A Little Member But Great Boaster:

Our tongue is a powerful tool, but also a powerful weapon. We have the ability to build people up or tear them down by merely opening our mouths and speaking. The children of God need to be more than just aware of the power of our tongue, we need to use it’s power to do God’s work and glorify our Lord and King.

Podcast 47 Transcript

(This is a computer generated transcript of this podcast. This is NOT a typed transcript and it has not been edited. Expect grammatical and syntactical errors.)

Hello, and good day. I am B. R. Maul, and you are listening to Living God’s Way in an Ungodly World. Thanks for joining me. It’s nice to have you here. I am a teacher and preacher of God’s Word. But more importantly, I am a child of God, and I have been spending intimate time with the Lord now for going on 20 years.

And I share this with you today because, well, for starters, we’re going to be talking in the book of James, chapter 3, verses 1 through 12. And this is a passage that James talks about the human tongue and the power that is in it. And when it comes to learning, beloved, we should be very careful in who we give our time to, especially when we’re looking at God’s Word. Do we not spend a lot of time before we go to college or for those who go on to master a skill or a craft? Do we not spend ample time? In looking into that, who it is that we are going to learn from, what university are we going to get a degree from, does that university have a high image in society, does the person that we are learning from, whatever trait or skill or craft that a person decides to do, does that person have a reputation that is honorable, that we know that he or she knows what they are doing.

We spend a lot of time doing that, and so we should also spend equal amount of time when we decide to listen to teachers of God’s Word. In the past, in other episodes of this program, I have dived into the qualifications of a pastor. One who is teaching God’s Word. One who is helping brothers and sisters in the faith to grow in their walk with our Savior. So, this episode isn’t about that. I just wanted to point that out because teaching is a powerful tool. And we live in a time where there are many false teachers. As the Bible says, false prophets, those who are intentionally deceiving you. With that said, let’s jump right in now to James 3. What I’ll do, as usual, I will read God’s Word, so 1 through 12 are the verses. And then I’ll back up and break it down. James chapter 3, verse 1.

My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment. For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body. Indeed, we put bits in horses mouths.

That they may obey us, and we turn their whole body. Look also at ships. Although they are so large, and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder, wherever the pilot desires. Even so, the tongue is a little member, and boasts great things. See how great a forest, a little fire, kindles.

And the tongue is a fire. A world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body and sets on fire the course of nature and it is set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. But no man can tame the tongue.

It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men who have been made in the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessings and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be. Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening? Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives? Or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh.

Here ends the reading. So, right away, James tells us in verse 1, My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment. Well, what’s he saying there? Is he trying to tell people that it’s not a good idea to become a teacher? No, he’s not trying to say that. But he is pointing out that the power of teaching So, there is a light warning in this, that we should not take teaching for granted and we also should not downplay it in the sense of, well, it’s no big deal. And especially when he’s talking about God’s Word, walking with the Spirit. Because, those who teach God’s Word will indeed receive a stricter judgment. And if you are one who desires to teach others God’s Word, then that is a beautiful gift from God. It’s a desire that you should be praying about and looking into, but take very seriously.

He goes on in verse two, For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body. Being perfect in this context is not talking about being sinless. This word is Greek, teleios, and it means complete in various applications of labor, growth, mental and moral character, completeness of full age.

So what we get here then is a person who has some time underneath their belt. So physically, gaining skills, morally, having learned lessons in life, mentally. Through time being able to maneuver in the things of life, being complete. So not perfect in sinless, or also not perfect as in this person doesn’t make mistakes, no.

Because as James mentions, for we all stumble in many things. None of us are perfect. But if anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body. There’s discipline there. There’s wisdom, James is saying, in a person who has control over their words. And over and over in Proverbs, King Solomon tells us the power of the tongue. We know in Proverbs that the power of the tongue can be like a honeycomb. It can be sweet to the soul. It can heal people. It’s medicinal. It’s a tree of life. We can lift people up, but we can also tear them down. It can also bring death upon people. So our tongue, what we say, is very, very important. I think back, when I was a boy, I was a pretty small kid. I really didn’t start growing until I was in high school. So throughout elementary school and throughout middle school, I was a runt. I was a slower runner. Just seemed like I was kind of behind in a lot of things. Physically, a lot of my classmates were much quicker to grow physically. So the point being though, I was a pretty easy target with the bullies.

