Text: James 3:1-12 Taming the tongue
Whenever we speak about the tongue and the dangers of what damage can be done by the words we use, we cannot help but remember the times when we have said something inappropriate or said something that we wish we could take back.
The truth is that when we have said something, it is impossible to take it back. But James makes it clear that the instructions he is giving us are impossible to do (James 3:2 and 3:8). The tongue also betrays what is in our soul, what we are really thinking about. And then there is the damage that can be caused by the tongue, the character assassination, the gossip, the slander, the malicious talk (James 3:9).
If we only knew what it is we are doing when we slander someone else, or gossip. If we are slandering a fellow brother or sister in Christ, we are speaking badly about a child of God. Do we know what we are doing? The implications go far beyond a simple conversation between two people. How dare you and I destroy a person with our words, a person that Jesus Christ suffered and died for, and purchased with his blood.
So how do we fix this? How do we get back to using our words for good, to build up, to recognize and appreciate one another?
The first thing we need is a revelation of who God is.
In Isaiah 6:3-5 we read of the revelation that God gave to Isaiah the prophet that changed his life, it was his commissioning. Isaiah has a vision of heaven, he sees God seated on the throne in all his glory. Isaiah sees a vision of God and the first thing he says is, I am a man of unclean lips! I am ruined! He sees his utter depravity in the light of the Glory of God.
We need to understand that every word we utter is in the presence of God. God knows our every thought and every word we say. With this in mind, we need to repent, ask the Creator to forgive of every word that we have spoken against His creation. Repentance is recognizing our sin, asking God to forgive us and then turning in the opposite direction. Changing the way we speak.
In order to do this we need to make a commitment to using our words only in accordance with the will of God. I want to encourage you to make a covenant with your tongue. In the book of Job chapter 31, we read that Job made a covenant with his eyes not to look lustfully at women. But more than just a covenant with our eyes, we need a covenant with our ears, to only listen to that which is right and pure and holy as we read in Philippians 4:8. But what about a covenant with our tongue? James give us some help here, as we read throughout the book of James (1:19, 4:11, 5:9, 5:12, 5:13 and 5:16)
As we read these verses, we quickly realize how much we fall short of what the Word of God is calling us to, and the truth is that we will always fall short, we will never be perfect as James points out in our text. But what these verses do is they make us realize that we need a savior. We need Jesus to save us from our own selfish ways. As we turn to Jesus we have to look at the cross and the fact that when Jesus died on the cross he took on the sins of man, he bore the punishment that was due to us.
As we look at the life of Jesus we see a man who was perfect in all that he said and did, he never sinned. He never misspoke, he never gossiped, but he always spoke the truth in absolute perfect love.
I want to point out something very crucial in the life of Jesus, as Jesus stood before Pilate and Herod he was silent. He did not defend himself or try to explain himself. Jesus knew when he had to speak and when he had to remain silent. Jesus said that he only did what the Father told him to do. Jesus was silent because he was about to suffer the punishment for every word of slander that you and I speak every day. Everytime we are tempted to gossip or cut someone down with our words, let us remember what it cost Jesus to remain silent and take upon himself what was due to us.
But every one of us speaks with a spiritual accent, a tone that is evident in our words and our tone.
There are two kinds of accents that I am talking about, one is an accent that comes from being immersed in the things of the world. Listening to dirty jokes, immersing ourselves in television shows that try to convince us that the Bible is wrong on social and moral issues. We listen to music that fills our minds with impure thoughts. This all leads to a particular accent in the way we speak and interact with others.
Then there is another accent that we develop, this comes from spending time in the presence of Jesus. Allowing the Holy Spirit to speak to us and transform our thinking. As we are transformed on the inside, those who we interact with on the outside will see that our accent has changed. We speak as one who is walking with Jesus. Just like one learns and develops an accent, you learn and develop a way of speaking as one who is being led by the Holy Spirit. Your language will be marked by encouragement, optimism, and peace.
What accent do you speak with?