Gets Its Hands Dirty part 6
to Manage Your Mouth
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
February 10, 2008
Passage: James 3:1-12
I was on the Internet this week and I came across a list of supposedly
true quotes taken from tombstones…
"Here lies my wife, Here let her lie
Now she has peace And so do I!"
"Here lies JOHN D. CUDD, DMD (Dentist)
Filling his last cavity!"
Tombstone in Round Rock,Texas
"I told you I was sick!"
Found on a headstone in an old cemetery
~ ANNA PERRY ~
"The children of Israel wanted bread And the Lord gave them manna
Parson Perry wanted a wife And the Devil gave him Anna!"
In a cemetery in Hartscombe, England
"On the 22nd of June
Jonathan Fiddle Went out of tune."
In a London, England Cemetery
~ ANN MANN ~
"Here lies Ann Mann Who lived an old maid
But died an old Mann.
Dec. 8, 1767"
Playing with names in a Ruidoso, N.M. Cemetery
"Here lies Johnny Yeast
Pardon me for not rising."
A widow wrote this epitaph in a Vermont Cemetery
"Sacred to the memory of my Husband John Barnes
Who died January 3, 1803
His comely young widow, aged 23,
Has many qualifications of a good wife,
And yearns to be comforted."
[Some people take out personals in the newspaper…]
A marker in Enosburg Falls, Vermont
~ ANNA HEPEWELL ~
"Here lies the body of our Anna
Done to death by a banana
It wasn't the fruit that laid her low
But the skin of the thing that made her go!"
Someone in Winslow, Maine didn't like Mr Wood
"In Memory of Beza Wood
Departed this life
November 2, 1837 - Aged 45 Years
Here lies one Wood enclosed in Wood.
One Wood within another.
The outer wood is very good ...
We cannot praise the other."
In a Thurmont, Maryland Cemetery
"Here lies an Atheist
All dressed up And no place to go!"
Memory of an accident in a Uniontown, Pennsylvania Cemetery
"Here lies the body of Jonathan Blake
He stepped on the gas instead of the brake."
On a grave in East Dalhousie Cemetery,
"Here lies Ezekial Aikle
The Good Die Young."
"Harry Edsel Smith of Albany, New York
Born 1903 - Died 1942
Looked up the elevator shaft to see if the car
Was on the way down. It was."
In a Silver City, Nevada Cemetery
"Here lays Butch. We planted him raw.
He was quick on the trigger, But slow on the draw."
A lawyer's epitaph in England
"Sir John Strange
Here lies an honest lawyer,
And that is strange!"
On a headstone at Chapel Cemetery
"I was Carolina Born And Carolina bred
And here I lay Carolina dead!"
"Here Lies Joyce
She'd rather not But has no choice."
A grave in Girard, Pennsylvania
~ ELLEN SHANNON ~
"Who was fatally burned March 21, 1870
By the explosion of a lamp
Filled with "R.E. Danforth's
Non-Explosive Burning Fluid!"
An epitaph in a Wimborne, England Cemetery
~ JOHN PENNY ~
"Reader if cash thou art In want of any
Dig 4-feet deep And thou wilt find a Penny."
Moore was a Wells Fargo Co. station agent for Naco, Arizona in the
cowboy days of the 1880's. He's buried in the Boot Hill Cemetery in
"Here lies Lester Moore
Four slugs from a .44
No Les No More."
original story of this is that someone found this on a tombstone buried
deep in the grass. Upon pushing the grass aside, he read:
"Pause, stranger, when you pass me by,
For as you are, so once was I.
As I am now, so will you be.
Then prepare unto death, and follow me."
Pushing the grass aside a bit more, he found the following scratched
on the stone, done with a crude instrument:
"To follow you I'm not content
Until I know which way you went!"
From a cemetery in Hatfield, Massachusetts
~ ARABELLA YOUNG - 1771 ~
"Here lies as silent clay
Miss Arabella Young.
Who on the 21st of May,
Began to hold her tongue."
began to hold her tongue.” How are you at holding your tongue? Are you
able to do it now or will it take the grave to finally stop it from
wagging? Does your tongue get you into trouble? Why does it do that?
And why does it really matter?
