"The Way Words Work"

Preached by on February 5, 2017
— From the series,

Shakespeare wrote "The Taming of the Shrew," which is an interesting story, but James writes "the taming of the tongue," which is God's story to us. How does one "tame the tongue"?

The Way Words Work

(James 3:1-12)



A.  I like to believe that I am growing as a Christian.  I do believe that I have gained in areas of my life that were lacking and that I seek God more deeply the older I get.  I love my walk with the Lord.  There are things I know help me in that walk to become more mature as Christian.

B.  The obvious actions we talk about are things like getting into a personal bible study.  Really trying to dig deeper into God’s word to let His light shine into the dark places of my heart.  I know that praying both more frequently and praying God’s word help me to draw near to him and take hold of the grace of God.  Worship, both collective and private are a part of the key to successful spiritual maturity.  There are many things you could add to this list, but James adds one test that many who see themselves as spiritually mature fail, the test of the tongue.

C.  READ James 3:1-2.  James acknowledges that we all stumble in many ways.  He is talking to Christian people who are growing in Christ.  He address the fact that mature Christians are the teachers in most local congregations.  But the mark of maturity is not how many Bible classes I teach, not how many Bible studies I have with non-Christians, not how many times I pray or attend worship.  James says, “If anyone does not stumble in what he says” that’s the person who also knows how to control other aspects of his life.

D.  For James that test of your spiritual maturity is your actions and your speech.  So, how well do you control the words you say, the words you write on Facebook, the words you put in an email or any other way you communicate?


I.  Little Yet Powerful

A.  James loves to give illustrations.  Just as he did with faith, James does with the tongue.  Listen again to what James tells us. (READ James 3:3-4).

B.  In comparison to an Arabian stallion, a bit or bridle is quite small.  In comparison to an aircraft carrier, the rudder is quite small.  The point is clear things that we see as powerful – the horse or a ship – are directed by something most people don’t think about.  Yet, that little bridle and that rudder on a ship change the course of both.

C.  To drive the point home, James puts it in graphic terms (READ James 3:5-8).  As many as 90 percent of wildland fires in the United States are caused by humans. Some human-caused fires result from campfires left unattended, the burning of debris, negligently discarded cigarettes and intentional acts of arson.  ~ U.S. Dept. of Interior

D.  Most of us have seen scenes of those wildfires out west and the damage they can do.  James says they start with spark.  If you entire livelihood was dependent upon a vineyard or a field of grain think about the devastation that would happen if a fire wiped out everything.  James says that is the destructive ability of the tongue.  The worst fire James can think of is the fire of Hell itself and that is where James goes with his illustration.

E.  You can destroy a person by your words.  Our tongues can be a tool of Satan and as damaging as Hell’s fire upon the earth.  The potential for harm caused by our words is huge.  You don’t have to be a teacher in a church to affect people by your words.  Think of how often the Bible tells us to encourage one another, don’t you think that is because there are so many that discourage us?

F.  Listen to Jesus as Matthew records these words in Matt. 12:33-37.  I want you to ponder those last two verses, maybe even decided to memorize them.  Every careless word will be brought up on Judgement Day.  Are you ready for that?  Does it scare you?  It does me.


II.  Double Tonged

A.  Let’s finish this section.  READ James 3:9-12.  Wednesday night we are going to spend some time here.

James talks about a double-tongued person who says both good and bad, blessing and cursing.  With our words we come together every Sunday and we worship and praise God.  We sing songs of praise, we share prayers of thanksgiving and petitions, we remember the body and blood of Jesus as someone directs our thoughts with words. I help to make God’s word more clear or direct our collective thoughts.  What we do personally and collectively with our words every Sunday is of the highest level we can do with our words.  We bless God.

B.  But how many of us are guilty of leaving this first day of the week praise to God and start using words to gossip, lie, manipulate, degrade, or, James says, “curse men” who are made in the very image of this God we have spent the last hour praising?

C.  Memorize verse 10, “my brother, this should not be.”  The Greek language has this phrase emphatic.  It might better be translated, “surely, church family, this is the sort of thing never ought to happen.”  The point that James is making is that we as Christian should never behave in such a non-Christian manner with our speech.  It would be like a spring bringing forth both fresh and salt water at the same time.  That obviously can’t happen, so why would we think that our double-tongued speech is okay with God?  It isn’t.



A.  We have been pushed by James to practice what we preach, to live out Christian faith.  I want you to know this calling is attainable.  James is not telling us what can’t be done, but how we need to live.

B.  You are light of world.  You are a city set on hill.  Let your light shine so that God may be glorified.  Use your words to bless men as well as God.  If we can help you walk in this great journey, come as we stand and sing.