Has anyone ever told you to watch your mouth? My dad threatened to wash my mouth out with soap once. Have you ever put your foot in your mouth? You know, say something dumb and embarrassing? James switches gears a little here and warns the Jewish churches, and us, about the dangers of our speech.
James 3:1 ERV
My brothers and sisters, not many of you should be teachers. I say this because, as you know, we who teach will be judged more strictly than others.
Why shouldn’t we all be teachers? Why are teachers held to a higher standard? Why is James giving us a serious warning?
We have influence because we’re trusted.
Is this good, bad, or both?
Our mistakes in teaching others can hurt them, so we have to do our very best to make sure we’re right. We have to make sure we do right. It’s a great responsibility.
Jesus said in Matthew 5:19, “A person should obey every command in the law, even one that does not seem important. Whoever refuses to obey any command and teaches others not to obey it will be the least important in God’s kingdom. But whoever obeys the law and teaches others to obey it will be great in God’s kingdom.”
That’s the good. Jesus then warns us about the seriousness of the bad side of it in Matthew 18:6, “If one of these little children believes in me, and someone causes that child to sin, it will be very bad for that person. It would be better for them to have a millstone tied around their neck and be drowned in the deep sea.”
Here is the responsibility that comes with it in Luke 12:48, “But what about the servant who does not know what his master wants? He also does things that deserve punishment. But he will get less punishment than the servant who knew what he should do. Whoever has been given much will be responsible for much. Much more will be expected from the one who has been given more.”
Are you teachers? I would say yes, not officially, but through the examples of our lives to non-Christians. We are to show them what Christ-Followers look like. Not with style, but with our actions.
We all make many mistakes. A person who never said anything wrong would be perfect. Someone like that would be able to control their whole body too.
Who here has never made a mistake? I have. What can we do to make sure we don’t make very many mistakes? Think before we speak. The better we are at that, the easier it will be to think before we act.
Is that easy?
We put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us. With these bits we can control their whole body. It is the same with ships. A ship is very big, and it is pushed by strong winds. But a very small rudder controls that big ship. And the one who controls the rudder decides where the ship will go. It goes where he wants it to go.
Do any of you ride a horse? Have you ridden a horse that’s never been ridden before? What’s the difference between the two?
A horse that has been ridden before has been tamed and can be controlled with that little piece of metal. It’s amazing considering how strong they are.
It is the same with our tongue. It is a small part of the body, but it can boast about doing great things. A big forest fire can be started with only a little flame. The tongue is like a fire. It is a world of evil among the parts of our body. It spreads its evil through our whole body and starts a fire that influences all of life. It gets this fire from hell.
Who is Smokey the Bear? What did he always say?
Does anyone build a fire? How do you do it?
Do you need a big fire to make a fire, or just a match or a lighter? Our tongue is the small fire, our speech is the big fire.
What are the dangers of speech?
Spread gossip (no one will trust you), Slander (killing someone’s reputation), Insults (no one will want to be around you, and those that would probably wouldn’t be good friends), Lie (no one will trust you).
Dangers to yourself: complain and it feeds your negative feelings. What’s the opposite of these? Speak the truth, and gain trust; encourage and see the best in others and it will help you and them feel more positive.
We carry two buckets with us in all conflicts. One is full of gas, the other water. Which do you want to throw on the fire the tongue started?
Our speech also reveals who we are inside, especially when aggravated. I can stop myself from punching someone a lot easier than I can stop myself from saying something mean and hateful.
Jesus put it like this in Matthew 15:11, “It is not what people put in their mouth that makes them wrong. It is what comes out of their mouth that makes them wrong.”
Remember what we discussed a few weeks back about what comes out of our mouths reveals our heart, remember the Bible verses? “But the bad things people say with their mouth come from the way they think. And that’s what can make people wrong. All these bad things begin in the mind: evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual sins, stealing, lying, and insulting people.” Matthew 15:18-19
What can we fill ourselves with to make sure that doesn’t happen when we’re having a bad day, and we all will have a bad day? The Holy Spirit. Who knows about the Fruit of the Spirit?
“But the fruit that the Spirit produces in a person’s life is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these kinds of things. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified their sinful self. They have given up their old selfish feelings and the evil things they wanted to do. We get our new life from the Spirit, so we should follow the Spirit. We must not feel proud and boast about ourselves. We must not cause trouble for each other or be jealous of each other.” Galatians 5:22-26
The Holy Spirit helps us to control our tongues. It takes God to do it. That’s how powerful the tongue is.
Humans have control over every kind of wild animal, bird, reptile, and fish, and they have controlled all these things. But no one can control the tongue. It is wild and evil, full of deadly poison.
Have you been to a zoo? Or a place like Sea World where mighty ocean mammals do tricks?
A chimpanzee is stronger than a man, an elephant rips up trees, killer whales are the smartest predator in the ocean. We’ve turned wolves into lap dogs over the years, taking wild animals and taming them to do what we want.
Except for cats. Unless you have a laser pointer.
The tongue is filled with poison and uncontrollable. Who can remember what James said about speech in the first chapter of the book (James 1:19)? Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.
That takes self-control. One of the fruits of the Spirit.
We use our tongues to praise our Lord and Father, but then we curse people who were created in God’s likeness. These praises and curses come from the same mouth. My brothers and sisters, this should not happen. Do good water and bad water flow from the same spring? Of course not. My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree make olives? Or can a grapevine make figs? No, and a well full of salty water cannot give good water.
We use our tongues to praise God, and then curse people; what’s that look like? Does it remind you of faith and deeds, and how they should match?
Also in Verse 9, what does ‘created in God’s likeness’ mean?
It’s found in Genesis 1:26-27, “Then God said, “Now let’s make humans who will be like us. They will rule over all the fish in the sea and the birds in the air. They will rule over all the large animals and all the little things that crawl on the earth.” So God created humans in his own image. He created them to be like himself. He created them male and female.”
It’s a long list of characteristics that He has that He also gave to us, like our minds, a personality, emotions, etc.
Verse 10, what does James say about verse 9? Look at the comparisons in verses 11-12, are these possible? No, they are impossible.
Who has a problem with cussing? I did after I was saved. That was the first thing that God cleaned up.
Who’s gossiped? This is something I have to be careful with, especially working in an office.
What about saying something mean that hurt someone or hurt their reputation? If I don’t watch it, whatever pops into my head will run out of my mouth before I can catch it. It’s something everyone deals with.
Our response to it should be do all you can to not do it by not talking too much, saying only true, helpful, inspiring, necessary, and kind things.
We have to remember we are accountable to God for every word, “Every careless word that men shall speak, they shall render account for it on the day of judgment…” Matthew 12:36. Everything I ever said to you, I have to tell God why I said it. You have to tell God why you said it.
Let that sink in…
So, what do we do? Confess our sin to God. Ask for forgiveness. Confess it to others so they can help keep you accountable. Start talking positive.
This passage reveals our fallen nature and how easy we sin. It’s why we need Jesus. What we say, good or bad, can affect how people see Jesus. How can that happen? Let’s make a list.
It can ruin our lives, or the lives of others. How?
As we go through our day, think before you say something. Get into the habit. Let’s go tame our wild tongues