Points Covered: This sermon talks 5 reasons we must control our tongue. Control your tongue because it has the potential to condemn, potential to control, potential to destroy, full of poison, and practices double standards.
Illustration: Winston Churchill exemplified integrity and respect in the face of opposition. During his last year in office, he attended an official ceremony. Several rows behind him two gentlemen began whispering. “That’s Winston Churchill.” “They say he is getting senile.” “They say he should step aside and leave the running of the nation to more dynamic and capable men.” When the ceremony was over, Churchill turned to the men and said, “Gentlemen, they also say he is deaf!” Most of the times it is good to stay deaf and not speak.
Somebody said, “A turtle lays thousands of eggs without anyone knowing, but when the hen lays an egg, the whole country is informed.”
Guarding your words, speaking less is a very important virtue for a believer. Open your Bibles with me to James 3. James is saying that now that you are a believer, you must have a new behavior. That new behavior also involves a new speech. So, the tongue, then, becomes a genuine sort of litmus test for the heart. True believers will have a sanctified tongue.
James gives us five reasons for controlling our tongue:
1. Control the tongue because its potential to condemn is so great.
2. Control the tongue because it has power to control.
James 3:2 We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check. The perfect man is the one who never faults with his mouth.
The only human being who ever lived who had an absolutely perfect tongue was Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 2:22 He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth. Therefore, we can say, a mature person, a godly person, a holy person, a spiritually prefect person will have a holy speech.
James 3:2 We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check. Because the tongue can sin so easily, if you can control the tongue, the greater sinner in your body, then by virtue of controlling the greater, you can control the body. The person who controls the tongue will also control the body.
You know what that says to me? That says if I want to bring my whole spiritual life into control, I ought to work on my what? My tongue. Focus on your mouth.
Proverbs 18:21 The tongue has the power of life and death. To help us understand that, James gives us two illustrations.
James 3:3 When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. James uses a horse to show that if you control the tongue, you control everything. How do you control a horse? You control a horse by controlling its tongue. You put a piece of metal in a horse’s mouth. And then you put straps around that, pull it up over his head, and when you pull that, you pull that metal bit against the horse’s tongue.
By controlling the horse’s tongue, you control the horse’s movements. A horse, by the way, let me tell you, is useless without that. Did you ever know a horse to volunteer to pull a wagon? How about a horse volunteer to carry a rider?
You can direct the whole body by controlling the tongue. Everything else comes into line. You want to know something? An unbridled horse is absolutely good for nothing.
James 3:4 Or 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. That’s another illustration. A huge ship is guided totally by the rudder. With rudder, you can navigate a ship anywhere in the ocean, deep see or to the harbor. If you can just get control of the tongue, you can move everything else.
Tongue really controls. It is a powerful instrument. It can tear down people. It can tear down churches. It can destroy relationships. It can wreck a marriage. It can devastate a family. It can rip up a nation. It can lead to murder. It can lead to war. On the other hand, it can build up. It can create love, enthusiasm, encouragement, comfort, peace, joy. The tongue is a powerful thing, and if we get a hold of it and control it, it can control all the rest of us.
Since the tongue can control speak good.
Speak Gracious words. Proverbs 16:24 Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and hearing to the bones.
Speak right words. Proverbs 25:11 A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.
Speak comforting words. Proverbs 15:4 The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit.
So, James says to control the tongue, because of its power to control you.
3. Control the tongue because of its danger to destroy.
James 3:5 Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. Water cannot multiply. If you have a cup of water and you pour it out, it won’t become a flood. But if you have a match, you can light a forest fire or burn down a whole city, because fire has a way of multiplying. You can take one little burning cigarette and set thousands of acres of forest ablaze and likewise is the tongue
Illustration: On March 10, 2016, as a part of the annual temple festival, a firework ceremony was help at Paravur Puttingal Temple near Kollam, Kerala. The spark of the firework fell over the storehouse of cracker and the entire storehouse exploded which led to the death of 111 people and left 350 injured in seconds. The tongue is a fire, it destroys
Proverbs 16:27 A scoundrel plots evil, and on their lips it is like a scorching fire.
