The Power Of The Spoken Word
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The Power of the Spoken Word
The Weight of Your Words in a Conscience-less Society


Exposing the Tongue
Just what is the tongue? How does it work and why does it have such great control in our lives? After all, why is it so important that we gain control over this muscle?The tongue, in a way, reflects the inner person. It is a tattletale that reveals the heart and discloses the real you. Every tongue is capable of the most grotesque and hideous of sins. The Bible describes the tongue as wicked, perverse, corrupt, vile, complaining, slanderous, cursing, foolish, filthy, blasphemous, sensual and gossiping. And this list is in no way exhaustive. It is no wonder that God put the tongue in a cage behind the teeth and walled by the mouth. The tongue is of great concern to God. In the book of James alone, the tongue is mentioned in every chapter (see 1:19, 26; 2:12; 3:1-12; 4:11; and 5:12), with one chapter (3) providing a great deal of insight. In the context of having a living faith, James reminds us that the tongue is possibly one of the best devices to measure the depth of our commitment to God. He basically concludes that the genuineness of a person's faith will invariably be demonstrated by his speech. Paul understood this truth when he encouraged young Timothy (1 Tm. 4:12) to not let anyone look down on him because he was young but rather to set an example for believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity. Both Paul and James understood that the tongue only vocalizes what has been produced by the heart the place where sin originates. Jesus put it another way in Matthew 12:36-37. He said that by our words we will either be justified or we will be condemned. In other words, What you are will inevitably be disclosed by what you say. That is, your spiritual temperature can be measured by the thermometer of your words. Thus, if your nature has been transformed then your behavior and speech will be transformed. But if your language and actions have not been transformed, then you nature has yet to be redeemed. This is a certain truth because the only way that the tongue can possibly be tamed is by the supernatural strength of Christ in you.
Before we go any further, let's read James 3:1-12. If we are going to expose the tongue then we will need to identify five important principles about the tongue.


 A, Principle 1 Speech Under Control is a Measure of Maturity (Distinguishes)

James 3:2 We all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well.
As we break this verse down, we want to attempt to understand a few of the key words involved. The word stumble means to trip or to fall. Feet that stumble can bring the body crashing to the ground. As a six year old, 55 pound football player where the thigh pads hit your knees and the knee pads hit at my ankles I had one opportunity at Hall of Fame stardom We were in the championship game against our arch rivals, down 6 points with less than a minute to play. I received a kick-off and as I was running up the field a whole opened up and there was nothing between myself and the goal line. As my little legs motored toward the goal line and certain stardom, I accidently tripped over a blade of grass and came crashing to the ground on my opponents 4 yard line. In an instance I went from hero to goat. The experience the thrill of victory literally gave way to the agony of the feet (defeat). In my immaturity, I tripped over my own two feet and my team lost the game.
The word perfect means mature or complete. Maturity in Christ is directly related to the words we speak. If we are able to control our tongues then it will reveal that we are mature and wise. Adversely, if we cannot hold our tongues, then we reveal the immaturity of our faith. Consider James 1:19, be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry... Have you ever wondered why God has given us two ears and one mouth. Maybe He wants us to us our ears twice as much as we use our tongues.

The truth is, if we are going to mature in our faith, then we must learn to guard our lips. We will need to learn some priority skills. For example, a marathoner has no difficulty with a mile run, a professional golfer can sink a one foot putt, a concert pianist can play chop sticks. And if we can learn to master our tongues, then we can master other areas of our lives.
A third word in this passage is bridle. The idea of this word involves the horsemanship of an expert horseman. An expert horseman knows how to rein in his horse, how to control his every movement. In the same manner, a mature believer knows how to control his conversation. He knows when to speak and when to listen
The truth is, we all stumble, that is, we all make mistakes. After all, nobody is perfect. Yet the idea in this passage is not that we give into our fallibility, but rather that we diligently strive to obtain the greatest sense maturity that is humanly possible.

