Words - The Tongue


October 27, 2013   James 3  The tongue – Words 

    The bible has a lot to say about words and about the tongue.   We talked about God’s word last week and it is far different than man’s words.   Man’s words or talk does not mean a whole lot today.   It has been watered down over the years.  A hand shake to solidify an agreement today means less than it did 50 years ago.   We are all guilty of it.  I told Sally early this summer that I was going to clean up under the trees at home over the summer.   Though I started it, it is not done and it is no big deal but the reality is that I said I was going to do something and I did not do it.   I still plan to do it but it is not done.  The point is that I did not keep my word.   We have all experienced it.   We have said things and not completed what we said and it has hurt someone else.   We have been promised things and others have not delivered.  In Psalm 15 David said who can dwell in your sanctuary?   One point he makes is the person who keeps his oath even when it hurts.   It is a man or woman who keeps their word.  

    This is a quotation that someone made.    "I’d rather see a sermon than hear one any day; I’d rather one would walk with me than merely show the way.   The eye’s a better pupil and more willing than the ear; Fine counsel is confusing but example’s always clear.    The best of all the preachers are the ones who live their creeds, for to see good put in action is what everybody needs.    I soon can learn to do it if you let me see it done.   I can watch your hands in action but your tongue too fast may run.   The sermon you deliver may be very wise and true, but I’d rather get my lesson by observing what you do, for I might misunderstand you and the high advice you give, but there’s no misunderstanding how you act and how you live."  That is so true.   How does our lives stack up against our words? 

    God is not like man.  Numbers 23:19 tells us that God is not a man that he should lie nor a son of man that he should change his mind.  Does he speak and then not act?  Does He promise and not fulfill?   God is reliable and that is good news.   God’s words are true.  We can count on God.  God’s timing is not our timing but God keeps his word and God keeps his promises.  His words are truth and the bible is true.  We can count on God.   We can rely on God.  That is good news for those who share the word of God.   God’s word does not return back to him void.  There is power in God’s word.   The great English preacher Charles Spurgeon once said, "The gospel is preached in the ears of all men; it only comes with power to some.   The power that is in the gospel does not lie in the eloquence of the preacher otherwise men would be converters of souls. Nor does it lie in the preacher’s learning; otherwise it could consist of the wisdom of men.    We might preach till our tongues rotted, till we should exhaust our lungs and die, but never a soul would be converted unless there were mysterious power going with it – the Holy Ghost changing the will of man.    O Sirs! We might as well preach to stone walls as preach to humanity unless the Holy Ghost is with the word, to give it power to convert the soul."  There is power in the word of God because of the spirit of God and because his word is truth and his word can set people free.

    Have you ever thought how you would feel about God if his words were as trustworthy like most people’s words? Would it change your relationship to God?   If that were true heaven would not mean anything.   We would have no hope.   Prayer would not mean anything or very much anyway.   Why read the bible if it is not true?   God is not a man that he should lie.   Have you ever been around someone and you often questioned what they said?   Have you ever felt that you could not believe almost everything someone told you?    We have all been around someone like that I would say.   We have been around others who are very negative and critical.   Their words pull you down and pull others down.  I have been around others who have a very foul mouth and been around those that take the name of the Lord in vain.  I was around a 3 or 4 year boy once in Manchester who over and over again used one 4 letter word.  Two words were all that he would speak.   I silently rebuked that spirit in Jesus name and the boy quit speaking.   I can’t imagine that boy in school.  He learned that at home.   We should never feel like we are totally helpless as Christians.   We have a powerful God who is with us and on our side as we walk with him.  

     A woman named Marilyn Helleberg told about being a teenager at church camp.   She said an ugly rumor got started there about two of the counselors and it quickly became the talk of the camp.   The next day, at Morning Prayer, the minister read the story of the adulterous woman.  He spoke of Jesus telling the crowd that if any person who had no sin they could cast the first stone.   And one by one, those who had come to stoned her to death walked away.   Then the minister passed around a bucket of stones and insisted that we each take one and carry it in our pocket.   Throughout the remainder of camp any time we felt like criticizing someone else or talking behind another's back or passing on an ugly rumor we were to reach into the pocket, touch the stone and ask ourselves if we were without sin.    That shut down the gossiping.  Because true love remembers how much Jesus has forgiven us and - because of that - refuses to "delight in evil" and the spreading of gossip.  

     Do you remember the little ditty we used to sing sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never harm me?   Well maybe we wished that words could not harm us.  That is really not true is it?   Words and the tongue can have a tremendous impact on people.  Words can be biting and bitter. 

