Damage Control

October 6, 2014

In our culture, licenses are a big deal. You get a driver’s license at 16, a hunter’s license, brain surgeons need a special license etc. Almost everything that has the power of life and death requires a license, except one thing – your mouth. Actually not so much the mouth, but the tongue. Wouldn’t it be interesting if everyone was required to have a license to operate their mouths? The Texas Department of Motor Mouths requires tests in competency and safety every two to four years. You would have to carry insurance – file claims or pay out of pocket.

 

James knew all too well the power of words coming off an out of control tongue.

James 3:1-12 (NIV) says,

 

“Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. 2 We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check. 3 When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. 4 Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. 5 Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. 6 The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. 7 All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. 11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 12 My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.”

 

James is known as the Proverbs of the New Testament. Some scholars believe James was reading Solomon’s proverbs when he sat down and wrote this letter we have from him because there are over 110 proverbs that reference the tongue.

 

Proverbs 18:21 tells us, “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” Take a moment and reread this verse. Commit it to memory.

 

Let me begin by stating the obvious: the tongue is powerful. With it we can do much damage, crush someone’s spirit, kills someone’s dream, fill someone with resentment, and make other people (even our own children) afraid. 

 

On the other hand, when you say the right word at the right time someone alone realizes they are not alone, they are loved. Someone who was confused can find direction and guidance. Someone ready to give up all of the sudden has hope. The right words can give correction to someone who is about to make the biggest mistake of his or her life. Words really do have the power of life and death.

 

Walk through the passage and make a couple of applications.

Verse 1: “Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.”

  • Teachers of God’s word are judged by God more strictly than other. They live under a magnifying glass and microscope.

  • That is a huge burden of responsibility – a burden that is heavy and fatiguing.

  • Be slow to gripe about who is teaching – a little grace will go a long way.

  • They (we) are already being judged by God and everybody else more strictly than everyone else is.

Verse 2: “We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check.”

  • The person who perfectly controls their tongue has perfect self-control and perfect impulse control. No one has arrived. Some are noteworthy and I aspire to be more like them, but none of us have arrived and are finished products.

Verses 3: “When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal.”

  • The tongue is like a bit in a horse’s mouth. Whoever controls the bit, controls the powerful horse.

Verse 4: “Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go.”

  • The tongue is like a rudder on a large ship. Whoever controls the rudder, controls the direction of the entire ship.

Verse 5: “Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.” 

  • The tongue may be a small part of the body, but just like a single match it can start a devastating fire.

Verse 6: “The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.”

  • James is saying here that WHEN, not IF we misuse our tongues, we are committing spiritual or relational arson.

We cannot miss the point here! The tongue is powerful. Your words are powerful!

Verses 7-8: “All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.”

  • The tongue cannot be tamed, You can try but I believe any change you see in your speech will be short lived if your focus is on taming your tongue,

Verses 9-12: “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. 11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 12 My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.”

  • James’ overpowering point here is whatever comes out of the mouth unfailingly reveals what’s on the inside of our lives. Our words are a depiction of our character and our heart.

 

The reality is if I have a mouth problem, I have a heart problem. That’s the real issue. Whatever is going on in my heart over time, will eventually come out of my mouth. I can try to control by willpower my mouth, but if my heart doesn’t change, inevitably, my mouth is going to lead. James’ talk about the tongue stops here and he does not really say what to do about it. However, Proverbs has the skill set if you are looking for a new skill set.

 

Proverbs 29:20, “Do you see someone who speaks in haste? There is more hope for a fool than for them.”

Proverbs 17:28, “Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent, and discerning if they hold their tongues.”

Proverbs 26:28, “A lying tongue hates those it hurts, and a flattering mouth works ruin.”

Proverbs 11:12, “Whoever derides their neighbor has no sense, but the one who has understanding holds their tongue.”

Proverbs 15:1, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

 

What I am saying is let’s go for a new skill set. Let’s go for a changed heart. A new heart. A renewed heart. Almost all spiritual change or growth in our lives is prompted by prayers and I want to give you two prayers that will change the words that eventually come out of your mouth.

 

The first one comes from Isiah 6:1-7, “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. 3 And they were calling to one another:

‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty;
    the whole earth is full of his glory.’

4 At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.  ‘Woe to me!’ I cried. ‘I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.’6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7 With it he touched my mouth and said, ‘See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.’”

 

Our first prayer goes something like this: “Oh God, cleanse my mouth.” Or maybe, “Dear God, cauterize my lips.” “Sweet Jesus, cleanse my tongue”.

 

The second prayer comes from Psalm 51:10, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”

The second prayer goes like this: “Dear God, create in me a clean heart again and again and again.”

 

Two prayers: one for pure lips and another for a pure heart.

 

Often we settle for changing the outside of our lives but we hesitate to address the inside (our hearts) of our lives.  Those changes will be short lived and not sustainable.  Religion settles for external change and more religion is not needed in any of our personal challenges and especially our relational challenges.  Let’s purpose to take an inside look and be more concerned about the condition of our heart than the image we work so hard to maintain.

 

Please reload

Recent Posts

November 28, 2017

April 5, 2017

Please reload

Search By Tags
Follow Us
  • Facebook Classic
  • Twitter Classic

13313 SW Freeway, Suite 263 Sugar Land, TX. 77478

P: (281) 762-1825 | F: (713) 234-7240 | E: info.barnhillcounseling@gmail.com

National Suicide Hotline:  1 (800) 273-8255

​© 2019 by Barnhill & Associates Counseling Center