B. Principle 2 The Tongue is Small but Powerful (Directs)

The tongue not only distinguishes or depicts our heart, but it also gives direction. Consider the next two verses of James 3:3-4.
If we put bits into the horses mouths so that they will obey us, we direct their entire body as well. Look at the ships also, though they are so great and are driven by strong winds, are still directed by a very small rudder wherever the inclination of the pilot desires.

What does a bit do? Why does a ship need rudder? Direction. They enable the individual to guide a vessel in a desired direction. As for size, it is not the issue, thus the tongue, even though it is one of the smallest members of the body, usually serves as the guide of one's life. In other words, Put your money where your mouth is. Put up or shut up. Talk is only cheap when your not willing to back it up with your actions.
James gives us two analogies to emphasis the significance of the tongue. First, the tongue is like a bit in a horses mouth. A horse can only be controlled by a bit. Even a horse tamed and breed for trail rides needs to have a bit in his mouth in order to have it's movements controlled. On one occasion while in Montana, I was horseback riding with a few children. While galloping along, I lost hold of the reins and the horse immediately took advantage of the situation. Instead of turning left with the others, my horse continue ahead with no regard for the danger before him. Fortunately, in my panicked condition, I was able to regain control of the reins and pull the horse to a stop. In the same manner, our tongues when left unbridled can take on a mindset that leads to destruction. A few ill-spoken and misplaced words can lead a dating relationship, a marriage and even a friendship down a road to destruction.
A recently read a story about a young man who went to a monk and confessed that he had shared a slanderous tale about someone. The monk responded by telling the young man to put a feather on the door step of every house in town. The young man did just that. Believing that he would have to do more to receive forgiveness, he returned to the monk asking what to do next. The monk told him to go back and pick up all of the feathers. The young man responded excitedly, that's impossible! By now the wind will have blown them all over the town! To which the monk replied, so have your slanderous words become impossible to retrieve.
The tongue is the rudder for your body. If you tame it and guard it, it will serve you well and guide you through this life, but if you misuse it and neglect it, it will destroy your character and credibility. It's like the guiding device of an F-16. You have this 30 million dollar airplane that receives it's flight instructions from a small stick that rests between the pilots knees that requires just a simple touch of the fingers to move this plane as the pilot desires.

C. Principle 3 Our Words Can Be Spontaneous Combustible (Destroys)

A few years ago there was a commercial involving Smokey the Bear. The commercial begins with an out of control forest fire. Suddenly, things move in reverse. Hundreds of trees ablaze move to one tree which moves to one campfire, which moves to one match.
James 3:6 The tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell.
Our tongues are like fire. Our words are but a sulfur match awaiting a strike. Recently, one of our church members house was set on fire as their child accidently tipped over a gas tank and the fuel rushed to a nearby hot water tank. Combustion was immediate and within seconds the room was a blaze. Fortunately, the older sister ran in and rescued to boy, but the house was lost within minutes. Amazingly, we often play with our words in places where a simple spark can ignite a raging fire that destroys anything in its path.

