• Introduction: The inspiration for this message is from Jas 3:8 which I repeat here - But no one among mankind can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.  This text is a warning for all of us to properly govern our tongue.
    • As James, half-brother of Jesus noted, the tongue is used for blessing and cursing, though there is no need for the latter (Jas 3:10). 
    • Let’s spend time looking into some practical thoughts from the Lord on how to hold our tongue and use it to bless with God-pleasing speech, so no one has bad to say about us (Titus 2:8).
  • Let Us Pray: Lord God, Heavenly Father, we are warned about how evil our tongue can be.  This is very troubling to us, since we want to serve You, but cannot if we use our tongue to curse, blaspheme, and speak obscene speech.  Send to us the Holy Spirit, so that we watch our tongue and reflect on us being Your adopted children through the work of Your Son, Jesus.  We pray this, Father, through Your Son Christ, and by the aid of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.
  • Background: As usual, there was at least one word in the original Greek that caught my eye.  The Greek word for today is ἰός (ih-ŏ’s).  I have that listed in the outline on the back of your bulletin.  There are two definitions for this word when translated into English.
    • The first definition for ἰός is poison – not the operating system of an iPhone or iPad even through when transliterated into English they are spelled the same.   I should note this is not a chemical poison such as some poisonous cleaning fluid lurking under your kitchen sink.  This poison is specifically administered from the bite of an animal.  Probably another word for this type of poison is venom.
      • An alternate meaning in English for ἰός is rust, but not the actual rust.  ἰός is more of an indication of the deterioration of a substance.  If you ever lived in a northern climate where road salt was used in the winter to de-ice roads, you know what rust looks like on a car.  James used ἰός also in Jas 5:3, where interpreters have rendered the word “corrosion” to indicate rich people who trusted in their riches would see them corrode into worthlessness.
    • Getting back to the first definition, James apparently equated our sinful tongue with the bite of a poisonous snake!  This language is used also by the Apostle Paul, where in Rom 3:13, he repeated exactly from the Septuagint version of the OT Ps 14:3 - “The venom of asps is under their lips”.  This is why, if you recall on August 22nd, I had us read responsively from a Septuagint-based version of Psalm 14 for the Psalmody of the Day instead of Psalm 14 based upon a Hebrew manuscript.  In Romans 3, Paul made the point with the quote from Ps ch#14 that Jews are no better than Gentiles, because 100% of mankind has sinned.  There is no righteous person, not even one. Everyone’s lips have venom under them just like a poisonous snake like a diamondback rattlesnake. A poisonous snake has venom under its lips, waiting to use it to kill something to eat or defend itself.
  • Analysis: I don’t think we take seriously just how much we can injure a person just with our tongue.  James in our text used an analogy of a great forest being set aflame from an initial small fire much like the tongue, which is a small part of the body, can nonetheless do great (as in big – not necessarily good) things.  In reality, if the tongue were not effective as James claimed by inspiration (Jas 3:5b), why is there censorship of certain opinions by big tech happening in 2021? 
    • Big tech has decided it doesn’t want to be part of raising up someone like former President Trump, who was masterful with social media.  His “tongue” was very polarizing.  People either loved or hated his Tweets on the Twitter social media platform.  Was the virtual pen of Twitter mightier than the sword as President Jefferson once wrote to Thomas Payne in 1792[1]?
    • The verbal contradictions of President Biden, such as him being against forced vaccinations, but just last week now forced companies to require their employees get vaccinated, has cause a new wave of opposition to his governance.  If he doesn’t get reelected in 2024, it will be the power of speech that will lead to his defeat and not weapons.  We still believe in changing our governmental leaders peaceably by ballot and not by force in this country.
    • In verse six, James continued with his fire analogy - And the tongue is a fire, the very world of unrighteousness; the tongue is set among our body’s parts as that which defiles the whole body and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell[2].   In short, James stated the tongue can cause us to wind up in hell for eternity.  Yes, the little togue which is a fraction of our body weight can be the cause of keeping us on a path to hell where we will live for eternity.
