Taming the Tongue

Introduction:
James reminds us that words matter. Most of us have caught ourselves thinking about saying something best left unsaid, only to hear those words roll off our tongues out of nowhere or in a the heat of the moment. And once the words start they tend to become a raging waterfall. And yet at other times, our hearts are so full of praise and gratitude for what God has done, we can’t get the words out fast enough to thank our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. In James 3:3-12, James acknowledges that the tongue cannot be tamed, but then tells us to keep it in under wraps so that it does not inflict great damage to others or to ourselves. While the tongue cannot be tamed, it can be controlled.

Something To Talk About:
The things we say have the power to give life or to take it. We can produce good, life-giving, motivational things with our words—or we can produce negative, death-dealing, debilitating things. We all know what it feels like to be on the other end of life-taking words. Thoughts become words. And small changes in the words we speak can make a big difference in the life we live. Proverbs 12:18 reads, “The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Life taking words from reckless people can do incredible damage. But life giving words from those who are wise can heal and give life.

If you want to change the life you live–you have to change the words you speak. Small changes in the words you speak can result in big changes in the life you have. If you can, pause, stop and think before you speak. Remember that words have the power of life and death.

Questions:
1. Why does James emphasize the negative example of the fire so much more than the positive examples of the horse’s bit or ship’s rudder?” (Matthew 15:11)
2. Sticks and stones may break my bones. Is that true? What are some examples of the untamed tongue?
3. If no human being can control the tongue (James 3:8), why bother trying?
4. James 3:6 tells us that a problem with the tongue can be linked to problems with the heart? Pray and ask God to work on your heart and help you do the things on a practical level to become more godly in what you say. And, to think before we speak in an effort to have an increasing degree of control over our tongues.

Take One Thing Home With You:
It only takes a little to be big. Consider how large a forest a small fire can consume. Shaquille O’Neal was born at 7 pounds 6 ounces, and could fit in the palm of your hand: today he is 7’ 1” and 325 pounds. Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak started Apple out of a garage in Cupertino, CA. Today the company’s market value is $600 billion. I could give many more examples of small becoming big. Yet the little muscle that exists in our own mouths that usually measures around three inches in length runs wild, unable to be tamed. Why can we mange turning a garage business into a $600 billion dollar company, yet we can’t manage our tongue?

As you prepare to think this week before you speak, ask yourself this question. What is my mouth known for? If you ask those closest to you, what would their answer be? The Bible says in Psalms 143:3, “Set a guard over my mouth, LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips.” Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be able to spontaneously speak words of love and encouragement and helpfulness to those who need them at just the right moment and just the right way, with lasting effect? Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be able to speak words of faith and comfort that will be eternally written in other’s memories. Those are kinds of big differences we can see when we start with the small steps of thinking before we speak.