Over the past several weeks we’ve
been talking about developing a faith that gets it’s hands dirty… the
kind of faith that’s not afraid to get involved in the messiness of
life. And as we’ve progressed through this message series, we’ve been
working our way through the New Testament book of James, which is a
very practical book about hands-on Christianity.
Last week we
looked at a passage in James chapter two that told us that if our faith
does not impact our behaviour, then it’s useless. It’s pointless. It’s
dead. It’s not a real faith. Because when your faith is real, then you
can’t help but express it through your actions. So last week, it was
about the impact your faith has on your actions.
we’re going to be talking about the impact your faith has on your
words. On your mouth. On your tongue. How does your faith, if it’s a
real faith, influence the things you say?
Because both of us
know, we love to talk. There are talk shows everywhere. Everybody seems
to have something to say. The average person has 30 conversations a day
and you'll spend 1/5 of your life talking. In the span of one year your
conversations will fill 66 books, 800 pages per book. If you're a man
you speak an average of 20,000 words a day. If you're a woman you speak
30,000 words a day. (Like the guy who was asked, "Do you resent that
your wife has the last word?" He replied, "No, I'm just glad when she
finally gets to it!" Or the wife who broke her jaw. When they took an
X-ray it turned out to be a motion picture.)
Some of us
are born with a foot-in-mouth disease. We have this natural ability to
say the wrong thing at the wrong time. Nothing is opened more wrongly
at the wrong time than our mouths.
I read a story this
week about a stock boy at the grocery store. A lady asked him, "Can I
buy half a head of lettuce?" He walked back to the manager to ask, not
realizing she was walking right behind him. He said, "You're not going
to believe this, there's an old bag out there who wants to buy half a
head of lettuce." He turned around and saw her standing there and
quickly added, "And this fine lady would like to buy the other half."
Our mouths get us into a lot of trouble. At least mine does. And it’s
pretty good at it… it’s had decades of experience.
we are working our way through the Book of James, and James talks more
about the tongue than anybody else in the New Testament. Every chapter
in the book of James says something about managing your mouth.
James 3:2 (NLT)
we all make many mistakes. For if we could control our tongues, we
would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way.
says, if you can control your mouth, you're perfect. Now, that word
“perfect” does not mean that you are sinless. It’s talking about being
mature or healthy. That’s what the Greek word for "perfection" means.
So James is saying that a spiritually mature, healthy person is able to
control their tongue.
When you go to the doctor and say, “I'm
not feeling well,” what’s the first thing he says? He says, "Stick out
your tongue." Why? Because your tongue reveals what's going on inside
of you, not just physically but spiritually. James says that you've got
to learn to manage your mouth. You've got to learn to tame your tongue.
You've got to get your tongue under control.
Don’t let your tongue lick you.
you might ask, “Why does it matter? Who cares what I say? They’re only
words. I’m only kidding? Why do I have to watch what I say?” And James
answers, “Words are significant”. And he tells us why. Here’s the first
thing he tells me about why I need to watch what I say…
Must I Watch What I Say?
My Tongue Directs Where I Go
has tremendous influence and control over my life. Where are you headed
in life? Where are you going to be ten years from now? Look at your
conversation. What do you like to talk about? What do you talk about
the most? We shape our words and then our words shape us. James says…
James 3:3 (NLT)
We can make a large horse go wherever we want by means of a small bit
in its mouth.
James says, “Yeah, the tongue is small, it's tiny”. And because it's
tiny we think it's insignificant. But it has tremendous power. It can
direct where you go.
He says, “Consider a bit in a horse's
mouth. You've got a huge stallion, 2,000-3,000 pounds, and then you’ve
got a 95 pound jockey on his back. How does the jockey control the
horse? With a tiny piece of metal. The jockey can control the
tremendous mighty horse by a little piece of metal stuck strategically
over his tongue. James says it’s the same way with your tongue. Your
tongue controls the direction of your life.
And then James adds…
James 3:4-5 (NLT)
a small rudder makes a huge ship turn wherever the pilot chooses to go,
even though the winds are strong. In the same way, the tongue is a
small thing that makes grand speeches.
