James 3:1-12 (NIV)
Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. 2 We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check.
3 When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. 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. 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. 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. 7 All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man,
8 but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
9 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. 11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 12 My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.
We love to talk. There are talk shows everywhere. Everybody seems to have something to say. The average American has 30 conversations a day and you’ll spend 1/5 of your life talking. In one year your conversations will fill 66 books of 800 pages a book. If you’re a man you speak an average of 20,000 words a day. If you’re a woman you speak 30,000 words a day. Some of us are born with a silver foot in our mouths. We have this natural ability to say the wrong thing at the wrong time. Nothing is opened more wrongly at the wrong time than our mouths.
Our mouths get us into a lot of trouble. James talks more about the tongue than anybody else in the New Testament. Every chapter in the book of James says something about managing your mouth. “We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check.” Over the next few days, we’re going to look at what James has to say about mastering our mouths and controlling our tongues.
Why must I do watch what I say? “Words are significant”, says James. Three reasons we have to learn to manage our mouth. Then he gives us six illustrations, two for each of the points. James was a great communicator.
#1. MY TONGUE DIRECTS WHERE I GO
It has tremendous influence and control over my life. Where are you headed in life? Where are you going to be ten years from now? Look at your conversation. What do you like to talk about? What do you talk about the most? We shape our words and then our words shape us. James says, “The tongue is small, it’s tiny”. And because it’s tiny we think it’s insignificant. But it has tremendous power. v. 3 Consider a bit in a horse’s mouth. You’ve got a huge stallion, 2,000-3,000 pounds, and a 95 pound jockey on his back. The jockey can control the tremendous mighty horse by a little piece of metal stuck strategically over his tongue. Likewise your tongue controls the direction of your life wherever you want to go, and a little bit of a word or a phrase can influence the total direction of your life.
Then he says, “Consider a ship”. The Queen Mary has 3 acres of recreational space. The anchor is equal to the weight of ten cars. Yet a relatively small rudder directs the huge oceanliner out in the middle of the waves and winds and seas. A little rudder keeps it on course. Our tongue is like that. Our tongue is like a rudder that steers us. Ships: “… they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go.” My tongue directs where I go. Your tongue is the steering wheel of your life. It is the guidance system. If you don’t like the way you’re headed right now, change the way you talk.
Many people think, if the tongue has such influence maybe it’s best to say nothing. Not talk at all, be silent. (A guy joined the Trappist monastery. For three years he was given a probation period where he was not to speak at all, but at the end of each year he could say two words. The first year at the end he said, “Bed hard.” At end of the second year he said, “Food cold.” At the end of the third year he’s about had it. He comes in and says, “I quit”. The head priest says, “That doesn’t surprise me. All you’ve done is complain since you got here.” HA. James says that my tongue directs where I go, so I’ve got to learn to control it. Stay Tuned. More tomorrow.