James: Taming the Tongue – 5

Message opens with Dick Van Dyke videoclip where every time Buddy insults Mel he must pay money which will be donated to help cure mental health (very funny)

Taming The Tongue AUDIO – James 3:1-17

Pastor Dan Borgelt:
“I love that video because it illustrates our topic today of “Taming the Tongue”. Just how difficult it is to tame the tongue… here’s this guy he’s having such a difficult time insulting those around him they have to set up a system for him where he as to pay money every time he says an insulting word to someone else.  I also like the video because it reminds me of what someone once told me when it came to the topic of ‘taming the tongue’

“People are like bank accounts and when you say something positive to someone it’s like making a deposit. And when you say something negative to someone it’s like making a withdrawal. And your job is to keep a positive balance with everyone you come in contact with.”
So I want to ask you, with whom are you over withdrawn?

Some of you, your tongue is just so untamed that you’re over withdrawn with just about everybody in your life; because you’re constantly saying more negative things about people than you are positive. But my guess is everyone in this room can think of at least someone with whom we are probably over withdrawn; where you’ve said more negative things to than positive.

James is particularly concerned with the Church and its UNITY as he writes this subject about taming the tongue; he’s worried about the church’s unity because he realizes the tongue has the ability to divide a church perhaps more than anything else out there.

I mean there are other things out there which of course divide the church and some of them might be more severe, but many of them don’t happen quite as often.

I remember I was reading a book by a pastor of the largest church in America, 31,000 people coming to hear Andy Stanley preach every single weekend. And Andy Stanley was writing about his famous father, Charles Stanley and how he came into the ministry… and how in his early years  Charles Stanley was there in a congregational meeting and he said something that upset one of the deacons so much.. that deacon stood up and right in front of Andy he watched this deacon punch his father, the pastor of the church, right in the face.

Now of course we’ve heard of some things like that, and we’ve heard of other horrible stories of immorality and those types of things will absolutely divide a church; but I think more than all of those types of things, what threatens the unity and the peace of any church fellowship more is its INABILITY TO TAME THE TONGUE–and that has the ability to corrupt and divide a congregation more than anything else.

And that’s what James is particularly concerned about, and this morning in our time together, we’re going to discover just how DIFFICULT, but just how IMPORTANT it is to honor God with the things that we SAY, and with the things that we DON’T SAY.

You see, we can HONOR God with the things that we say and we can DISHONOR God with the things that we SAY… we can honor God by the things that we DON’T SAY, but we can also dishonor God by the things that we don’t say.

James Chapter 3… we’re going to be looking together at verses 1-12 in our time to together, and we’ll start with just the first couple verses

Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers; because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.  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.

This passage if you’ve been around the church for some time, it’s a familiar passage, it’s popular passage for churches to talk about because it’s so practical, it’s such a big issue in the church; and James just has this masterful illustration throughout this whole passage.

But, in these first couple verses we discover why did James bother talking about the idea of us taming our tongue in the first place?   And we discover, through the inspiration of God, James had some problems with what some of the early leaders were teaching in the church.

Ya know the pastor, the pastor has the ability to steer an entire congregation in the wrong direction. And we’re meant to make the connection between his address as “teacher” at the beginning, and his illustrations later when he says, “a bit can change the course of a whole mouth of a horse, of a rudder of a ship; a small blaze can set a forest on fire; the wrong person put in position of leadership given the microphone week after week after week can lead an entire congregation in the wrong direction.

Therefore a church ought to cautiously and carefully choose it’s pastor. You notice I didn’t preach this back in December (LAUGHTER) when I was asking you guys to vote for me. Who would do that? Why put seeds of doubt in everybody’s mind? No big deal.. it’s just a pastor (laughter).

So anyways James is incredibly concerned about the pastors ability and effect on the congregation; but of course that changes from one denomination to the next. We have wonderful checks and balances in our denomination; but none the less, it’s safe to say the pastor has the ability to influence a congregation and James is concerned because apparently some of the early teachers in the church were saying some pretty stupid stuff.

And that happens all the time doesn’t it?  Here was are 2000 years ago and pastors have always been and still are saying some really dumb things. I’m ashamed to say but there are some real idiotic people who find their way into my profession.