We tend to tolerate a bit of fire in our speech, thinking it can do no harm. But fire spreads quickly often before we realize it. And after a raging fire has done its damage, it doesn't matter whether or not it was intentional. Fact is, we should all wear signs that say, Caution: Life is a combustible commodity. Please douse your tongue! Think about it. How many of us are attracted to liars and back-biters. How many of you walked into the CLC tonight and said, who can I go and talk to tonight who will malign and lie to me?
Let me tell you about three tongue sparks that ignite roaring fires that destroy. First there is the gossip. R. G. LeTourneau, the owner of a large earth-moving company, tells the story of owning a scraper known as the Model G. Someone once inquired what the G stood for, upon which the salesman quipped, Well, I guess the G stands for gossip, because this machine moves a lot of dirt and moves it fast!
In both the Greek and in the Hebrew the words for gossiping are picturesque. In the Old Testament the word means whispering that is damaging. The New Testament word for gossip conveys the idea of a secret attack on a person's character. Gossiping involves taking information from one and giving it to others. A gossip betrays confidential trust. The writer of Proverbs has numerous things to say about a gossip.
Pr. 16:28 A perverse man stirs up dissension and a gossip separates close friends.
Pr. 20:19 A gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid a man who talks too much.
Pr. 26:20f Without wood a fire goes out; without a gossip a quarrel dies down. As charcoal to embers and as wool to fire, so is a quarrelsome man for kindling strife. The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to a man's inmost parts.
Notice the destruction of the gossip. It stirs up dissension and separates relationships. It betrays confidence and keeps trouble ablaze. And notice where gossip begins in the inmost parts. Gossip begins in the heart. After all, we all have a thirst for news. The gossip though, takes this news and ad libs. And whether intentional or not, a gossip betrays a trust and injures a relationship. A gossip pours salt in an open wound and refuses to allow for the wound to experience healing.
The second spark to consider is the liar. Just yesterday I read an article in a sports magazine about lying entitled , Is it a Sin to Tell a Lie. In the article, the author holds that it not only social acceptable but necessary that we lie. She states that truthfulness might not always be the highest virtue. Some deception may be necessary for humans to live together. After all, what does God know. Honestly, was Jesus really the embodiment of truth or was He an illusion or mirage. The command in Exodus 20, Thou shall not bear false witness, is really just a suggestion and not a mandate. Can you say postmodernism and relativism.
The author continues by citing a professor from the University of Virginia. According to Bella DePaulo, every person lies at least once or twice per day and that 20-33% of our social interactions include some untruths about our actions, feelings or opinions. She goes on to explain that we lie out onself interest, to avoid punishment, to manipulate others or to gain an advantage over someone.

We tend to tolerate a bit of fire in our speech, thinking it can do no harm. But fire spreads quickly often before we realize it. And after a raging fire has done its damage, it doesn't matter whether or not it was intentional. Fact is, we should all wear signs that say, Caution: Life is a combustible commodity. Please douse your tongue! Think about it. How many of us are attracted to liars and back-biters. How many of you walked into the CLC tonight and said, who can 'I go and talk to tonight who will malign and lie to me?
Let me tell you about three tongue sparks that ignite roaring fires that destroy. First there is the gossip. R. G. LeTourneau, the owner of a large earth-moving company, tells the story of owning a scraper known as the Model G. Someone once inquired what the G stood for, upon which the salesman quipped, Well, I guess the G stands for gossip, because this machine moves a lot of dirt and moves it fast!
In both the Greek and in the Hebrew the words for gossiping are picturesque. In the Old Testament the word means whispering that is damaging. The New Testament word for gossip conveys the idea of a secret attack on a person's character. Gossiping involves taking information from one and giving it to others. A gossip betrays confidential trust. The writer of Proverbs has numerous things to say about a gossip.
Pr. 16:28 A perverse man stirs up dissension and a gossip separates close friends.
Pr. 20:19 A gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid a man who talks too much.
Pr. 26:20f Without wood a fire goes out; without a gossip a quarrel dies down. As charcoal to embers and as wool to fire, so is a quarrelsome man for kindling strife. The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to a man's inmost parts.
Notice the destruction of the gossip. It stirs up dissension and separates relationships. It betrays confidence and keeps trouble ablaze. And notice where gossip begins in the inmost parts. Gossip begins in the heart. After all, we all have a thirst for news. The gossip though, takes this news and ad libs. And whether intentional or not, a gossip betrays a trust and injures a relationship. A gossip pours salt in an open wound and refuses to allow for the wound to experience healing.
The second spark to consider is the liar. Just yesterday I read an article in a sports magazine about lying entitled , Is it a Sin to Tell a Lie. In the article, the author holds that it not only social acceptable but necessary that we lie. She states that truthfulness might not always be the highest virtue. Some deception may be necessary for humans to live together. After all, what does God know. Honestly, was Jesus really the embodiment of truth or was He an illusion or mirage. The command in Exodus 20, Thou shall not bear false witness, is really just a suggestion and not a mandate. Can you say postmodernism and relativism.
The author continues by citing a professor from the University of Virginia. According to Bella DePaulo, every person lies at least once or twice per day and that 20-33% of our social interactions include some untruths about our actions, feelings or opinions. She goes on to explain that we lie out onself interest, to avoid punishment, to manipulate others or to gain an advantage over someone.