Here’s a picture of the
Queen Mary 2. The Queen Mary 2 contains 15 restaurants and bars, five
swimming pools, a casino, a ballroom, a theatre, and a planetarium. The
anchor would be equal to the weight of ten cars. Yet a relatively small
rudder directs this huge ocean liner out in the middle of the waves and
winds and seas. A little rudder keeps it on course. James says that our
tongue is like that. Our tongue is like a rudder that steers us. Your
tongue is the steering wheel of your life. It is the guidance system.
If you don't like the way you're headed right now, change the way you
My Tongue can Destroy What I Have
In verse 5 James gives another illustration….
James 3:5-6a (NLT)
a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire. And the tongue is a flame
of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire
body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell
Imagine a beautiful forest – tall beautiful trees
everywhere. Now imagine it all going up in smoke, completely destroyed
by a little tiny match. In 1983 in Australia, one fire overnight
destroyed 1000 kilometres of land, villages, livestock. All from a
single match. James says your tongue is like that tiny match… just a
tiny spark. But it can destroy everything!
A careless camper can
destroy an entire forest overnight. A careless word can destroy a life
overnight. Gossip is like fire. It spreads quickly and it wrecks havoc.
I wonder how many people because of a careless word have destroyed
their marriage, or their career, or their reputation, or the reputation
of another, or their church, or a friendship. The tongue not only has
the power to direct where you go but also to destroy what you have… if
you don't learn to control it. It's like a fire.
you ever met a verbal arsonist? Their words are always inflammatory.
They say, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never
hurt me." But that’s a lie, isn’t it? Words do hurt. You and I both
know that. They can hurt and they can destroy. Look, when under control
and used wisely, fire and words can give tremendous warmth and light,
but out of control they can be devastating.
Proverbs 18:20 (Good News)
"You have to live with the consequences of everything you say."
James 3:6b (NLT)
It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell
“whole life”. It’s like a chain reaction. Your words set start a fire
and then it spreads. You can say something that you didn't mean to have
any harm, but it can have devastating effects that are beyond your
control. Like what happened about 70 years ago… just a few inflammatory
statements set off a chain of events that we now look back on and call
World War II.
Or think about it like this… say husband comes
home from work… it’s been a long day and he’s tired and grumpy and
cranky. So the husband walks in and yells at the wife. What happens?
The wife yells at the oldest kid. The oldest kid yells at the baby
sister. The baby sister goes out and kicks the dog. The dog goes and
bites the cat. The cat comes in and scratches the toddler. The toddler
bites the head off the Barbie doll. Wouldn't it have been a whole lot
simpler if the husband just bit the head off the Barbie doll himself?
Your words can set off a chain reaction.
says you've got to learn to manage your mouth, not only because it can
direct where you go but it can destroy what you have. You can loose
your family, your kids, your career simply by what you say. It's like a
fire. And not only can it destroy you, it can destroy those around you,
VIDEO – ONE WORD from sermonvideos.com
One word can cause a lot of trouble… for you, and for others. That’s
why the instructions of this proverb are so significant…
Proverbs 21:23 (NLT)
Watch your tongue and keep your mouth shut, and you will stay out of
James says the tongue is like a spark of fire. And then James
reinforces this with another illustration. He talks about a zoo. He
James 3:7-8 (NLT)
People can tame all kinds of animals,
birds, reptiles, and fish, but no one can tame the tongue. It is
restless and evil, full of deadly poison.
Have you ever said
something and then wondered, “Why did I say that?” You immediately
regret saying whatever it was you said, but you just couldn’t help
James says, “Of all the animals we've tamed, no one can tame the
tongue.” At least, not without God’s help.
says it's like poison. Literally, he says it’s like "snake venom". Just
a few drops can kill. You can assassinate somebody with your words.
Assassinate their character. The tongue is a deadly weapon. It have the
ability to destroy.
My Tongue Displays Who I Am
reveals my real character. It tells what's really inside of me. First,
James points out how inconsistent we are in our speech. Still talking
about our tongue, he says…
James 3:9-10 (NLT)
praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have
been made in the image of God. And so blessing and cursing come pouring
out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not
We say these things out of the same mouth. We come to
church on Sunday. The highest use of your mouth is to use it praising
God. We sing praises to the Lord. Then we walk out, get into the car
and on the way home we argue about where we're going to eat lunch.