Some of them are kind-hearted and well-intentioned, but nevertheless their words are heresy and unbiblical and so idiotic. But many of them are EVIL and mean to manipulate and steer a congregation in the wrong direction, often to their own benefit.

The other day, just yesterday I was looking at some of the news headlines on the internet, and one of them is this megachurch pastor out of Atlanta, maybe you saw this article; he trying to get the congregation to raise $65 MILLION DOLLARS… ok… for a private luxury jet for him and the other staff, because they will be able to more efficiently fly around the world and spread the Gospel to other people… right.

Now the early teachers that James was dealing with weren’t trying to buy a luxury JET… but they did have some problems with finances. A couple weeks ago we reminded ourselves was that one of the things that these early leaders were teaching is that the church ought to have people who have money better than people who don’t have money. And NOTHING could be more contrary to the truth of God’s Word.

Last week we looked at one of the other things the teachers were teaching in the early church`that they shouldn’t have been… and we discovered that they were teaching this idea of antinomianism. And what we mean by that is “against the law”.. or anti-the law. So these people were teaching that Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins and He has paid the price for our sins… which we fully agree with here at Kirkmont, BUT they were teaching that because Jesus has done all the work, it doesn’t matter how you live your life… just go on and ignore the law and do whatever it is that you want to do.. it doesn’t matter anymore–and nothing could be more contrary to the truth of God’s Word.

So those are a couple of things that these early teachers were getting wrong and why James even brings up the subject of TAMING YOUR TONGUE.

And he goes on to say that we all sin often and in many ways, and that if we could possibly find a way to tame our tongue we would be considered PERFECT, he said.  Now does James actually think that if someone could master their tongue that they would be considered perfect in the eyes of God? … of course not. But the point he’s trying to make is that ‘taming the tongue’ is so hard and so difficult, that IF someone, and there isn’t anyone, but IF someone was able to fully master it, they would also have the skill set and self-control and discipline to master ALL the other areas of their life.

You see, we are getting Godly wisdom and insight into just how hard it is, just how difficult it is to master the idea of taming our tongue.

So if you’re here this morning, and you fall under the burden and the guilt of the idea that you are over withdrawn with people, I want to relieve some of the guilt… and some of the burden and let you know that many of us here can relate… that I personally can.  The Bible is telling us here, through the inspiration of God… “this is a very difficult thing to do”… which means most of us have probably failed at it and failed at it repeatedly,

And James goes on in 3:3-6

When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. 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. 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 also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.”
So James goes onto this new section and the point he’s trying to make here is “Look, the tongue is such a powerful tool it has the ability to steer an entire person’s life in a new direction”.

When I was a kid, we used to hook up a bike to a skateboard with a bungee cord of some kind; and one person would lay on the skateboard, one person would get on the bike… did anyone else do this at all? .. no… no, maybe it was a Toledo, Ohio thing not a Beavercreek.. you’re all smarter down here, closer to Columbus right.. (laughter)… stick to your notes Dan.

But anyway and so the person would ride the bike and the if you were on the skateboard you could steer it a little bit here or there, but for the most part, you were at the mercy of whoever was riding the bike.

Now we have children and we’re a little more cautious than my parents were… so we have a safer version of that in our household… our kids have battery powered cars and we hook up one of those red wagons to the battery powered cars; and two of the kids will sit in the wagon and the other kid drives the car and pulls them around.

And let me tell you, you don’t want to be in the wagon when our 4 year old Levi is driving the car. And again, they’re at the mercy of the person driving it.  And in many ways that illustrates I think what James is trying to say about the tongue.. that the tongue is constantly out ahead pulling the body behind it.. people are constantly spewing out words and then they’re finding out their actions are constantly having to catch up with the things that they say… and James is cautioning us about that.

I remember when I was in college; I’d just gotten my job at a church, I was 18 years old and one of the men came up to me and he wanted to invite me to the men’s golf outing through the church.  And so he led by saying something like, “How do you feel about golf?”   Well, just, just naturally, out of instinct I just said back to him out of politeness, “Oh… I LOVE golf, golf is great…” ya know, and I just went on and on and on… well the problem is I have never played golf in my entire life.  So I went home and thought, ‘I wasn’t trying to lie to him, but it just sort of came out all this.