Now let's be honest. Truth-telling has fallen upon hard times. We have white lies, black lies and little gray lies in between. Joseph Stowell, President of Moody Bible institute says that our culture has shifted to the ethics of expediency and self-advancement, so falsehood is not only tolerated but even encouraged in many cases. This means that what once used to be a vice is now viewed as a virtue.
St. Augustine once remarked, when regard for truth has been broken down or even slightly weakened, all things will remain doubtful. Liars chip away at the bedrock of truth which in turn weakens trust and confidence in every relationship into which non-truth is injected.
Think about in this way. Truth aligns us with God because God himself is truth, Jesus is the embodiment of truth, and the Holy Spirit bears witness with the truth. Thus, when we receive the truth into our lives we a called out to reflect the truth in our words and in our actions.
Lying comes in several flavors. There the slide of hand lies. This includes beguilement, deceit and false witness. These lies seek to tamper with the truth and manipulate and distort reality. This is the spin doctor effect. Next there are the ego of the mouth lies. These are the lies of exaggeration and flattery. These lies possess a secret ambition to make someone appear better than they really are. Lies of exaggeration tend to be sins of arrogance and ego.
The final spark is the spark of criticism. Criticism is nothing more than unjustly passing negative judgement upon someone. It involves murmuring and slander. We are not talking about constructive criticism, we are talking about crosswords which seek to tear someone down instead of building them up. They are negative and discouraging words that crush a persons spirit. Unjust criticism is possibly the most devastating tongue sparks in the lives of children, friends, and spouses. It sends the message that you're not good enough.

D. Principle 4 The Tongue is an Untamed and Deadly Beast (Dangerous)

James 3:7,8 Every species of beasts and birds, of reptiles and creatures of the sea, is tamed, and has been tamed by the human race. But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison.
Not only is the tongue a fire but it is a dangerous animal. It is truly amazing all that man has tamed. We stick our heads in the mouths of lions. We have dogs that can bark out jingle bells, elephants that play soccer, chimps that perform sign languages and donkeys that play basketball. How many movies have you seen where the animal saves the day or where the animal takes on human-like traits. Man has conquered nearly every mountain in the world. He has conquered nation after nation, yet he has yet to conquer his own tongue. The tongue is rogue dangerous. The tongue is Rambo, James Bond, Hulk Hogan and Bruce Lee gone bad. The tongue should be licensed to kill.
Paul says that the tongue is full of deadly poison. Poison can be deceptive because in most cases it works slowly and secretly. I recently read the story of a golf pro who was bitten by a corral snake. At first he didn't even realize that he had been bitten, but later realized that he had been bitten by what he thought was a king snake. As the day wore on he became violently ill and had to be hospitalized and fortunately survived a brush with death. Because he did not get sick immediately, he deduced that he was bitten by a king snake, but secretly and slowly, the poison began to take over his body almost taking his life.

Interestingly enough, James is borrowing from an Old Testament passage that says The poison of asps is under their lips. The potential poison in the lips of man can be secret and slow, but it could just as easily be compared to the poison in the South American snake better known as the Two Step snake. If it bites you, you seldom take more than two steps before you die. The venom almost instantaneously paralyzes the nervous system and stops the heart. Words can have a similar effect. They have the ability to kill a relationship, paralyze a love, poison a mind, stain a person's purity and deface a person's reputation.
It is important to remember that just as a fire can be brought under control and can become useful to produce heat and energy, and just as an animal can be tamed (much like a horse can be broken) and can become useful for labor and transportation,so too can the tongue be tamed; but only by God.

E. Principle 5 The Tongue Speaks Out of Both Sides of the Mouth (Disloyal)

James 3:9-12 With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way. Does a fountain send out from the same opening both fresh and bitter water? Can a fig tree produce olives, or a vine produce figs? Neither basalt water produce fresh water.

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