Summary: The tongue is a powerful tool. Use it wisely!

James 3:1-12 August 1, 1999

“What can you do with your tongue?”

Be careful how you use your tongue because . . .

1. your tongue controls other people. (vs. 1-2)

child’s games of red light / green light or Simon says

2. your tongue, though small, has great power. (vs. 3-5a) Two illustration . . .

bit in the horse’s mouth – it has a mind of its own directing it in a different direction. Internal forces try to steer it.

rudder on a ship – though it is tossed about in the storm, a rudder can keep it

headed in the right direction. The ship has no mind of its own, but external forces (i.e. the wind) try to steer it.

virus – small but deadly; movie “What about Bob?”. He was deathly afraid of

touching anything or being around people because He was afraid of germs. Bring examples of hand sanitizers that claim to be anti-bacterial. Squirt some of that anti-bacterial gel in people’s hands after asking them if they have touched anything or anyone today.

3. your tongue has the tendency to destroy rather than build. (vs. 5b-6)

4. your tongue is never fully under control. (vs. 7-8)

tell story about animal tamers who thought that they had boa constrictors under control, but the snake eventually crushed the trainer even as the crowd watched and listened. You have to always be on your guard.

Train your tongue to speak good things. Make it a habit. Work at it. Make it a daily practice that you use your tongue to be kind to someone else.

5. your tongue shows what is really on the inside. (vs. 9-12)

“out of the heart the mouth speaks”


Don’t wait. It could result in something you regret for the rest of your days. I realized this anew when I read an article that appeared in mid-April back in ’85 in the Los Angeles Times. If it doesn’t get you off the dime, nothing will. A lady named Ann wells writes:

My brother-in-law opened the bottom drawer of my sister’s bureau and lifted out a tissue-wrapped package.

"This," he said, "is not a slip. This is lingerie." He discarded the tissue and handed me the slip. It was exquisite; silk, handmade and trimmed with a cobweb of lace. The price tag with an astronomical figure on it was still attached.

"Jan bought this the first time we went to New York, at least eight or nine years ago. She never wore it. She was saving it for a special occasion. Well, I guess this is the occasion."

He took the slip from me and put it on the bed with the other clothes we were taking to the mortician. His hands lingered on the soft material for a moment, then he slammed the drawer shut and turned to me.

"Don’t ever save anything for a special occasion. Every day you’re alive is a special occasion."

I remembered those words through the funeral and the days that followed when I helped him and my niece attend to all the sad chores that follow an unexpected death. I thought about them on the plane returning to California from the Midwestern town where my sister’s family lives. I thought about all the things that she hadn’t seen or heard or done. I thought about the things that she had done without realizing that they were special.

I’m still thinking about his words, and they’ve changed my life.

I’m not "saving" anything; we use our good china and crystal for every special event -- such as losing a pound, getting the sink unstopped, the first camellia blossom.

"Someday" and "one of these days" are losing their grip on my vocabulary. If it’s worth seeing or hearing or doing, I want to see and hear and do it now.

I’m trying very hard not to put off, hold back, or save anything that would add laughter and luster to our lives.

And every morning when I open my eyes I tell myself that it is special.

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Vance Elliott

commented on Sep 14, 2006

This sermon illustrates that we can always find a way to "build up" or give positive encouragement on any topic. Some folk respond to conviction, some folk respond better to encouragement. Good job on a topic that is usually focused on "Tho shall not." Thanks!

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