And I remember being told, and I’m sure you’ve heard it, it’s got rhythm to it, Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never harm me. And I tried swallowing that over and over again. But I found that when people would say mean things to me, I couldn’t help but just feel really bad about who I was.

And sometimes, I would almost prefer a physical fight. Because words were very hurtful. And not only that, but when I would fight back with my tongue and say things that were mean and cruel to others, I too didn’t feel good about who I was. I don’t recommend using that in order to help kids these days, because, well, sticks and stones, yes, can hurt bones, but words can also hurt deep inside.

And we’re being told that by James, because he goes on to say, verse 3, Indeed, we put bits in horses Mouths that they may obey us and we turn their whole body So with this little bit that we can put in this very strong horse with that We can tell the horse which way to go or to start and to stop all with that little bit Verse 4 look also at ships Although they are so large and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder, wherever the pilot desires.

Verse 5, Even so, the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. So a very small member of our body, and yet A very powerful, powerful tool, or weapon, or however it is that it’s going to be used. And as Christians, we are expected then to control our tongue. We are told in Proverbs about what makes a person wise. Well, reading God’s Word, that’s what makes a person wise. The Holy Spirit. teaches us as we read his words, but then also the use of that wisdom makes us wise. Knowing that if we are quick to speak and quick to spew out our own thoughts, our own beliefs, our own feelings, that that can often cause Unnecessary harm to those around us and to ourselves.

A wise person is one who can hold their tongue, we’re told. A wise person has patience, can sit back and listen without opening up their mouth and making that little member of ours in our mouth say things that we would regret. I like how he goes on, he says, See how great a forest a little fire kindles.

It’s amazing, I have seen video footage of some of the fires in California, and these are huge trees, beautiful trees. But you see the flames of that fire just roar through those trees and devour such beauty. And it always saddens me when I hear that it was Man made. I mean, an accident, I would assume, most of the time anyways. Somebody flicking a cigarette, leaving a campfire not quite put out properly, whatever it might be. But that’s all it takes, is a little heat, a few sparks, fire starts to kindle, and just like that. James goes on and says and the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity, the tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body and sets on fire the course of nature and it is set on fire by hell.

Oh how the devil likes to mess with us. Nothing like whispering in our ears when somebody hurts us or angers us. And we hear this little voice say, Give it to him. And Something witty pops into our mind, some smart remark that in our own brain it sounds like it’s going to just stifle the conversation and that we will dominate and get revenge on whoever it was that hurt us.

Oh yeah, the devil knows. He knows, and often he just has to remind us, listen to your own heart, because our heart is deceitful, deceitful and wicked. And if we don’t keep our heart, if we don’t protect our heart, remember, the things of life come out of it, and reveal who we really are. I remember coming across an old saying that says He who has a sharp tongue often ends up cutting his own throat.

I never did learn who wrote that, but it rings true. There are those who have a very sharp tongue. Every tongue can cut. Every tongue can make somebody else bleed. But the more that we spend time sharpening our tongue, trying to come up with the most witty sayings. Or being brutally honest. The more time we spend sharpening that tongue, yes, the more we risk cutting our own throat causing irreparable damage. Verse seven, for every kind of beast and bird, a reptile and creature of the sea is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. Yeah, that’s something that we can’t tame the tongue. Remember James, a few verses back did say that if anyone does not stumble in Word, he is a perfect man, a perfect person. But I can see the difference here between not stumbling in Word and having it tame. Having it completely under one’s control. But we don’t control it, we don’t have it mastered. where we can just run with it. It’s like the best we can do is not stumble around. But there’s still a lot to be said about that. And that comes from the help of God. We can’t do it on our own. But on this side of eternity, we’re just not going to be able to tame it. Why? Well, because we’re still battling the flesh. And we still fight pride, self-preservation, we still want to save our own dignity, whatever it might be. We feel compelled to protect ourselves, to defend ourselves against wrong, even if it may not be morally wrong, but it’s wrong to us because it hurt our feelings. And let’s face it, one of the first things we want to do is say something back to either make ourselves look better or the other person to look less.

And that’s a natural tendency on this side of eternity, not until we get into eternity and we are glorified that we no longer have to fight that fight. It’s interesting, full of deadly poison. Think of poison for a moment. Some poisons are quick acting. Some poisons, if it hits your skin, if you inhale it, you drink it by accident, it can cause quick damage, really fast. And that certainly can be the case with hurtful words that we spew from our mouth. And then there’s those poisons that, well, don’t act right away, but they kind of sit inside of us. Doing damage until it reveals itself. The first thing that comes to my mind is food poisoning. Now, of course, that’s not necessarily intentional poisoning, but it’s still something we consume, that we take in, that our body wants to reject.