Isn't it amazing how quickly your attitude can change? In one minute
you're saying, "Praise the Lord", the next you're saying, "Shut up!"
amazing how quickly it can change, like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. One
minute we're praising God and the next we're cursing other people. And
by the way, “cursing” here doesn't necessarily mean profanity. It means
any kind of put down. ["You good for nothing... You'll never amount to
nothing ... You're just like ..."] Those kinds of things. Any kind of
put down is a curse. And James says, “Why do you curse other people?
Aren’t they made in God's image.”
How is it possible
that we can be loving to the people we love -- our kids, wives,
husbands -- and the next moment be harsh, cold, and cruel to them? How
is that possible? Do you struggle with an inconsistent tongue? James
says we all have it. We speak lovingly in one breath and then lash out
in the next. What gives? What's the problem? Why do we do that?
Well, James gives the answer in v. 11-12. He says consider the source.
James 3:11-12 (NLT)
a spring of water bubble out with both fresh water and bitter water?
Does a fig tree produce olives, or a grapevine produce figs? No, and
you can’t draw fresh water from a salty spring.
Whatever is in
the well comes out in the water. Whatever is in the tree, comes out in
the fruit. What is the likelihood of an apple tree producing cherries?
Zip! It’s the source that determines what comes out of it.
you see, my problem is not really my tongue. My problem is my heart.
What's inside my heart is what comes out of my mouth. My mouth
eventually betrays what is really on the inside of me.
you heard this excuse? Someone says something really mean or hurtful
and they say, "I don't know what got into me. It's not like me to say
that. I don't know why I said that. It's totally out of character. I
didn't really mean it. It’s just not like me." James would say, “Oh,
yes it is. It's just like you. You meant it. Quit kidding yourself.
What’s on the inside is what’s going to come out.
Jesus said in Matthew 12:34…
Matthew 12:34 (NLT)
For whatever is in your heart determines what you say.
what we call a Freudian slip, isn’t it? When you say something you
didn’t mean to say but it’s what you really think? Jesus explained the
Freudian slip years before Freud even existed. He said what's inside of
you is what's going to come out. My tongue just displays what I am. It
directs where I go. It can destroy what I have. But most of all, it
simply displays what I am. It reveals my character.
you've got a problem with your tongue, it's much more serious that you
think. Because you don’t just have a tongue problem; you have a heart
problem. A person with a harsh tongue has an angry heart. A person with
a negative tongue has a fearful heart. A person with an overactive
tongue has an unsettled heart. A person with a boasting tongue has an
insecure heart. A person with a filthy tongue has an impure heart. A
person who is critical all the time has a bitter heart.
the other hand, a person who is always encouraging has a happy heart. A
person who speaks gently has a loving heart. A person who speaks
truthfully has an honest heart.
What do the words you say reveal about the condition of your heart?
so our words are important. They matter. For good or for bad,
positively or negatively, the words we choose to say and how we say
them impact our lives. So, what if you have a problem? What if your
tongue is out of control? What is the solution?
Is the Solution?
Get a new heart
You've got to get a new heart, because as we just discovered, that's
Ezekiel 18:31 (NLT)
Put all your rebellion behind you, and find yourselves a new heart and
a new spirit.
That’s pretty good advice, isn’t it? Get a new heart.
the outside of a water pump doesn't make any difference if there is
poison in the well. It changes the outward appearance perhaps, but it
doesn’t change the essence. I mean, I can change the outside, I can
turn over a new leaf, but what I really need is a new life. What I need
is a fresh start. I need to let go of all the past and be born again
and start over. I need to get a new heart.
So how do I do that? How do I get a new heart?
2 Corinthians 5:17 (NLT)
This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person.
The old life is gone; a new life has begun!
person, new life… that means a new heart, a new spirit. When you come
to Jesus Christ, He wipes out everything you've done in the past. He
says, “you're starting over. I’m giving you a new heart.”
Or how about what David wrote in Psalm 51…
Psalm 51:10 (NLT)
Create in me a clean heart, O God.
Is that the prayer you need to pray? Because what's in your heart is
going to come out your my mouth.
Ask God for help every day
the truth is, you need supernatural power to control your tongue. You
can't do it on your own. Your life is a living proof of that. How long
have you already tried that on your own? You know we cannot control it
on our own. We need supernatural power, so we ask God to help us.
