https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BiH7Z_MevOY (video about the power of words)
“Your words always say more.” Did you catch that at the end? How true that is! Getting a card or letter is great but how much better it is to hear those good things straight from the person’s mouth. Talking can, of course, be overdone. More is not always better. I have heard that the reason we evacuate women and children first during a disaster is so we can think about a solution in silence. I don’t know if that is true or not. 😊
Knowing what to say and when to say it is one of the hardest things in the world. Have you ever known of anybody that just had no filter for their mouth? If it came in their head, it was coming out of their mouth, right? That can be refreshing; to always know where you stand with a person and to always know they are saying what they mean. That can be good, at least for a while. But sooner or later, that person is going to get themselves into trouble.
I have some married friends like that in Ft. Worth. The husband will be about to say something that comes to mind and his wife, who knows him well, will say, “Filter!” and he will stop and think about it for a second. That helps. It’s not always enough but she does what she can.
We learned in chapter one of James that we should all be “slow to speak”. There are lots of other scriptures to back up that line of thinking. Proverbs talks about talking quite a bit. That may be some irony right there.
Proverbs 10:19 When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.
Proverbs 17:28 Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.
Proverbs 18:2 A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.
I had a married couple come to me for marriage counseling a few years ago and when I asked what was wrong the woman just started right in. “Well, he just won’t talk to me. He never says anything. How am I supposed to know what he wants or needs if he never tells me? I keep trying to get him to talk but he just”, blah, blah, blah, she just kept talking on and on and on and never let up. Finally, the poor man just looked at me with this look like, “I think the problem is obvious, right?” And all I could do was just nod in sympathy. (True story)
Proverbs 25:11 says, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.” There is not much better than someone who knows just what to say at a difficult time. Words can bring great healing and unity and motivation…or words can bring complete disaster and we all have the opportunity to do either one when we speak so how do we know how to handle our words? Let’s start with James chapter 3, verse 1-12.
We continue our campout in the beautiful little book of James knowing that James was not writing to unbelievers but writing to real Christians; real disciples, followers, believers in Jesus. But he was writing specifically to mature believers; people who have been doing this for a while. When James says to consider it pure joy when we face trials, that can only be done by somebody who has been with Jesus for a while and served God faithfully long enough to know that He can be trusted.
It's the same with being quick to listen and slow to speak. It’s true of having good deeds along with your faith. None of this can possibly be done by non-Christians or even immature Christians so when we come to this passage about controlling our tongues, it’s the same way. If you just can’t do what James says to do, then you either have a shallow relationship with God or possibly no relationship at all.
I’m not saying it will be easy; far from it. But a mature believer will see progress in all these areas. Let’s look at what he says about our words and after we all put on our steel-toe boots, let’s turn to James 3:1-12.
Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. 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. 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 body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. 7 All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being 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 human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. 11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 12 My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.
A man working in the produce department was asked by a lady if she could buy half a head of lettuce. He replied, "Half a head? Are you serious? God grows these in whole heads and that's how we sell them!" "You mean," she persisted, "that after all the years I've shopped here, you won't sell me half-a-head of lettuce?" "Look," he said, "If you like I'll ask the manager." She indicated that would be appreciated, so the young man marched to the front of the store. "You won't believe this, but there's a lame-brained idiot of a lady back there who wants to know if she can buy half-a-head of lettuce." He noticed the manager gesturing and turned around to see the lady standing behind him, obviously having followed him to the front of the store. "And this nice lady was wondering if she could buy the other half" he concluded. Later in the day the manager cornered the young man and said, "That was the finest example of thinking on your feet I've ever seen! Where did you learn that?" "I grew up in Dallas, and if you know anything about Dallas, you know that it's known for its great football teams and its ugly women."
The manager's face flushed, and he interrupted, "My wife is from Dallas!" To which the young man replied, "Did she play for the Cowboys?" (sermonillustrations.com)
How many of you know that the more you talk, the more risks you take? It is so easy to say something wrong and the more you talk the more inevitable it is that you will say something that you wish you could take back. James tells us here that teachers especially have to be careful. They have extra responsibility to speak the truth because they will be judged more strictly than others who don’t teach.
So, while James says teachers need to be very careful, in verse two he says that we all stumble. We all have to be careful. We all, as mature believers, will be judged by what we say and we need to know what is the right way and what is the wrong way to handle this slippery little muscle in our mouth called the tongue.
Before you handle a firearm, you need to know how to handle it. Somebody has to show you and usually the person showing you has had experience with it, good and bad. If you go to the gun range and the range officer is missing a couple of fingers, you need to listen to him because he probably knows from experience what he is talking about.
The tongue is every bit as dangerous as any firearm but it can also do some wonderful things as well. The first thing James tells us is about the tongue’s power to direct. Your words have the ability to show, to guide, to direct others to the truth of what they need to know. James illustrates this by describing horses and ships as being guided by small bits and rudders.
When you first put a bit in a horse’s mouth, the wild nature of that horse rebels against that bit. It’s not natural. It’s uncomfortable and inconvenient for how that horse wants to live. Well, we have a wild nature as well. The Apostle Paul calls it the old man or the flesh and that old, fleshly, wild nature of ours doesn’t want our tongue to be controlled. It wants to sin. It finds pleasure in sin. It finds pleasure in letting somebody have it with a few choice words.
