How to control our tongues

This week's question asks how we can control our tongues. We have the power to help or hurt every time we speak, so learning to control that power is crucial. James 3 speaks directly to this issue, and there we can learn four important points about controlling our tongues. First, we are all affected by this issue; second, our words are powerful; third, we have a responsibility in how we use our speech; and fourth, that we can learn how to control our tongues.

"Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect..."

First of all, James tells us that if you could always control your tongue, you'd be perfect. James's statement isn't meant to provide some quick route to attaining perfection, but instead, it functions as a reminder that no one is perfect. None are immune to the difficulty and importance of keeping their tongue in check. This is the part of James's letter where everyone ought to sit up and pay attention, because no one gets off the hook here.

"...the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts."

Second, words are powerful. James compares the tongue to a horse's bit, a ship's rudder, and to a spark that sets a whole forest ablaze. The tongue can guide the course of a life or a relationship. It can control our entire direction. If we control our tongues, we control our lives.

"Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be."

Thirdly, we have a responsibility for how we use our words. Words don't lose their impact; once they are out, they are out, and you can't take them back. James says our words are like a tiny spark that can start a whole forest fire! We have a responsibility to take care that our words aren't flung carelessly into a dry corner, waiting for the winds of gossip or discouragement to spread their flames. One person's harsh words can lead to another's, and complaining and grumbling can make us into spiritual arsonists, setting up spiritual strongholds in our lives and others. And why does this matter? Well, Jesus tells us that tongue issues are heart issues -- "out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks." Our words reveal our motivations.

"...no human being can tame the tongue."

We must control our tongues, but how? James says that no man can tame it. And no man can. But Christ can. As we submit our entire lives to Christ's lordship, so we should submit our tongues. Instead of letting the world's standards control what we say, we need to speak from "the humility that comes from wisdom." This wisdom involves being transformed by the Holy Spirit and submitting to God's wisdom. God speaks "knowledge and understanding," His wisdom is "peace-loving." We are to cultivate peace, grace, humility, and reasonableness in our speech. We are to submit to God and each other. We are to be slow to speak and quick to listen.

Questions to Consider:

  • Where should I repent?
  • Lord, will you help me to control my tongue? I need your power to do so!

Read more sermon notes here or listen to the full sermon online here.