Psalm 141:3 (NLT)
Take control of what I say, O Lord, and guard my lips.
that a great prayer? "God, put a muzzle on my mouth. Guard my lips.
Don't let me be critical today. Don't let me be judgmental. Don't let
me say things off the cuff that I then regret." You need to ask God for
help daily because you need His power in your life.
proof that God's Spirit is in your life is not that you speak in an
unknown tongue but you control the tongue you do know."
~ Sidlow Baxter
you know, one way of asking God for help is getting into His Word, the
Bible. As you ask Him to help you control your tongue, you need to read
His word. As the old computer slogan goes: garbage in, garbage out.
What goes into your mind, goes into your heart, and what goes into your
heart, comes out of your mouth. Fill your mind with the word of God --
with the things of God – think on these types of things, at that’s what
will come out your mouth.
Think before you speak
Engage your mind before you put your mouth in gear. Going back to a
verse we looked at a few weeks ago…
James 1:19 (NLT)
You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.
think James put them in that order for a reason. Because they go in
that order. First, be quick to listen. Instead of giving in to the
immediate urge to speak, listen. And that will automatically make you
slow to speak. And if you're slow to speak, you won’t be as likely to
get yourself all worked up to the point of being angry. So if you have
a problem with anger in your life, then what you need to do is work on
being quick to listen and slow to speak. And the natural result will be
that you'll be slow to anger.
What does your
tongue say about you? What does it reveal about you? If we were to play
back a tape of every conversation you've had in this past week, what
would we learn about you? God hears it all, you know. Our tongues
display who we are.
And our tongues direct where we go. What
direction is your tongue leading you? Our tongues control the direction
of our lives like a rudder, like a bit.
You know, here’s the
thing about a bit and a rudder… they need to be must be under the hand
of a strong, capable arm. So James is saying that the only way to get
your tongue under control is to let Jesus Christ have control of your
And maybe that means you start by asking forgiveness.
Depending on how you’ve used your tongue before, maybe you need to go
to your kids to say, “I'm sorry I’ve been so harsh and unloving with
you. I really do love you. Please forgive me.” Or maybe you need to
apologize to your spouse for snapping at them or belittling them or
taking them for granted. Maybe you need to apologize to a coworker for
humiliating them and gossiping about them. But you definitely need to
as God to forgive you, and ask Him to perform a transplant and give you
a new heart.
Pray like this…
"God, I need
that heart transplant. I need a new heart and a new spirit. Come into
my life. Maybe for the first time or as a recommitment you say, "Take
control of my life." What direction is your tongue leading you? Where
are you headed in life? Where will you be ten years from now? What do
you talk about the most? That tells me where you're headed. My tongue
can destroy what I have. I could lose it all in a minute by a few
careless words, just like a cigarette dropped can destroy an entire
park. Maybe some of you need to say, "God, I've been a verbal arsonist.
I say things that hurt. That hurt my husband, my wife, my kids. I say
things at work that are unkind. I'm harshest with those I love." The
Bible says that displays what is inside. That's where the change needs
to take place. "God would You give me help every day? Would You put a
guard on my mouth? Would You help me to think before I speak? Lord,
forgive me for the things I've said that were out of place. Help me
with a new start this morning. I can't do it on my own; I need Your
help. Help me to read Your Bible and fill my mind with good things." If
you have an overactive tongue, say "God would You put peace in my heart
so I don't have to talk so much? I've been negative. Help me not to be
fearful. I tend to brag a lot. Help me to not feel insecure. God, melt
the hard heart. Give me a caring, loving heart. Jesus Christ, take
control of the rudder of my life and guide me in the direction that You
If you prayed that prayer, God heard you.
Father, we all need this message. I pray that we all learn to manage
our mouth. Help us, we can't do it on our own. But by Your spirit in
our lives we can have victory. Lord, we realize that our tongue can
damage but it also can delight. What a great potential we have. Help us
to use our mouths, our tongues to bless people. God, help me to use my
tongue to bless my wife, to bless my children, to bless the people I
work with. God, there is tremendous potential in it. Help my tongue to
give light and warmth rather than destruction. In Jesus' name. Amen.
series uses a variety of source materials, primarily "A Faith that
Worls" by Rick Warren, "Faith for Pedestrians" by Laurence Croswell,
and "James: Hands-On Christianity" by Charles Swindoll.]