In any conversation, engagement, and communication, the use of words is inevitable. We use words to express our ideas, emotions, and feelings. We use words to cause an action or reaction. We tell a story using words. Words have meaning, influence, and impact. More importantly, we communicate the gospel message using words.
Depending on how we use them, words can build up or tear down, incite, encourage or discourage. The tongue is small but has great power. Therefore, it is important to learn from God’s word how we can handle the power of the tongue.
Text: James 3:1-12
Warning and the Danger of Words (v.1-2):
- James warns that not many should presume to be teachers. Why teachers? It is because teachers use words as tools just as a carpenter uses a hammer…
- But is this a danger exclusive to teachers? In verse 2, the danger is to ALL; “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.” All of us, in one way or another, use words, and so the danger is real.
The Power of the Tongue (v. 4-12). The Tongue has:
I. Power to Direct (v.3-4)– James gives us two examples of a bit and rudder.
- When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, it makes it possible to turn the whole animal.
- Although large and driven by strong winds, a ship is steered by a rudder wherever the pilot wants to go.
- The bit and rudder are small but provide direction to the horse and ship. They offer direction and control.
- We can direct people’s lives on the right path with seasoned words.
- II. Power to Destroy (v.5-8) – Two examples are given here- fire and animal (v. 5-8).
- The tongue is like the small spark that sets a great forest on fire- It should not be underestimated, just like a small crack in a ship.
Words have the capacity to destroy families, fellowships, and communities, and bring splits and divisions. A small slander can cause big harm to a fellowship.
The tongue is a fire. You know that fire is good when it is under control; it can warm people, give light, and cook food. But when it is out of control, it can create massive destruction. It can burn, consume and destroy what we value.
Like a drug, it is something good that within it has the capacity to be poisonous. It can corrupt the whole person and set the whole course of his life on fire…
Our words can start fires and destroy what took ages to build and can also quench fires.
So how can you control/put into check this fire?
- Like all kinds of animals and birds, the tongue needs to be tamed. And it is good to know that it can be tamed. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
III. Power to Bring Life or Death (v.9-12)–
The tongue has the power to pronounce curses or blessings. Out of the same mouth can come blessing or curse. The tongue is powerful, right?
A positive or negative word said to a person may have a life-long impact.
Solomon said, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Prov. 18:21).
The Challenge Today: In churches, fellowship groups, families, communities, and nations, many people have not learned to control their tongues. They do not even understand the impact/power of their words.
So how can we control our tongues and rightly channel the tongue’s power?I. Determine Who is in Control–
- Who is at the steering wheel of your life? Is Jesus enthroned in your heart? If he is not enthroned in your heart, then he is not enthroned in your speech.
- Since it is difficult to perfectly tame the tongue, we need help from God.
- When Jesus Christ is the Master of the heart, He is the Lord of the lips too.
- Always guard your heart (Prov. 4:23), knowing that Satan can also use our tongues.
- David prayed, “Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips. Let me not be drawn to what is evil…” (Ps. 141:3-4a).
- II. Choose How to Use your Tongue–
- Will you use your tongue to bless or curse? The choice is yours.
- We can choose to use our tongues to slander, swear falsely, gossip, curse, blaspheme, boast, destroy, tear down, or discourage.
- But at the same time, we can choose to use our tongues to praise God, exalt Jesus, encourage, and build up.
- Guard what enters into your heart- the “garbage in, garbage out” principle is also biblical. “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matt. 12:34).
- In the final analysis, you cannot be both a fresh and salty spring. You only can become one. You cannot be a fig tree and bear olives, or be a grapevine and produce figs. We recognize spring by its water and tree by its fruit.
- A double-tongued person is a poisoned tongue (praising God at one time and hurling unprintables to the brother/sister. Choose to bless with your tongue.
III. Resolve to Control Your Tongue–
- It is possible that you make a resolve to speak about what is truthful-in love is and in a way that builds up.
- “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone” (Col. 4:6).
- Resolve to reason before you talk. Learn to control what you say.
- Revolving to speak words of life. Fill your heart and mind with the word of God.
- (Realize that I’m not saying you zip up your mouth or speak less).
- Develop Your Fellowship with God–
- When we have fellowship with God, we will definitely talk about what is true.
- Continually Learn to practice what we preach, say, sing.
- As you submit and surrender to God, He will fill your mouth with eternal words.
- Spiritual maturity requires a tamed tongue.