Sunday, April 3, 2011

Taming the Tongue – A sermon based on James 3:1-10

Theme: It is important to use our words in a way that helps others instead of hurts.

Click here to review part one in this series (James 1:1-8 – Maturing Through Difficulty)
Click here to review part two in this series (James 1:9-18 - We Don’t Want to Be Rich!)
Click here to review part three in this series (James 2:1-13 – Treat Everyone the Same)
Click here to review part four in this series (James 2:14-27 - A Faith that Works)

Some interesting facts about words:

• No English words rhyme fully with orange, silver, or month.
• Until the seventeenth century the word "upset" meant to set up (i.e. erect) something. Now it means the opposite: "to capsize.”
• According to the third edition of The Official Scrabble Players Dictionary, there are 20 valid words containing no vowels.
• The first word spoken on the moon was “okay.”
• The first words spoken by Thomas Jefferson over the phonograph were “Mary had a little lamb.”
• "Queueing" is the only word with five consecutive vowels.
• It is estimated that women speak at a rate of 250 words per minute while men average 125 words.
• It is also estimated that women speak about twice as many words as men per day.

Verse 1 - Not many should become teachers, my brothers, knowing that we will receive a stricter judgment.

• The passage begins with a warning to those who want to be teachers in the church.
• God will hold Bible teachers accountable for what they teach others.
• This does not mean that we should not aspire to be teachers if we feel a call from God to do so, it simply means that we should approach that calling with caution and understanding.
• Even if we are not a Bible teacher in the formal sense, anytime we tell people we are Christians, they immediately begin to expect something more from us.
• Our friends may think of us as the “religious one” in the group and ask us Bible questions.
• In a sense we have become the “teacher” for our peer group even if we did not intend to.
• We need to take that role seriously because when we use our words the wrong way, it hurts the person we are talking to, it hurts us, it hurts the church and it hurts God.
• One day we will have to answer to God for how we used our words in our role as a “teacher” of God’s Word.

Verse 2 - for we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a mature man who is also able to control his whole body.

• Everyone makes mistakes with their words, even good Christians and Bible teachers.
• But there is a difference between making an occasional mistake with our words and living a lifestyle of careless comments to everyone about everything.
• Mature people control what they say.
• If we can learn to control our tongue, then we can learn to control ourselves in other ways too.
• How does controlling our tongue affect our self control in other areas?
• If we cannot control our tongue in sports, we probably get too physical too.
• If we cannot control our tongue in the office, we probably get in trouble in others ways in the office too.
• If we are kind with our words, we will probably have a lot more friends than if we are not kind.

Verse 3 - Now when we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we also guide the whole animal.

• James gives the example of how we can control a horse by putting a bit into his mouth.
• When the rider pulls one way or the other, the horse will go in the direction it is suppose to.
• When we learn to control our mouths, our lives can be directed the way it is suppose to be.

Verse 4 - And consider ships: though very large and driven by fierce winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs.

This is a $150 million mega-yacht owned by a very rich person. It takes a crew of over 20 people to operate the ship. The yacht comes with its own helicopter and speedboat. It can travel across the Atlantic Ocean whenever the owner wants to cruise the Mediterranean. The ship is steered by the two rudders pictured below:

Just as this huge ship is guided by these two small rudders, so our lives are directed by the words that come from our mouths.

Verse 5 - So too, though the tongue is a small part of the body, it boasts great things. Consider how large a forest a small fire ignites.

• The average human tongue is 4 inches long.
• The human tongue has 8 muscles in it.
• The average human tongue weighs only 2 ½ ounces.
• Yet, this small part of the body gets us in a lot of trouble.
• Our whole lives can be set on fire by our tongue.

Verse 6 - And the tongue is a fire. The tongue, a world of unrighteousness, is placed among the parts of our bodies; it pollutes the whole body, sets the course of life on fire, and is set on fire by hell.

• The tongue can create an entire world of unrighteousness.
• Unrighteousness = something that is not right.
• The tongue can mess up our whole life.
• The tongue can make our entire life a living hell.

Verses 7-8 - For every creature—animal or bird, reptile or fish—is tamed and has been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

• People have managed to tame 49 different types of wild animals who can now live peaceably with humans on a mass scale.
• But people have not yet managed to tame the 2 ½ ounce human tongue.
• The tongue can be full of poison.
• It only takes a little poison to spoil what was once something good.
• Even a little bit of poison can make us sick.
• A lot of poison can kill us.
• Words can make us sick and can even lead to a premature death.

Verse 9 - With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men who are made in God's likeness.

• We say prayers with our tongue.
• We sing God’s praises with our tongue.
• We read the Bible and share God’s Word with others with our tongue.
• Then we curse, lie, gossip and cause drama with the same tongue!!!

Verse 10 - Out of the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things should not be this way.

• James says that the “brothers” should not act this way.
• “Brothers” refers to Christians.
• Though non-Christians may be two tongued with their words, Christians should not be that way.
• Christians MUST get a grip on how we use our tongue.


• All Christians are Bible teachers, some formally and some informally.
• Therefore all Christians are accountable for how we use our words.
• Though controlling our tongue can be a challenge, Christians must learn to do it.
• When we learn to control our tongues, our entire lives will be better.