh, often motivated by fear, and then the rest of our body has to pay the price for that boastful or fearful or cruel statement.
12. it is one of the things that separates us from the animals; this ability to give voice to our thoughts and feelings.
13. but this gift, connected to a fallen sinful flesh, can and does do great damage to ourselves and others.