So I started thinking about all the things I’m going to have to do because in a week I’m the Men’s Golf Outing.  And so I realized I don’t have any golf clubs, I don’t have any golf gear; I certainly don’t have any cool golf clothes.. I’m gonna hafta go buy those; I’m gonna have to go to the driving range; I’m gonna hafta take some lessons… otherwise this guy’s gonna know that I obviously had never played golf… and I finally thought, “What am I doing?”

And I called him up and said, “I’m afraid I might have misled you, ahhh earlier today, I’d be happy to go, but just to let you know, I’ve never played golf and I’m not going to be any good at it… you know”.

And by the way… 18 years later, it’s not a lot different anymore… still about the same (laughter). But that’s a light-hearted example of how we say things and then a whole bunch of behaviors are gonna half to follow our words; but many of us are wrapped up in scenarios which are much more severe than that.

How many times have we had to behave a certain way because our lives have gotten out ahead of us and now we’re trying to live our life in accordance with the lies that our mouth has spoken.

And James is saying, when we don’t tame our tongue it has the ability to steer the direction of our entire life.

It gives such a negative view of the tongue in this section doesn’t it? .. Why is it such a negative view? .. because the tongue, like our video said, reveals our broken heart condition; and therefore it is statistically true that WHEN WE SPEAK, WE ARE MORE LIKELY TO DISHONOR GOD WITH OUR WORDS than we are to honor God with our words.  And that is a principle that we’ve got to embrace as a church.  And therefore we should probably TALK LESS….`

Wait… did we hear anything like that around here lately (laughter).. yes, a couple weeks ago James said, “You ought to be what.. “quick to listen and slow to speak”… and then he uses the word “hell”.

He said, ‘this thing called the tongue–it’s so messed up it’s like getting caught on fire from hell itself.  This word that James uses comes from this Old Testament imagery and Jesus uses it here. The word is used only 12 times: James uses it here and his half-brother Jesus who spoke the other 11.  And now James comes along and he uses this RARE word in the New Testament to describe the tongue


I think that what James is saying is that when it comes to what you say, or what you don’t say for that matter, there’s more than what’s on the surface; it is ultimately and spiritually a profound issue… that your words have the ability to build people UP, or tear them down; they have the ability to build people up in accordance with the character of God who has created people IN HIS IMAGE, who has a plan and a purpose for their life; and when we speak words of building each other up we align ourselves with the character of God.  But they also have the ability to tear people down which is the ultimate goal of satan himself… and that is why I think you see the “hell” illustration.

Because satan’s desire is to rob and destroy the PURPOSE and JOY and GOAL of people’s lives.  And when we speak words that are harsh… well, let’s just say, many of us in this room consider ourselves to be Christian, we consider ourselves to be followers of Christ, but our words prove ourselves to be allies of satan. Should I have sat on a stool before I said that? (laughter).

One of the scariest places you can get, is to become convinced, and might I add WRONGLY by satan, that your words are incapable of really harming someone… to go through life without the recognition of the power of your word and realizing how capable they are of harming someone else around  you.  And therefore you don’t realized the spiritual warfare centered around the words that you speak and you say them carelessly and you tear people down.
We’re never more reminded by the spiritual nature of this subject of taming the tongue than when we look and see the broad scope of Scripture HOW MUCH this subject is dealt with in the Bible. A few examples:

In the Old Testament we in the Book of Proverbs 18:21, the Scripture tells us this:

“The tongue has the power of life and death and those who love it will eat fruit”
Proverbs 4:24, the Scripture tells us this:

“Put away perversity from your mouth, keep corrupt talk far from your lips”.
Matthew 12:36-37, the Scripture tells us this:

But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”
Matthew 15:10-11, the Scripture tells us this:

“Jesus called a crowd to Him and said, listen and understand”.. then verse 11, “What goes into a man’s mouth does not make him unclean, but what goes out of his mouth, THAT is what makes him unclean”.
Then the Scripture goes on to tell us in the Book of James 3, our last section together this morning tell us this in verses 7-12,

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

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

So James says, ‘Look, by the power of man we have had the ability to tame all kinds of animals and creatures according to God’s created order.. we’ve done that; we’ve made them behave the way that we want them to behave; but then he says, BUT NO MAN HAS THE ABILITY TO TAME THE TONGUE”.

