Preached by Rev. Ed Brouwer at The Gathering Place, Osoyoos
Pulpit Series Volume 18, Issue 11, April 20, 2008
Part VIII “How To Control Your Mouth”
We are looking at what James says about managing your mouth. We love to talk. Everybody has something to say. The average Canadian has 30 conversations a day. You'll spend 1/5 of your life talking. In one year your conversations will fill 66 books of 800 pages a book. The average man speaks an average of 20,000 words a day, a woman speaks 30,000 words a day.
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 of James says something about managing your mouth. James says, if you can control your mouth, you're perfect. He's not talking about sinless. "Perfection" in Greek literally means "mature, healthy".
When you go to the doctor and say, “I'm not feeling well,” the first thing he says is, "Stick out your tongue." Your tongue reveals what's going on inside of you, not just physically but spiritually.
I was tempted to title this sermon "Don't Let Your Tongue Lick You."
WHY MUST I WATCH WHAT I SAY?
It's only words; I'm just kidding." Three reasons we have to learn to manage our mouth.
1. MY TONGUE DIRECTS WHERE I GO: Look at your conversation. What do you like to 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 12 to 1500 pound horse and a 95 pound jockey on his back. The jockey can control the 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 word or 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 ocean liner 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."
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.")
2. MY TONGUE CAN DESTROY WHAT I HAVE v. 5 James gives another illustration. Imagine a beautiful forest -- tall beautiful trees everywhere. Now imagine it in one minute up in smoke, completely destroyed instantly with a little tiny match. It only takes a spark to get a fire going. A careless camper can destroy an entire national forest overnight. A careless word can destroy a life overnight. Gossip is like fire. It spreads quickly and it wrecks havoc.
I wonder how many people because of a careless word have destroyed their marriage, or their career, or their reputation, or the reputation of another, or their church, or a friendship. The tongue not only has the power to direct where you go but also to destroy what you have if you don't learn to control it. Have you ever met a verbal arsonist? Their words are always inflammatory. You can burn people with what you say.
Fire and words under control can give tremendous warmth and light, but fire and words out of control can be devastating. Proverbs 18:20 (Good News) "You have to live with the consequences of everything you say."
Words can create a chain reaction. You can say something that you didn't mean to have any harm, but it can have devastating effects that are beyond your control. Just a few inflammatory statements set off a chain of events that we now look back on and call World War II.
A couple comes in for marriage counseling. "I said this and then she said that, then I said this..." Then what happened? "All hell broke loose". Our words can cause "all hell to break loose." James says you've got to learn to manage your mouth, not only because it can direct where you go but it can destroy what you have. You can loose your family, your kids, your career simply by what you say. It's like a fire.
Proverbs 21:23 "If you want to stay out of trouble be careful what you say!" James uses another illustration. “All kinds of animals ... have been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison." (vs.7-8) No man can tame the tongue, humanly speaking. He says it's restless. That means it's always liable to break out at any moment. You can assassinate somebody with your words.
3. MY TONGUE DISPLAYS WHO I AM
It reveals my real character. It tells 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 curses. My brothers, this should not be."
Cursing here doesn't necessarily mean profanity. It means any kind of put down.
This really bothers me, how is it possible that we can be loving to people we love -- our kids, wives, husbands -- and the next moment be harsh, cold, mean to them? How is it possible in one minute to be talking in gentle, loving tones and the next minute be mean and hurtful?
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 someone 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.”
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. 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." My tongue 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 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.
WHAT IS THE SOLUTION?
Get a new heart
You've got to get a new heart, that's the problem.
Ezekiel 18:31 "Rid yourself of all the offenses you have committed and get a new heart and a new spirit!"
Painting the outside of the pump doesn't make any difference if there is poison in the well. What I need is a fresh start. We need to pray like David prayed in Psalm 51 "Create in me a clean heart, O God" because what's in my heart is going to come out in my mouth.
Ask God for help every day.
You need supernatural power to control your tongue. You can't do it on your own.
Psalm 141:3 "Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips." Great verse to memorize and quote every morning.
Think before you speak
Engage your mind before you put your mouth in gear.
James 1:19 "Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry." If you're quick to listen you will be slow to speak. If you're slow to speak, then you will be slow to become angry.
What does it reveal about you?
If we were to play back a tape of every conversation you've had in this past week, what would we learn about you? God hears it all.
Our tongues display who we are.
What direction is your tongue leading you?
Some people say, "I'm just sick all the time" or "I can never do anything", "Things are just getting tougher and tougher" - what direction are they headed? Folks lets start speaking things like … this is great but the best is yet to come!