From James 3:1-12 Why must we master what comes out of our mouths? #3. MY TONGUE DISPLAYS WHO I AM
Here’s the unvarnished truth. My tongue reveals my real character. It shows what’s really inside of me. First James points out how inconsistent we are in our speech. v. 9 “The tongue we praise our Lord and Father and with the same tongue we curse men who’ve been made in God’s likeness. From the same mouth come praise and cursings. My brothers, this should not be.” We say these things out of the same mouth. We come to church on Sunday. The highest use of your mouth is to use it praising God. We sing praises to the Lord. Then we walk out, get into the car and on the way home we argue about where we’re going to eat lunch. Isn’t it amazing how quickly your attitude can change? In one minute you’re saying, “Praise the Lord”, the next you’re saying, “Shut up!” The tongue is a strange contradiction. It’s so inconsistent. It’s amazing how quickly it can change, like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. One minute we’re praising God and the next we’re cursing other people. Cursing here doesn’t necessarily mean profanity. It means any kind of put down, label. [“You good for nothing… You’ll never amount to nothing … You’re just like …”] Any kind of put down is a curse. He says, “Why curse men? They’re made in God’s image.”
I sometimes think – how is it possible that we can be loving to people we love — our kids, wives, husbands — and the next moment be harsh, cold and mean to them? How is it possible? How is it possible in one minute to be talking to my kids in gentle, loving tones and the next minute I’m being mean to them? I hurt them. I am saying things that damage their self- esteem. How is that? I grieve over that a lot. I find myself asking forgiveness a lot in my family, especially to my kids. Do you struggle with an inconsistent tongue? James says we all have it. We speak lovingly in one breath and then lash out in the next. What gives? What’s the problem? Why do we do that? Why can we genuinely mean something in love and kindness one minute and then genuinely mean something in hate the next minute?
James gives the answer in v. 11-12. He says consider the source. “Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.” The point is, whatever is in the well comes out in the water. Whatever is in the tree, comes out in the fruit. What is the likelihood of an apple tree producing cherries? Zip! My problem is not really my tongue. My problem is my heart. What’s inside is what comes out. My mouth eventually betrays what is really on the inside of me. I can fool you and pretend but eventually my tongue is going to catch me. It’s going to let you know what’s really inside.
Have you heard this excuse? Someone says something really mean or hurtful and they say, “I don’t know what got into me. It’s not like me to say that. I don’t know why I said that. It’s totally out of character. I didn’t really mean it.” James would say, “Yes, it is. It’s just like you. You meant it. Quit kidding yourself. What’s inside is going to come out. You don’t have a spring that one minute gives salt water and the next gives fresh water. That’s inconsistent. It’s a natural law: what comes out of the well is what is inside of it.”
Jesus said in Matthew 12:34 “For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.” Jesus explained the Freudian slip years before Freud even existed. He said what’s inside of you is what’s going to come out. My tongue just displays what I am. It directs where I go. It can destroy what I have. But most of all, it simply displays what I am. It reveals my character.
If you’ve got a problem with your tongue, it’s much more serious that you think. You have a heart problem. A person with a harsh tongue has an angry heart. A person with a negative tongue has a fearful heart. A person with an overactive tongue has an unsettled heart. A person with a boasting tongue has an insecure heart. A person with a filthy tongue has an impure heart. A person who is critical all the time has a bitter heart. On the other hand, a person who is always encouraging has a happy heart. A person who speaks gently has a loving heart. A person who speaks truthfully has an honest heart. Tomorrow, more about why we must master what comes out of our mouths.