      • King Solomon wrote in Proverbs 5 that speech can be smoother than oil.  That oil loosens the friction on the path to hell in order to make it easier to get there. If anyone would know about an adulteress, it would be King Solomon. Listen to these words from ch#5 - For the lips of an adulteress drip honey, And her speech is smoother than oil; But in the end she is bitter as wormwood, Sharp as a two-edged sword. Her feet go down to death, Her steps take hold of Sheol[3].
        • Some have speculated Satan doesn’t look anything like the cartoon caricature of a red guy with horns on his head.  No, Satan, in order to be irresistibly tempting so that people would want to be with him, is the most beautiful woman a guy can imagine.  For women, the most handsome man.  Toss in the fact that this tempter of tempters speaks so nicely and persuasively; how can you resist?  Drug companies hire pretty women to sell drugs to doctors, not balding, 60yr old men like me.  There’s a reason for that, but as King Solomon stated, it may not end well.  He would know, since the scriptures state he had a thousand wives and 700 more ladies who I’m sure were good looking to get him in the mood.  All these women around him became a snare, leaving us to wonder whether Solomon repented of this excess before it was too late.
    • How can we be saved from our own tongue dragging us down a path into hell?
      • The Apostle Paul understood the power of the spoken word.  He asked of the church at Ephesus to pray on his behalf to have speech to make known with boldness the mystery of the Gospel (Eph 6:19). This request probably harkens back to what we read in the OT Reading in Isa 50:4 - The Lord God has given Me the tongue of disciples, So 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[4].
      • We pray about the things which are important to us.  In a few moments, we will raise up names of people who are important to one or more people of this congregation – because those people are important to us.  Paul was no different 2000yrs before us in praying about something important to him.
      • But, prayer isn’t meaningful if there is no faith that there is an Almighty God listening to those prayers, and confidence in Him that He will act in accordance to His word.  It is the word of God which builds faith per Rom 10:17 - 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ[5].  Faith in turn is what saves a soul, because as Paul also wrote - 13 for “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.[6]” 
  • Conclusion: We therefore need to watch our tongue, so that our faith is not destroyed by speaking in a way that causes us to sin.   As written in Ecc 5:6 - Do not let your speech cause you to sin, and do not say in the presence of the messenger of God that it was a mistake. Why should God be angry on account of your voice, and destroy the work of your hands[7]
    • Let’s be clear; there is nothing wrong with being assertive.  God gave us intellect, passions, and the ability to communicate, desiring that we use these gifts to His glory.  In fact, we *should* be assertive.  Listen to what Jesus said about making sure we confess His name as a believer in Him - “Therefore, everyone who confesses Me before people, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven.  But whoever denies Me before people, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven.[8]”  We’ve heard this morning an analogy about how the tongue can be like a little campfire causing a tremendous forest fire.  However, in what Jesus has instructed us as recorded in Matthew 10, the tongue can also extinguish the flame of faith and trust in Jesus, by being silent when we really need to be assertive.
      • Here’s an interesting question relevant to our discussion about the tongue of a person.  What do you think hurt Jesus more on His way to the cross; the beatings from the Sanhedrin and the Roman soldiers, or Peter’s three verbal denials that he knew Jesus?  We know Jesus heard Peter’s denial per Luke 22:61 - And then the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how He had told him, “Before a rooster crows today, you will deny Me three times.”  Words and speech show intent, and Jesus didn’t have to rely on His God attributes in order to perceive Peter had denied knowing Him. Peter wanted to save his butt from being mistreated by the same people abusing Jesus.  And yet, Jesus restored Peter in the loving forgiveness Jesus has to this day, by sending Peter out into the world to confess the name of Jesus. Peter was much more assertive after that failure on Good Friday.
    • Our tongue should reflect that we are children of our Heavenly Father.  I want to spend our final moments in this message exploring the scriptures for the do’s & don’ts with our tongue.