And it’s very similar, then, to words that we hear others talk to us, that may hurt us, damage us slowly, and over time. It’s cruel how we can take down our loved ones, those who are closest to us, our spouse, our children, our parents, those who love us the most in life, and we can keep cutting them with These little tiny insults, sarcasm that can keep cutting away at the spirit until our loved one no longer really feels so good about himself or herself.

So beloved, we really need to be careful with our tongue. Sarcasm is one thing I’ve been encouraging my kids to do away with completely. For some reason, in our society, maybe it’s got something to do with the programming that, you know, we watch Hollywood making characters that are cool. Often they have sarcasm, or they’re very witty, and they’re quick to slam somebody else.

As Christians, we shouldn’t do that. Not at all. Our tongues should be trees of life. that lift other people up. And if you’re like me, and have grown up in an environment that was very much so commercialized. I watched a lot of movies and shows growing up, and you know, it was very difficult. When God’s Word showed me just how damaging what I was saying to others really was, that was a hard thing for me to grasp. Growing up, I really felt like most of the time what I said didn’t mean anything to anyone. And I’m sure for kids today, for you younger ones who are listening to my voice right now, you may feel that way yourself, that I don’t think what I really say makes any difference. But that’s not true. That’s not true at all.

And I think we can see that with bullying that’s going on. Because even words that are typed, like text messages, or an email, can hurt so much. When we read that, the reader places the voice of the other person in their mind, and it is being spoke right to them. And it’s horrible. When people are willing to type and send to somebody what they would never say to their face.

That’s a good rule of thumb right there, beloved. If you’re not willing to say it to somebody’s face, then don’t type it. I’m leery of having conversations with email. And the reason for that is because it’s really difficult to understand the connotation behind the words without actually hearing the influx of somebody’s voice. Are they saying it with tensity, or is it more relaxed? There are so many things that language, without the actual words itself, is communicated. Even body language. But back to the tongue, because that poison, then, that we can continue to feed our loved ones. And I’ll even go a step further to spread to the people around us. Coworkers, if you work in an environment that seems rather unhealthy, a lot of sarcasm or ridicule, well, also stop for a moment just to see if you are also contributing to that. Because many a times, what’s happening is that people are also reacting to us. And we, like the rest of them, are reacting. And if everybody is just reacting instead of Not stumbling in word, as James puts it, but actually holds their tongue and think for just a minute or two before speaking. A lot of damage could be done away with in those environments.

Moving along, verse 9, With it, the tongue, with it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men who have been made in the similitude of God. I never really thought it that way before, when I think about, you know, we can pray to the Lord, and say how wonderful He is, bless Him with our words, worship Him with our words and our tongue, sing to Him. And then, yes, turn right around and speak harmfully to those around us, those who are made in his image, and not think twice about it. This is actually one verse that helped me overcome sarcasm. The environment that I lived in, often, my brother and I, and around other friends and some of our family, we used sarcasm.

We ridiculed and teased a lot. And so that’s often what I used my tongue for, to come up with a next better insult. But this passage is one that helped me in time to think about that, and to this very day, it helps me to stay that sarcasm. I still deal with it, but boy, has this passage helped me. Because I do look at people now, and I try to see them as God sees them, and to realize that That person, too, is made in the image of God, and so I put it in my mind that, well, if I’m going to be sarcastic to them, it’s like being sarcastic to God.

Would I be sarcastic if Jesus was with me? And, for me, it’s pretty safe to say no, I would not. So, there’s no reason for us just to bless our Lord and then turn right around and curse. Man, James is saying. Verse 10. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing, my brethren, these things ought not to be so.

Now, think about that for a moment. I’m going to read that one more time. Verse 10. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. That’s fact. With our mouths, we can bless somebody with such kindness, such gentleness, saying things to really lift them up, to encourage them and give them that, that extra jolt of power, that extra jolt of excitement to finish a task or whatever it might be.

With our tongue, we can do that, and at the same time, curse them, call them names. Point out to them with our tongue just how disgraceful they are. Belittle them. But then he says, my brethren, these things ought not to be so. We shouldn’t be with the same mouth that we are to bless people. Use it against them.