Now that sounds like kind of a hopeless message doesn’t it?  You bring us here this morning, you tell us about how bad we are at taming the tongue.. and oh by the way, there’s no hope for you’.. alright.  Is that exactly what he’s saying?  I don’t think so… I think he’s contrasting though our ability to tame animals apart from the power of God; and the fact that our ability to tame the tongue necessitates the Power of God.

We have a Golden Retriever and I remember when he was a puppy we had dreams of how well behaved and trained he would be… he would be able to go to the church office with me, and walk everywhere I went, and he was just going to be a perfectly well-trained dog… and we did puppy pre-school and we did all kinds of things… and we read from books, but as far as I know, I don’t think we ever really prayed or fasted about the dog’s training… well, we might have, but I don’t think that we did.. right; because for the most part man has the ability to tame animals and get them to behave a certain way apart from the Sovereign work of God.

But… what James is saying, when it comes to taming the tongue, we are hopeless on our own. No man can tame the tongue. And therefore if you’re here today and having heard this message you are sincere about your desire to tame the tongue, the ONLY hope you have lies in the power of your relationship with Jesus Christ.

If we had the time to study the life of Jesus we would discover that He was a MASTER when it came to honoring God the Father with the things that He SAID… and with the things He didn’t say.

When someone needed to be built up and encouraged, Jesus spoke those words; when someone needed to be protected, Jesus spoke those words; when someone needed to be politely and gently corrected, Jesus spoke those words… and when evil people needed to be rebuked harshly, Jesus spoke those words.

But when Jesus thought that He could accomplish the most, and honor God the Father the most by saying absolutely nothing at all… that’s exactly what He did.

That’s the Gospel–the Christian message, that we have a Savior who came to die on the cross for our sins, and many times during His arrest and trial and crucifixion, He could have spoken the words which would have ended it all but He didn’t… because He was on a mission to die for the sins that we have committed with our tongue and otherwise.

That is the character of Jesus Christ… and it is only through a relationship with Him that we have the power to tame our tongue.  Jesus honored God the Father by what He said, and by what He didn’t say.

Let me give you a practical challenge as we end our time together this morning… a very tangible thing to do this week as a congregation [00:26:30] :

If you have children and they are OUT OF THE HOUSE:

…you have raised them and they are now out of the home; I want to encourage you to contact them, to call them, to email them, text them, however you think they would most effectively be contacted and I want you to tell them that you heard a message about taming the tongue and you are wondering if you might have perhaps been “over-withdrawn” with them.  You’re wondering if perhaps you are over-withdrawn with them.  Give them… even if you’re not, give them permission to name something you said to them when raising them that they wish you wouldn’t have said, and THEN APOLOGIZE for it.

Ya know, when I was a teenager I had someone I loved and looked up to… I told them I was excited about the fact that I had gotten a good ACT Score and you know what they said to me… “Even a blind squirrel catches a nut every once in a while”. Yeah… and I remember it 18 years later. 

And so there’s a chance that your kids will remember something that you don’t remember at all. Take the opportunity to seek it out

If your children are STILL IN THE HOME:

… talk to your spouse and say, “Am I over withdrawn with our kids… do I make more withdrawals than deposits?
If you don’t have children:

ask your spouse, “Am I over withdrawn with you?
If you’re not married,

ask a good friend… you get the idea.
Find someone and allow God to show you if you’re the kind of person because you haven’t had control of your tongue there’s someone out there who you’re overdrawn with and it’s time to make that right.

Let’s pray:

Father, we thank you for the opportunity to look at the truth of Your Word as always and we pray for your Spirit to work in our time together this morning to produce real and tangible results this week. We know that your original concern for this passage was the UNITY and FELLOWSHIP of the church, so if there is any unity broken here at Kirkmont because of the words that have been spoken to some by others, we collectively pray for reconciliation.

And I pray for these folks… that if they’ve been wounded by people who perhaps are no longer around to say they’re sorry… that You will minister to them and heal them. And if we’ve been wounded but we’ve been the ones to wound, we pray that You would help us take the HIGH ROAD and seek reconciliation and forgiveness for that.  

We are relying on our relationship with Jesus Christ and HIS POWER to tame our tongues… and we ask these things in His name.


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