Happy fourth of July. Sharon and I are in Washington DC today. I’m reminded today of all the sacrifices made for us by the men and women who shaped our country. I believe we live in the greatest country in the history of the world and I’m grateful to God. We’re not a perfect country or people to be sure, but we are so very blessed by the hand of God.
The third character quality of a spiritually mature person is this – THEY HAVE LEARNED TO CONTOL THEIR TONGUES.
James 3:2 says, “We all stumble in many ways. (This is an understatement! Nobody’s perfect.) If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check.”
One of the first things a doctor will say when you go for a check up is “Stick out your tongue.” He uses your tongue to check your health. God does that spiritually, too.
In World War II there was a saying, “Loose lips, sink ships.” Loose lips destroy lives. They hurt people. Definition of gossip: hearing something you like about somebody you don’t.
Folks, self-control comes from tongue control. We get ourselves into so much trouble from what we say and what we think and what we speak. James chapter 3 gives several illustrations of this. He says our tongue is like a rudder, a bit in a horse’s mouth, a spark, a snake, a spring.
He says that you put a little bit in a horse’s mouth and that little bitty bit can control the direction of a huge horse. A little rudder on a boat can control the direction of a much bigger boat. Your tongue, which, by size is very insignificant, controls your life. What you say directs your life, what you say can destroy your life. It can encourage people’s lives, it can discourage people’s lives. Your tongue is a powerful force for good or for evil.
Have you ever heard anyone say, “I just say what’s on my mind.” They’re kind of proud of it. Being frank, up front, they say what’s on their mind. Maybe what’s on their mind shouldn’t be said. The Bible says the person who just says whatever they think – that person is out of control and immature.
Ephesians 4:29 gives us some good instruction on the best use of our tongue. It says, “Do not let any negative or unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but rather only that which will help people and build them up according to their needs.”
Notice the word “any”. Watch what you say. When you talk you don’t just say things to build yourself up. You say things to build other people up. If it doesn’t build somebody else up, don’t say it. If it doesn’t build up, don’t say it. That’s a mark of maturity. A mature person manages their mouth. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been a Christian, if you can’t master your mouth, you’ve missed the point.
James 1:26 says, “If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.” This means I have to be intentional about controlling my tongue. I have to work at it.
If I’ve memorized a thousand verses and been through every Bible study in the book and go to church five times a week and never miss a service, but if I’m a gossip, my religion is worthless. If I spread rumors, it’s worthless. If I’m always saying things that are not always accurate or exaggerate or speak impulsively, it’s worthless. The test of maturity is to manage your mouth so that no corrupt communication, no negative talk comes out of your mouth. No slander. No back biting. No undermining. No disrespect. None of it.
Ephesians 4:15 tells us we are to speak the truth in love to one another. That means we speak with the right attitude, with the right timing, at the right place, at the right location, with the right motive – love. Always the motive must be love. 1 Corinthians 13 tells us that even if we speak like an angel or even if we have the oratory skills of a great lecturer, but do not speak in love, with love, because of love, we are nothing. I’m 55 and still learning this skill. It’s a life-long process. Ask God today to give you His power to control your tongue.
And one last thing this morning – when you blow it, when you mess up, when you say things you shouldn’t have said – make it right, right away. Confess your sin to the Lord and confess your sin to the person you wronged.
The Bible is very practical. It doesn’t matter how much you know about the Bible, if your attitude isn’t like Christ’s you’re missing the point.