“Faith works when faith guides our words.”
James chapter 3
Reinbeck UMC 8/13/17
• What is more destructive than a wildfire?
• What is more powerful than a nuclear bomb?
• What has caused more injuries than bathtub slips?
• What has torn apart churches and countries?
If you guessed war, you were wrong. It is much closer than that.
In fact, it is much, much closer than you might imagine… it is the human tongue.
• James says our words are more destructive than a wildfire.
• They are harder to control than huge ships.
• The tongue is harder to tame than any wild beast.
• The tongue is a small part but corrupts the whole body.
In a 180-pound man, that is 8 tenthousanths of 1 % of the body weight.
How much trouble can 8 tenthousanths of one percent cause?
That 8 tenthousandths of 1% has…
• Started more wars
• Destroyed more families
• Broken up more marriages and friendships
• Split more churches
• Caused more tears
• Caused more pain and suffering than the remaining 99.9992% of the body.
I don’t think I am exaggerating. And neither does James.
Now let’s make this just a little bigger than the words that come out of our mouths. In our day and age, technology gives us the ability to communicate in any number of ways. Texting, emailing, and face-booking. Those are all words that come out of us just as surely as these words come out of my mouth right now. The thing is, that should make some of you very uncomfortable.
Occasionally I overhear some of you gossiping, or saying judgmental things about someone else, or speaking negatively about the church. I have NEVER heard anyone speak with their tongues in the caustic, and frankly embarrassing, way some Christians speak with your fingers on face-book. That picture you shared, that cruel or judgmental post you wrote, or the angry post you “liked” speak just as clearly about what is inside of you as anything else you say and do.
Occasionally I read what some of you and other Christians post on face-book and think about all the people who think Christians are hypocrites… and I’ll tell you reading face-book proves loud and clear that some are.
I’m not talking about everyone… but you know if I am talking about you. Why would you want to be associated with that? Why would you put that out there for the world to see? What does it say about your faith in Christ that you behave that way even in an electronic community? I used to tell my youth, don’t put anything on face-book you wouldn’t want your grandma to see. Some of you would do well to take the same advice.
So when I talk about our words I am talking about all of our words, and when I talk about our tongues, I am also talking about our fingers.
James is not, by any means, the only place in the Bible concerned with our words. Here are just 5…
• ”It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles.”
• “A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit.”
• “Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”
• “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.”
• “For, “Whoever would love life and see good days must keep their tongue from evil and their lips from deceitful speech.”
I collected 21 passages and put them on a handout for you, but I may have still missed some.
I think you all know what I am talking about:
• You know 4 letter words!
• You know name calling!
• You know threats!
• You know “teasing!” that isn’t any fun.
• You know put downs!
• You know lies!
• You know Gossip.
Most of us have been on the receiving end of some of that at one time or another. You know how hurtful our words can be.
Going back to James, you may have noticed that he starts this passage with a special word to teachers: “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers; for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness” (verse 1).
Why should this be? It is simple. We all know that if a plumber does something bad they just use his name on the TV. If the perpetrator is a teacher, preacher, or government official they never fail to point that out. That’s because we are in positions that speak loud and clear to masses of people. We know that, and most of us act accordingly.
The truth is that it is not just teachers, preachers, and politicians who are in the public eye. Whether you teach a class or not, every Christian teaches a lesson with the way they live. The question is what lesson are your words teaching? Someone is always watching. And no matter who we are, our tongues are powerful tools for good or evil. The mastery of the tongue is a sign of spiritual maturity.
But James does not leave us stranded. He doesn’t just say bridle that horse, put out that fire, turn that ship, or keep your lip zipped. He actually has some very practical advice, but it is spread throughout his book. I have collected it for you and
1. Listen twice as much as you speak James says, “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger” (James 1:19). They say that’s why God gave us two ears and one mouth.
2. Put your words into action “Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. (James 2:15-17) Don’t just talk about it... Just do it.
3. Resist loaded words. “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?” (James 4:1). You know what I am talking about … those words that you might feel strongly about, but you just know are going to cause controversy. They are the words that we use to bait others into arguments. It might be illegal alien, homophobe, or any number of 4 letter words.
4. Never speak evil of another.” Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge” (James 4:11). There’s a challenge for you! It is the old, “If you can’t say anything nice… don’t say anything at all.”
5. Never boast, “Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away” (James 1:9–10). It is OK to be proud of our accomplishments, but boasting is being overly proud… or falsely proud.
6. Use your mouth for good Psalm 51 says, “O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise.”
a. To sing praises to God. “Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise” (James 5:13).
b. Ask for prayer. “Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord” (James 5:14).
c. Pray. “Pray for one another, that you may be healed” (James 5:16).
d. Say I’m sorry and I forgive you. “Therefore, confess your sins to one another that you may be made whole” (James 5:16).
If you go to the doctor, you know he or she is going to ask you to stick out your tongue. Have you ever wondered why? What do they see? I don’t know, but they seem to be able to tell a great deal about our health by looking into our mouths. That is a parable of spiritual reality. You can tell an awful lot about a person by what they say. Our words are a pretty accurate index of the health of our hearts.
What do your words say about you?
SPEECH IS A POWERFUL THING.
• Some of the most significant messages people deliver to one another often come in just 3 words. Try some of these.
1. I'LL BE THERE
2. I MISS YOU
3. I RESPECT YOU
4. MAYBE YOU'RE RIGHT
5. PLEASE FORGIVE ME
6. I THANK YOU
7. COUNT ON ME
8. LET ME HELP
9. I UNDERSTAND YOU
10. GO FOR IT
11. Of course there are three words more powerful than any other… I LOVE YOU.
Of all the words that you could speak… Let those be the words that reveal what is in your heart. I LOVE YOU.