Proverbs 26:20 Without wood a fire goes out; without a gossip a quarrel dies down.
Psalm 52:2 You who practice deceit, your tongue plots destruction; it is like a sharpened razor.
There are pillows wet by sobs; there are noble hearts broken in the silence whence comes no cry of protest; there are gentle, sensitive natures seared and warped; there are old-time friends separated and walking their lonely way with hope dead and memory but a pang; there are cruel misunderstandings that make all life look dark—these are but few of the sorrows that come from the crimes of the tongue.
Psalm 57:4 KJV My soul is among lions: and I lie even among them that are set on fire, even the sons of men, whose teeth are spears and arrows, and their tongue a sharp sword.
Job said to his friend: Job 19:2 How long will you torment me and crush me with words?
The tongue is a fire and must be kept under control. People can say anything. Pray that God protects you from the evil of people’s tongues, who slander you, and cause unrecoverable damage to you.
Proverbs 10:19 The prudent hold their tongues.
The danger of the tongue:
a. It is evil. James 3:6 The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil…
b. It defiles the whole body. James 3:6 The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire. It’s like smoke from a fire; stains everything that doesn’t burn.
Illustration: This week I was at Belgaum, North Karnataka on a mission trip, visiting some very remote villages. A house of 10-12 members stay in a room of 80 square feet. Houses are made of mud and sprinkled daily with cow dung. They cook on firewood. I remember in one house they gave us tea. The tea was tasting smoke. The tea lost its flavor and tasted like smoke. The tongue is likewise, it spoils the goodness of a person and stains them with words.
c. The tongue is set on fire by hell. James 3:6 The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.
Hell is the place where the fire never goes out, where the worm never dies, where the thirst is never quenched. It is that eternally burning place.
The word hell here is the translation of Gnehha, the Hebrew word. Ghenna is a valley in South-southwest of Jerusalem. It is a deep valley that goes straight down from a cliff, a deep, low valley. Now, let me tell you about that place. In 2 Kings 23, King Josiah brought a great revival. One of the things he did was abolish idolatry and human sacrifice. The worshipers of Moloch, were literally offering human sacrifices, burning their children. The god Moloch was a bull which had outstretched arms, and those outstretched arms were containing fire, and the little children were laid upon the arms of Moloch and burned as a human sacrifice. This happened in the Ghenna valley. This was a place of burning with the stench of the flesh of little children.
The Jews, then, came to regard the place with deep hatred. And that very deep valley of Ghenna, became the city dump. City garbage, the dead animals and body of criminals were pitched into the Valley of Gehenna. Now, in order to burn this garbage the fire burned all the time. It had a sickening stench, the combination of garbage and burning flesh, and became known as Hell of Fire because the fire never went out. The Bible uses this word for the real hell.
James says, the tongue is set on fire by hell. It stinks with bad words, and the fire it creates never can be quenched, it destroys. Therefore, control your tongue because of its danger to destroy.
4. Control the tongue as it is a restless evil, full of poison.
Illustration: John Wesley was preaching. He was wearing a new bow tie with two streamers hanging down from it. There was a sister in the meeting who didn’t hear a word about Jesus, but sat with a long face and saw nothing but those two streamers. When the service was over she went up and said, “Pardon me, Mr. Wesley, will you suffer a little criticism?” “Yes,” replied Mr. Wesley. “Well,” she said, “Mr. Wesley, your bow tie is too long and it is an offense to me.” He said, “Have you a pair of shears ?” After receiving the shears he handed them to her saying that she would know how they would look best. She reached over and clipped off the streamers. Then he said, “Is that all right now?” “Yes, that is much better.” He said, “Do you mind letting me have those shears? Would you mind a little criticism? Your tongue is a great offense to me—it is a little too long. Please stick it out while I take some off.” Of course she resented the suggestion.
James 3:7-8 7All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, 8but no human being can tame the tongue.
God gave man the power to control animals in Genesis. And even after the Fall, God reiterated to Noah that he’d be able to get all the animals into the ark. Today, man still is able to tame animals.
