Summary: Sermon 5 of 6 from the book of James. The lion of adultery can certainly destroy a marriage. But the "little foxes" of snide remarks, sarcastic comments, cynical observations, angry blasts, and cool responses gut the inside of a relationship and leave i
What it takes to be a Perfect Person
Last summer my wife and I visited NYC for our wedding anniversary. We stayed in Times Square which turned out to be both busy and safe. One of the most noticeable things to me in Times Square and in the whole of New York was that there were no dented Taxi Cabs. Not one. Not a scratch. Not even a minor blemish. Every cab we saw was clean and shiny.
It didn’t used to be that way. A couple of decades ago Times Square was seedy, run down, and a pretty dangerous place. What mad the difference. Well, I’m told that about 10 years ago the decision was made to catch the little things in the area. The vagrants, the graffiti, and the little problems were all cleaned up. When they did all the big problems like robberies and muggings started to go away too.
Control the minor evils and you will control the major evils at least that is the theory and it worked in NYC!
Big Lions vs. Little Foxes
Yet most of the focus goes on the big lions in our struggle to live rightly before God. Even Peter describes Satan as a vicious lion that seeking to devour and destroy us. It is a very powerful picture of the one who wants to tear us away from presence of God.
"Be on your guard and stay awake. Your enemy, the devil, is like a roaring lion, sneaking around to find someone to attack."
This hungry roaring lion is the image we have when we hunker down and defend ourselves from the attacks of the enemy. But it is not always the roaring lion that eats us up. In the Song of Solomon King Solomon tells of a marriage relationship that is like a fruitful vineyard. But then he warns us that it is the "little foxes" that nibble us to death.
"Our vineyards are in blossom; we must catch the little foxes that destroy the vineyards."
The lion of adultery can certainly destroy a marriage. But the "little foxes" of snide remarks, sarcastic comments, cynical observations, angry blasts, and cool responses gut the inside of a relationship and leave it a dry dusty shell. The words that come out of the mouth can not only eviscerate a marriage, they can also pummel a church leadership or ruin a students reputation.
James tells us in the third chapter of his letter that the most dangerous tool of destruction is the human tongue. In fact, he says that anybody that learns to control it has become a perfect person.
The word "perfect" doesn’t mean "without flaw" (whew!). It speaks of maturity, wholeness and completion as a person. The man or woman that has their tongue in check and under submission is a person who has become a complete and balanced person. He gives us several reasons that this is so important.
What you say has formidable power
Jam 3:3-4 CEV By putting a bit into the mouth of a horse, we can turn the horse in different directions. It takes strong winds to move a large sailing ship, but the captain uses only a small rudder to make it go in any direction.
Whoever said, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” – lied. This is simply not true. Words do hurt. They can be very damaging or encouraging. It just depends on what we say and how we say it.
That’s why James compares the tongue to the bit in the horse’s mouth or the rudder of boat. It may be small but it is powerful. I have been preaching and teaching for over 30 years and I have found that words are very powerful. Lives are changed and people are transformed by the few words of an ineffective speaker as the Spirit of God infuses them with life.
There is a second reason we need to watch the words in our life.
What you say can set your life on fire
Jam 3:6 CEV The tongue is like a spark. It is an evil power that dirties the rest of the body and sets a person’s entire life on fire with flames that come from hell itself.
What comes out of the mouth is an untamable beast. It’s like a wild animal – impossible to control. It is a forest fire that is beyond the ability of anyone to harness.
When I worked in summer camp (many years ago) I ran a floor scrubber. It was powerful and fun unless you locked the power on and then got a trifle relaxed. It was easy to set the whole thing spinning around and around in a circle with the handle coming at you at about 300 miles per hour. Kinda like a Battle Bot let loose in the dining hall. Out of control. That’s the tongue.