      • First, rid the tongue of obscene speech.  Listen to what the Apostle Paul wrote to the Colossians - But now you also, rid yourselves of all of them: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene speech from your mouth[9].  It was just said a moment ago words and speech show intent.  If you have anger, wrath, malice, and slander in your soul, the way you talk will reflect on that type of thinking and behavior.  In order to prevent any kind of fire, it is important to remove the fuel and conditions which lead to a fire starting.  It stands to reason then if you remove the kindling of sin from your soul, the tongue will not be able to spark a fire.  Plead with the Lord to remove any of these and other burdens which are preventing you from sweeping away the kindling of a fire sparked by your tongue.
      • Here’s some really good instruction from our Lord in Pro 15:1 - A gentle answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger[10].  There are times when I am frustrated with people around me.  As of 12:01 this AM, I have six employees where I work with Pima County.  The hiring of me into the job I’ve been doing all summer is finally completed. 😊 I have to be careful not to escalate anything with employees who are entrusted to me to get the job done for our customer, the Pima County Sheriff Dept.  It is totally unproductive to have people shouting at each other when a simple answer – no matter how stupid a question may be perceived, or frustrated a person is – can extinguish a campground fire before it becomes a raging forest fire. In Pro ch#15, God is instructing us to put things into perspective and to *always* respond in love and peace. Failure to do so will most likely result with consequences of dealing with the raging fire of someone’s anger. This is especially something for us to remember in our own homes.
      • Another sign of the tongue of a child of God is found a few chapters later in Proverbs - One who loves purity of heart, And whose speech is gracious; the king is his friend[11].  That’s pretty good company if the king winds up being your friend.  This statement is right out of the word of God, and so we can conclude if we follow God’s instruction to be gracious, we can trust that we will have the blessing of friendship with all kinds of people, all the way to the top of the social hierarchy.  That would be a blessing in this Age as well as in eternity, where we will live in the home of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  Following Jesus’ example that we have of Him during His 3yr ministry will provide instruction on how to be gracious, and when to be assertive.
    • Lastly, take Paul’s advice to one of his sons in the faith, Timothy. Be an example to those who believe. Paul wrote - Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe[12].  Depending upon how old you are, you might be able to ignore the looking down on your youthfulness part, although in the presence of the Ancient of Days, we are all youthful.  However, don’t miss out on the instruction that Paul wrote by inspiration of the Holy Spirit: if love, faith, and purity are in your soul, your speech should follow and be consistent with these attributes.  It will take a lifetime to work on these attributes.  There will be times of failure. But that shouldn’t dissuade anyone here from working at these.  God forgives those who confess their sins in true humility, and turn from their sinful ways. When it is tough to strive for love, faith, and purity, remember to ask the Lord for a measure of these gifts of His Godliness.  He has plenty to spare and will bless according to His grace, mercy, and peace. Amen.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_pen_is_mightier_than_the_sword

[2] Jas 3:6 from NASB20 at https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb20/jas/3/1/s_1149001

[3] Pro 5:3-5 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=pro+5&version=NASB

[4] Isa 50:$ from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Isa+50&version=NASB

[5] Rom 10:17 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=rom+10&version=NASB

[6] Rom 10:13, IBID

[7] Ecc 5:6 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=ecc+5&version=NASB

[8] Mat 10:32-33 from NASB20 at https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb20/mat/10/1/s_939001

[9] Col 3:8 from NASB20 at https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb20/col/3/1/s_1110001

[10] Pro 15:1 from NASB20 at https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb20/pro/15/1/s_643001

[11] Pro 22:11 from NASB20 at https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb20/pro/22/1/s_650001

[12] 1Ti 4:12 from NASB20 at https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb20/1ti/4/1/s_1123001