You’ve seen animals in circus that are tamed. Man can tame the wild animals. And he can tame the birds, and he can tame the reptiles, and he can tame the creatures of the sea. But no one can tame the tongue. Man can’t tame it. Why?
James 3:8 It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. Tongue is restless full of poison.
Do you remember the Ammonite commanders spoke lies against David, accusing him of hypocrisy in honoring Hanun their king? The result was that the king put together an army of his own numbering 30,000 foot soldiers, plus others, and sent them to destroy David because of that lie, for no reason. And the result was a terrible slaughter of 700 Syrian charioteers, and 40,000 horsemen, and their commander, all because of the lie of one man.
And you remember the poisonous tongue of Haman used by satan for the extermination of the Jews in the book of Esther. God saved them through Mordecai and Esther. And Haman, who plotted it all with his evil tongue, was hanged on the gallows he had made for the Jews.
In Jeremiah 38, men lied to King Zedekiah about Jeremiah’s prophesy of God’s judgement. They threw him into a pit, where he sunk into the mud.
Do you remember the restless poisonous lips of the Jewish leaders, who accused the greatest prophet ever, John the Baptist, of having a demon. They accused the spotless Son of God, Jesus of being a glutton, drunkard, friend of outcasts, and a demon-possessed sinner. As the result of it John the Baptist was beheaded and Christ were crucified.
Many people have died because of the deadly poison of the tongue. Stephen was stoned, Paul was persecuted all because of the tongue. The tongue is restless evil and man cannot tame it.
Who can tame it? God can, by His power. The first recorded sin after the Fall came from an untamed tongue where Adam blamed God for the woman. The first thing in the church was the taming of the tongue, because the first thing that happened after the Holy Spirit came was tongues of fire, and they all immediately spoke in the Holy Spirit as the Spirit enabled them. The first sin was a sin of the tongue, and in the birth of the church, the purified tongue spoke in tongues.
Control your tongue because it is untamable, a restless evil. Commit your tongue to God to tame it.
5. Control the tongue because of its double standards.
The tongue is a hypocrite. James 3:9-10 9With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness.10Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.
Three times a day the Jews prayed and ended with this word: “Blessed are You, blessed are You.” It was customary for the Jew with his tongue to be blessing God all the time. Now listen, the same tongue that blesses God, cursed those made in His image. Look at the hypocrisy.
James 3:11-12 11Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 12My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water. You can’t have sweet and bitter water coming out of the same fountain, you cannot have olives on a fig tree, and you can’t have figs on a vine. No fountain can yield both salt water and fresh. An uncontrolled tongue is a hypocrite, will speak according to the situation.
Conclusion: That is a conclusion, my friends. He is saying a clean heart, a fresh heart, can’t produce bitter water, and a bitter heart can’t produce fresh water. So he’s right back to where he started. True believers will be revealed in their speech. And if you’re a true believer, it should be able to be seen by your speech. If you have been transformed by Christ, your speech will show it.
The true believer is known by his speech. A true believer speaks with a tongue that is under control. Psalm 39:1 I said, “I will watch my ways and keep my tongue from sin; I will put a muzzle on my mouth while in the presence of the wicked.”
Illustration: The Karankawa Indians, who used to inhabit the lower Gulf plains of Texas and Mexico, met their demise in the middle of the Texas Revolution in 1836. It seems that Captain Philip Dimmit, who owned a ranch north of present-day Corpus Christi, used to give the Karankawas beef whenever they were in the area. At the outbreak of the Revolution, however, Dimmit left his ranch to serve with the Texans. In Dimmit’s absence, the Indians rounded up a few cattle. As they ate the beef, a party of Mexican soldiers rode up and demanded to know what they were doing. “We are Captain Dimmit’s friends,” the Karankawas replied. When the Mexicans heard this they attacked, killing many and causing the rest to flee. The remaining Karankawas later met a party of Texans. Fearing another assault, the Indians began shouting, “Viva Mexico!” Immediately the Texans attacked, and only a few of the hapless Karankawas escaped.
1 Peter 3:10 For, “Whoever would love life and see good days must keep their tongue from evil and their lips from deceitful speech.