Living Out the Light Pt 5: Bite Your Tongue 

Pastor Terry Inman



Well it’s Father’s Day. I was tempted to skip James and do a little fathering with the message today. The Apostle Paul who was a spiritual Father says, There are a lot of people around who can’t wait to tell you what you’ve done wrong, but there aren’t many fathers willing to take the time and effort to help you grow up. 1 Cor. 4.15 (Message) 

That’s what fathers do they help people grow up---if they are grown up!  

As I was reading James 3 I decided to stay with our series “Living out the Light” for Father’s Day. James has a great message for Dad’s. If we are going to shine we have to watch our words. Actually this message really fits all of us! 

“Bite your Tongue” is our message title today! James actually introduces this subject in chapter one. Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry! James 1.19 (NIV)         

If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. James 1.26 (NIV)

Then in chapter two he says, Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom. James 2.12 (NIV)     

James has a lot to say about communications. Here’s an outline for his talk on the tongue. 

The man with a faultless tongue. (vv. 1-2)    

The man with a flammable tongue. (vv. 3-6)  

The man with a forked tongue.   (vv. 7-12).   

So you can see very clearly how this chapter applies to Fathering… Fathers,writes Paul, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. Eph. 6.4 (NIV)

In other words don’t come down on them lift them up!    

Let’s begin with the man (or woman) with a faultless tongue.

I would call this a textbook tongue. This is the mastered mouth! 

Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.  James 3.1    

Apparently in good Hebrew tradition becoming a religious teacher was very popular. The original termincludes instructors, masters, or even doctors! They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm. 1Tim. 1.7 (NIV) 

Teachers wield influence because of their knowledge and ability to talk. James who was a teacher and a writer says don’t be so quick to jump into this profession because teachers get graded on a higher curve!    

James suggests that real “teachers” have perfected knowledge though experience. We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check. James 1.2 (NIV) 

Perfect here means complete or competent. A faultless tongue leads to a faultless life.  This is the “how to” for living out the light! Paul writes… 

Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life.  Phil. 2.14-16 (NIV)   

We all slip up especially with our tongue. I’m sure there are occasions when we would give anything to retract something we said. You want to be spiritually competent, discipline your tongue and the rest is easy. 

The Lord GOD has given Me the tongue of disciples, (learned) That I may know how to sustain the weary one with a word.

He awakens me morning by morning--He awakens My ear to listen as a disciple. (one being taught. Is. 50.4 (NASB) 

This takes me back to James advice in chapter one. Be quick to listen, slow to speak! Do you want to have a faultless tongue? Talk less listen more. This is living the Light not just talking the Light! 

So we are all practicing the prayer, care, share lifestyle. Listening earns the right to share. Every time I run into my buddy on the hiking trial he reminds me of the time I just listened to his pain about a divorce for hours and days. He says all I did was listen and pray. Now he’s a believer! 

I came across this passage in my devotions this week. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. Col. 4.5-6 (NIV) 

Jesus said we are salt and light. Light that is hidden in fear or blocked by sin is certainly diffused if not darkened. Salt that is polluted is tasteless and useless. A seasoned “teacher” has a disciplined tongue. 

Next James talks about the man with a flammable tongue. It can be an incendiary device. The tongue is a force and can be a fire! 

When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal.  Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go.  James 3.3-4 (NIV)   

A small bit controls powerful horses. A small rudder controls big ships. 

Then he adds… a small flame can set a forest on fire! Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. James 3.5 

An out of control forest fire can be very destructive. James says… 

The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. James 3.5-6 (NIV) 

Wow where does all this hell fire come from? Jesus said it this way… The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.Luke 6.45 (NIV) 

So how do we put out the fire? How do we control our tongue? We clean up and clear up bad stuff and store up the good stuff in our hearts. David said, I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Psa. 119.11 (NIV) 

We need to store scripture on our “heart” drive. We also need to ask God to expose the lies we believe and live and reveal God’s truth. Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts.  Psa. 139.23  

James wraps this chapter with a discussion of the man with a forked tongue (vv. 7-12). This is a double or deceitful tongue. We talked about the inflamed well this is the untamed tongue. It’s a wild animal.  

All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. James 3.7-8 (NIV) 

Snakes have a divided tongue. They defend themselves with this sensory system. You have heard the expression, "white man speaks with a forked tongue"—It originated as a result of the French tactics of the 1690s. In their war with the Iroquois, they invited their enemies to attend a Peace Conference, then slaughtered or captured them.” 

This double-speak is poisonous. James says… 

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. James 3.9-10 

It is incongruent to curse and bless at the same time. Cursing, or bad-mouthing, people made in God’s likeness is the same as cursing God. Cursing is not just cussing it is speaking ill will--it is wishing them harm. 

According to James flesh water flows but bad water stagnates. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water. James 3.11-12 (NIV) 

Living out the Light is all about what’s inside. James summarizes this way. 

He stated out talking about folks who like to talk maybe even aspire to be teachers or experts. 

Now he says, Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. James 3.13-14 (NIV) 

OK so now we are getting to bottom of this tongue talk. Now we know where to bite-down. This pseudo-wisdom is not emotional or even spiritual intelligence it is demonic.  

Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. James 3.15-16 

Most church conflicts are “word wars” between battling egos. James says it’s hellish. Here’s what heaven’s wisdom looks and acts like. 

But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness. James 3.17-18 (NIV) 

God is preparing us for an unprecedented harvest. His Holy Spirit is working overtime to produce pure hearts, and peace-loving people. 

If we are really living out the light we will be considerate of each other. We will be submission to God, to leadership and to one another. We will not rush to judgment--we will rush to mercy! 

We will produce good fruit. The fruit of the Spirit. love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. 

Will not show impartiality to anyone. We will be sincere, which means single-minded and not folded or hidden. No double-talk, no tongue twisters.  We will make peace with all people and help all people make peace with God. 

This is living out the light! How to you “bite your tongue” Use it to glorify God. Pray in the Spirit. We call it speaking in other tongues. The Holy Spirit came upon the people at Pentecost like tongues or flames of fire.

Live in the Spirit and love in the Spirit and a holy fire will spread in our city!