     Steve Malone shares as ham sandwiches go, it was perfection. The sandwich had a thick slab of ham, a fresh bun, crisp lettuce and plenty of expensive, light brown, gourmet mustard.   The corners of my jaw were aching in anticipation; I carried it to the picnic table in our backyard, picked it up with both hands but was stopped by my wife suddenly at my side. "Hold Johnny, (our six-week-old son), while I get my sandwich," she said.    I had him balanced between my left elbow and shoulder and was reaching again for the ham sandwich when I noticed a streak of mustard on my fingers.   I love mustard and I had no napkin, so I licked it off.  It was NOT mustard.   No man ever put a baby down faster.   It was the first and only time I have sprinted with my tongue protruding.  With a washcloth in each hand I did the sort of routine shoeshine guys do; only I did it on my tongue.   Later my wife said, "Now you know why they call that mustard ’Poupon.’"   Words can be even more terrible.   It has been said that mistakes of the tongue have destroyed more people, ruined more marriages, and cost more businessmen their jobs and their futures than any other kind of mistake."    A sharp tongue is the only edged tool that grows keener with constant use.    There is danger when a man throws his tongue into high gear before he gets his brain a-going. 

     Jesus said in Matthew 12 whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.    And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.    Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.   Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit.    You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good?   For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.   A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.    But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the Day of Judgment for every empty word they have spoken.   For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”  That is pretty plain isn’t it?   Words are important and good words are important.  James tells us in this passage that we bless God and then curse men.   We should not do that. 

    James starts this section with a word of warning to teachers.  It is not meant to discourage someone from teaching but he points out that our words will be judged.  It is an encouragement for teachers to be speaking truth and pointing others to Jesus and not to point to others to our self.   Teachers impact other people and the tongue is very critical for teachers.  It is not the only way to teach but certainly a critical aspect of teaching.  Generally speaking a teacher leads others and guides others.  There is usually a change that takes place.   Even if the teacher is teaching a subject such as math there are attitudes that are passed on to others.   

      James said if a man is never at fault with his words then he can control his whole body.   The key to the body is the tongue and the key to the tongue is the heart.   Jesus shared a parable in Matthew 18 that it is not what goes into a man’s mouth that makes him unclean but what comes out of the mouth that makes a man unclean.   The disciples asked Jesus to explain it to them and Jesus said the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart and that is what makes a man unclean.  It is out of the heart that comes evil thoughts of murder, adultery, theft and slander etc.   It is the heart that gets to the root of it.   It is our pride and self centeredness and the evil comes from there.   I remember when I was younger that I would say something and I would wonder where did that come from.   I would think back usually a day or 2 back and would remember thoughts that were not good and right was in my heart and then I found that my mouth got engaged.  From the heart to the mouth and then who knows where from there. 

    Then James talks about a small bit in the horse’s mouth.   The horse can be controlled by a bit and a couple of ropes.   The horse may weigh well over 1,000 pounds but it is controlled by 2 or 3 pounds of material.   And huge ships are steered by a small rudder.  The rudder on a big ship may be large but it is small compared to the size of the ship.  The rudder can change the ship direction.   The tongue can change things also.  The tongue is small but makes big boasts.   The tongue only weights a few ounces.   In chapter 4 James warns about boasting about tomorrow.   We do not know what tomorrow will bring.   Then James likens the tongue to a fire.  We have had some big fires lately in the United States.   A simple match in the hands of a terrorist can do a lot of damage.  It can upset whole communities. 

     At 29 minutes and 45 seconds past 5 AM on July 16, 1945, something spectacular happened.   In northern New Mexico, the still dark early morning sky became as bright as the noonday sun. In that one blinding flash, the Atomic Age had begun. The atomic fireball shot upwards at 360 feet per second to 30,000 feet.   What awesome, unbelievably destructive power was unleashed that day?   Just 21 days later that horribly destructive power was brought to bear on our enemy as one of our B29 Super fortress bombers dropped an atomic bomb named “Little Boy” on Hiroshima, Japan.  As he looked down at the explosion, Robert Lewis, the co-pilot of the Enola Gay said, “What have we done?” On December 20, 1951, something else spectacular happened.   In Arco, Idaho, the still dark sky was brightened with light as well by light bulbs powered by the first electricity produced from nuclear energy.

    The tongue can be as destructive as a bomb.  It can ruin a marriage, a family, a business, a community, a state, a nation and a world.   Consider the power of the tongue in a Hitler.  There is a lot of negativity out there and a lot of swearing but the tongue can be used for good.   Consider the power of the tongue in a Moses the apostle Paul or Billy Graham or a Sandy or Elaine.  The tongue can be used for God’s glory.  We can be empowered by the Holy Spirit and our tongue can be used to change other lives.   It can be a tool of creating unity.  It can be a tool for healing.  It can be a tool for blessing and encouragement.   It can be a tool to bring others to God.   If you want your tongue to count for God fill your life with this book.  Jeremiah said he wanted to stop speaking God’s words but God’s word in him was like a fire and he had to speak it.