After all, are we not commanded to love others as we do ourself? And Jesus made it clear this isn’t just for those that we love, because, well, everybody does that, the heathen love those that love them. No, we are to love our enemy. That can be hard to do. But we are not to gossip. We’re told over and over how much God hates lying, hates a deceitful tongue.

We’re even told that we shall not bear false witness against our neighbor. We’re not to use our tongue to lie and deceive other people. That’s sinning. So these things ought not to be. Verse 11. Does a spring send forth fresh water? Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? So can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, no, or a grapevine bear figs, no.

And I think what James is telling us there is that if we’re going to be the kind of person to walk around and bring others down with our words. To be spiteful, to be critical, insulting, sarcastic. Whatever it may be, you know, our tongues just seem to get used to it. Have you heard the expression, it just rolls off the tongue? More than likely you have. And there is so much truth to that. That was a part of me I discovered as I was reading God’s Word. And the Bible, like a mirror, showed me how damaging that my tongue was. And that was very difficult. It was difficult, first of all, to accept. But once the Holy Spirit helped me pass that point, and in the process of sanctification and time was changing that, it was hard for me because oftentimes that wittiness, that sarcasm, rolled off of my tongue. So easy. He just came naturally. And so we have to start retraining our tongue. So then suddenly compliments start rolling off our tongue. Just the truth rolls off of our tongue. We don’t even think twice about it. Lifting people up, taking that time until it starts to just roll off of our tongue. And so he ends, Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh.

That makes sense, right? There’s a spring of water, and it’s nice and fresh. It’s coming down from the mountain. All that snow that’s up there, and it melts, and nice fresh water. And eventually it makes its way down to the sea. Well, can you separate that once it reaches the ocean? No, it’s in that salt water.

That’s just the way it is. So once that salt water mixes, comes in contact with fresh water, that fresh water is no longer fresh, is it? You know, it’s something how, oh, we can say some really nice things. We can really go out of our way to make sure that we are training our tongue. And we are lifting up an individual, let’s say one particular person.

But think for a moment what happens when suddenly we allow that tongue of ours to say something spiteful and mean to that person. When you come back to that person and now you want to lift them up again, it’s not quite the same thing. Or reverse that. Perhaps you’ll be able to relate better if you think of somebody who is special to you and maybe that person is nice.

But if you have an argument and that person says some stuff to you that really makes a deep wound, how is it when that person comes back to you and wants to say something nice again? Even when a person comes back and apologizes, when we apologize to them and we say, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean that, in our minds don’t we still think, well, but you said it, so part of you must have meant it. And maybe they really didn’t. Like, in the core of who they are, maybe they didn’t mean it that way. But that’s what the tongue spit out. That poison. That sharp tongue that is cutting. And the damage is there. And that’s why, like salt water, when it mixes with that fresh water, we can look at it like this.

If we were to pour one glass of salt water and one glass of fresh water together, obviously that fresh water is no longer fresh. Well, let’s say we take that one cup of fresh water, one cup of salt water that’s mixed, and now we put it in a really big tub, and we just start adding more fresh water. Okay. Well, eventually what’ll happen is you don’t taste that salt water anymore. It dilutes it to the point where enough is in there and you can’t even recognize it. But one’s got to be careful because you turn around and now you take a couple of gallons of salt water and add it to that tub. Well, suddenly it’s not as fresh anymore, is it?

And the more salt water we add to that, well, there does come a point where it’s no longer able to be thinned out. So be careful, beloved. We may not be able to tame our tongues, but we should be able to not stumble in word, be very careful and cautious. That is what we say to other people and be intentional when it comes to lifting them up and loving them.

After all, our Lord God loves us so much. And he has left his word that we get to read over and over, and his word restores our soul. His word refreshes us, encourages us, lifts us up, builds us up, gives us strength and is a shield. So our words, our words should be used to do the same thing to others.

Sometimes. My mother, she would ask people, and still does at times, if they’re saying something or acting a certain way, she’ll ask, would you say that if Jesus was right here? That’s profound. Think about that. Would you talk the way you do if you’re Lord and Savior? incarnate form was standing right next to you.

Maybe that’ll help too. Thank you so much for joining me. So great to have you here. Continue to read God’s Word. Get together with brothers and sisters in Christ on a weekly basis. Do everything you can to take time to worship our Lord in all that you do and all that you say. He loves you so much.

And until next time,

God bless.

Songs

“Heroes Inspire Hope” and “Mountainscape” by Humans Win