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Attitude Matters: James 3:1-12

Trials Tame the Tongue
Lance Terry

A misspoken word is one of the biggest regrets we can have in life. Each of us can clearly remember times the harsh words of another wounded us, often someone we loved and trusted. We have also been guilty of being the speaker in someone else’s memory.

Today’s sermon is about the power of the tongue. We learn today of its lasting effects, both for harm and good. In addition to our scripture study, take plenty of time in your groups to bless each other with words. Pray for one another by name and affirm each other by saying words of affirmation and encouragement to one another. Take turns around a circle for each member to say how someone is a blessing to the group. Be specific about the ways they have blessed you. Make sure everyone present is included. Conclude the session by praying specifically for absent members and agree that each person present will reach out to those not there.

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. 2 For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. 3 If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. 4 Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. 5 So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! 6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. 7 For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. 10 From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. 11 Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? 12 Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.
—James 3:1-12 (ESV)
Sermon Summary
We all experience trials that other people cause. Since it is a common experience for each of us (often daily), why is it so hard to control our words when we are under pressure? When we are offended beyond our limits, we let people know! Sometimes it is to a stranger, but it can also be to a precious loved one with devastating effects.

WATCH> the video clip above

James warned his readers to be cautious of the lasting impact of words, especially those who are leaders and teachers. James said we are accountable for our words now and will also give account at the Judgement Seat of Christ. He said that if a person could tame his tongue, he could also handle the more intense evaluation then, saying, “for we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body.” (James 3.2)

He then gave three powerful examples of how a small thing can affect significant outcomes – the bit in a horse’s mouth, the rudder of a boat, and the spark that causes a large fire.
Jesus also taught us about the importance of choosing our words carefully.

READ> Mark 7:14-23

ASK> What does Jesus say about our words?

READ> James 3:11-12

Our English translation doesn’t show it, but verses 11 and 12 both start with a negative particle in Greek. By beginning each question this way, he was emphasizing “NO!” This isn’t how it should be! Words are no substitute for works. Words alone can never make us mature.

ASK> How does God set about to rectify our inconsistencies and tame the tongue with trials?

ASK> Each of us experiences trials. How can we help each other with words? How about with works?

ASK> Name a couple of teachers from your past who both helped you and hurt you with their words. How does each of them affect your own words now?

READ> Hebrews 13:17

ASK> What should our attitude be about our teachers who will have accountability for how they taught us? What difference does it make to us?

For more Bible passages on controlling the tongue, see Psalm 34:13; Proverbs 13:3; 21:23; Titus 3:2; James 1:26; 1 Peter 3:10.
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