I came across a story of an ancient storyteller, who told this fable “Once upon a time, a donkey found a lion’s skin. He tried it on, walked around, and frightened many animals. Soon a fox came along, and the donkey tried to scare him, too. But the fox, hearing the donkey’s voice, said, “If you want to terrify me, you’ll have to disguise your bray [loud cry of a donkey].” The ancient writer’s moral of the story was……“Clothes may disguise a fool, but his words will give him away.” Think about that statement as we open James letter to the church as he addresses the seriousness of the tongue. What is the tongue capable of? It can be used for both good and evil. For example: It can be used to tear down, It can be used to build up, It can be used to display anger, It can be used to show love “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Prov 15:1. It can be used to deceive, It can be used to bless, It can be used to hurt, It can be used to heal, It can be used to murmur [gossip] and IT CAN BE USED TO PRAY “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that you may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availed much.” James 5:16. It’s amazing that it has the capability with one breath to praise God, pray, read scripture and the hope of Christ….and in the next breath tell lies, say hurtful things, ruin your reputation and break a person’s heart.
See! Ultimately the tongue displays the true heart of the man or woman. In Luke 6:45 Jesus said “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” It’s a powerful muscle that can create many things to bless and many things to destroy…….the person it was intended too and the person who speaks! As one person said “The tongue is but three inches long, yet it can kill a man six feet high." Obviously by doing a quick read over this letter…This was a major issue with the heart of the people. I can only imagine what there board meetings or membership meeting were like? James had to address this issue numerous times in his letter. For example going back to (1:v19) “let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath…” James even went on to say in (1v26) “if anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle [control] his tongue but deceives his own heart, this religion is useless.” Here in this portion of his letter (3:v2-12) as well look at in few minutes. In (4:11) He says “do not speak evil of one another, brethren….” In (5:9) James says “do not grumble against one another, brethren lest you be condemned…..”But it’s not just a minor issue among believers……this is the natural man’s way of living.
In the Third chapter of Romans we are given a clear picture of all humanity and to what we are capable of or do daily. In Rom 3:10-18 “As it is written: "THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NO, NOT ONE; THERE IS NONE WHO UNDERSTANDS; THERE IS NONE WHO SEEKS AFTER GOD. THEY HAVE ALL TURNED ASIDE; THEY HAVE TOGETHER BECOME UNPROFITABLE; THERE IS NONE WHO DOES GOOD, NO, NOT ONE." "THEIR THROAT IS AN OPEN TOMB; WITH THEIR TONGUES THEY HAVE PRACTICED DECEIT"; "THE POISON OF ASPS IS UNDER THEIR LIPS"; "WHOSE MOUTH IS FULL OF CURSING AND BITTERNESS." "THEIR FEET ARE SWIFT TO SHED BLOOD; DESTRUCTION AND MISERY ARE IN THEIR WAYS; AND THE WAY OF PEACE THEY HAVE NOT KNOWN." "THERE IS NO FEAR OF GOD BEFORE THEIR EYES."
As we come to this part of James letter he gives the underlining warning about the true Christina life…“these things ought not be so” (v10) What is James saying? There should be no place or room in the Christian’s life for this form of behaviour! PERIOD. It’s unacceptable and completely UnChristlike….and it’s blatant sin against a holy God. As John MacArthur said in his commentary on this passage he wrote “when God transformed us, He gave us the capacity for new, redeemed, holy speech, and He expects us, as His children, to speak only that which is holy and right.” See! Again this always goes back to the Gospel! We have been made new by the precious blood of Jesus Christ found in the gospel. If we fall to this form of behaviour you have to ask yourself! Do I really care about what others think, who I hurt and most of all what God thinks? As Owen Feltham said "All men will be Peters in their bragging tongue, and most men will be Peters in their base denial; but few men will be Peters in their quick repentance."
Look what James says here…..he gives us three powerful examples of the tongue. The tongue is as powerful as bit in a horse’s mouth…….which will control the horses to do what you want him or her to do. (v3) The tongue is as powerful as a ships rudder which controls the direction of where you want the ship to go. (v4) The tongue has the power to destroy a countryside. (v6-7) Sadly according to James in this passage apart from Christ all tongue does is………destroy (v6) “it defiles the whole body” And what’s worse is that the natural man has no power over it..….even the Christian has no power to tame the tongue. Which means you and I are incapable of change apart from the sanctifying work of Holy Spirit in our lives. When you speak the way, you would rather be controlled by the flesh…than submit to the Spirit who will guide you in Christ righteousness. So! Let me ask you the hard question. Does your actions or behaviour break your heart when you say things that tear down and destroy? Because if it doesn't I strongly advise you to examine your life with the mirror of scripture. As Johnny Mac said “He expects us as His children, His righteous children, His chosen children to speak ONLY that which is HOLY and RIGHT!” The Apostle Paul warned the church in Col 4:6 “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” Paul also went to say to the church in Ephesus “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” Eph 4:29-30
Remember a continual and habitual hateful heart is an unconverted heart, and it CANNOT and WILL NOT produce loving words or works found in Christ. Jesus said so! In Matt 7:15-16 "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles.” On the flip side to that is that loving heart is a regenerated heart that fights the battles daily through the Spirit and it CANNOT and WILL NOT produce hateful words or works of Christ. Matt 7:18 “A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit.” Am I displaying proper us of the tongue? Or am I always using my tongue to do evil? Because the Bible clearly says "you will know them by there fruits" Matt 7:19-25 “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. “Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.' "Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.” Can you leave here today and know that my [your] tongue is being bridled by the Power of the Holy Spirit? Or is it untamed and evil, full of hate and sin, a Tongue that is full of the world and all its desires? As Peter said who had experience in this area “Whoever would love life and see good days must keep their tongue from evil and their lips from deceitful speech. They must turn from evil and do good; they must seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” 1 Peter 3:10-12. The Sunday Question……Do you have a tongue that is bitter like salt water? Or a tongue that is pure like fresh water? In other words do I speak like a child of the world or a child of the living God? Only you can answer that question truthfully!