It finds pleasure in dropping some bombs and watching the carnage. Well, James is telling us that is sin. That is immaturity and it needs to be repented of and never done again because you are guiding and directing people with your words whether those words are good or bad. Do you realize that? Everything you say is guiding people in one way or another. You have the power to guide them toward Jesus and a life of peace and joy with the promise of eternity in Heaven, or you can, by the words of your fleshly, old man mouth, direct them towards Hell and everything Satanic. The power to direct is a big responsibility.
James also says that our tongues or our words have the power to destroy. Look at verse five again. 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 body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.
That’s harsh language, especially for one talking about using harsh language. He says it sets the whole course of one’s life on fire. You have the power in your words to destroy others…and yourself. Remember, he is talking to believers here and saying, “Don’t wreck your life by the words you speak.”
On a windswept hill in an English country cemetery stands a drab, gray slate tombstone. The quaint stone bears an epitaph not easily seen unless you stoop over and look closely. The faint etchings read: Beneath this stone, a lump of clay, / lies Arabella Young, / Who on the twenty-fourth of May, / began to hold her tongue. (sermonillustrations.com)
How you speak is how you are known. Do you want to be remembered as the person who spoke apples of gold in settings of silver or do you want to be remembered as the person who destroyed yourself and others with your inappropriate, gossipy, harsh or hateful words? You need to make the choice right now before anybody else gets hurt.
Not only do our tongues have the power to direct and the power to destroy but they also have the power to delight. Look at verses 9-12. He compares our mouths to great fountains of flowing water. Proverbs echoes that in chapter 10 where it says, “The mouth of a righteous man is a well of life.” Also, in chapter 18 he says, “The words of a man’s mouth are deep waters and the wellspring of wisdom as a flowing brook.” Does that sound like your speech? Flowing with wisdom and a well of life?
If that does describe your speech, that is delightful to God and man. Can you imagine being able to do something, anything, that delights God? When we praise God, when we make Him look good and sound good because we know He is good, then God delights in that. He wants to be known as loving and merciful because He is, so we should say that every chance we get, not just when we are in church.
But look at what else James says we can do with our mouth in verses 9-12. We can curse men who are made in God’s image. How is that not, at least indirectly, cursing God? A fountain cannot provide two kinds of water. This is another situation where, if you are going to live that lifestyle, please take the Christ Fellowship bumper sticker off your car. Don’t tell anybody you go to church here or even that you are a Christian because you give us all a bad name.
None of us are anything close to perfect but if you aren’t seeing great progress in this area, I am concerned about your eternity. I’ll just be blunt. I believe scripture teaches that there is going to be a lot of people in Hell that were church members for years and years but never truly had a relationship with God through His Son Jesus and the proof of that relationship is a changed life; a life that was continually looking more and more like Jesus.
Turn to Isaiah chapter 6. I need you to see something. So many times when we imagine God, we see Him as some doddering old man with a beard and staff in a white robe and maybe He is throwing a few lightning bolts or He is despairing about the sad state of His creation but Isaiah was given a real vision of God and he describes it the best that he can in Isaiah chapter 6. I want you to envision this if you can as we read verses 1-5.
In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the LORD, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. 3And they were calling to one another: "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory." 4At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke. 5"Woe to me!" I cried. "I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty."
What was Isaiah’s first response when He saw God? Did he see God sitting on a lawn chair and walk over and give Him a fist bump? “S’up God?” No! He saw God sitting on His throne as King of kings and Lord of lords with angels flying around Him covering their eyes from His intense holiness. Just His name being called out caused the whole place to shake and smoke and Isaiah’s natural reaction was, “Oh no. I’m a dead man.”
Why was that his first reaction? Because he immediately realized he had unclean lips. Can you imagine seeing God and now, like a recording playing in your head, you hear all the words you have said; all the times you said something untrue; all the lies, all the gossip, all the coarseness and cursing, even the unnecessary truths?
You haven’t thought of your unclean lips before because you live among a people of unclean lips. It’s all over the TV and movies and radio. It’s at your job. Your parents talked that way and even your teachers. But now…now you have seen God and it is all too obvious. You may have thought before that you wouldn’t want to hurt Him with your speech, but now you realize…what is to keep all-knowing and all-powerful God from hurting you???
Ephesians 4:29 says, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Ephesians 5:3-4 continues with, “Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.”
Do you want to know for what you should be thankful? Right now, be thankful for God’s incredible mercy and grace; grace that says, “I have seen you and I have heard what you said and if you repent (turn away from that lifestyle), I want more than anything to forgive you. Not because you deserve it but so that the world will see my grace, mercy and forgiveness.”
My dear family, a mature believer will control his tongue. We all mess up and maybe we say something in the heat of the moment sometimes but it ought to pain us to hear it come out of our mouths and those times will be fewer and fewer the longer we serve our all-knowing, all-hearing, all-powerful God.
If that does not describe you today then I would love to talk with you and pray with you because there is either something wrong with your relationship with Jesus…or it may not exist.
As the music plays, let’s bow our heads and close our eyes and use our mouths to voice to God right now our repentance and our praise. If you don’t have a relationship with God through His Son Jesus, then all you have to do is believe that Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life and no man gets to the Father or to Heaven but through Him (John 14:6).
Ask Him for forgiveness and allow Him to come into your life as Lord and Savior and allow Him to change your life right now. You don’t have to be good enough. You don’t have to understand everything. Just accept His undeserved grace. We aren’t guaranteed another day or another breath. Do that right now.