Taming the tongue

Taming the Tongue

Small Group, Mobberly Baptist Church, July 8, 2012

Thinking about the discussion on faith and works from the previous two weeks –

There is an old story about a mother who walks in on her six-year-old son and finds him sobbing.

   “What’s the matter?” she asks.

   “I’ve just figured out how to tie my shoes.”

   “Well, honey, that’s wonderful.”

   Being a wise mother, she recognizes his victory in the Eriksonian struggle of autonomy versus doubt: “You’re growing up, but why are you crying?”

   “Because,” he says, “now I’ll have to do it every day for the rest of my life.”

— John Ortberg, Leadership, Vol. 14, no. 3.

Who was your favorite teacher?  Or What was a favorite expression a teacher used that stuck with you?

READ James 3:1-12

WHY IS IT SUCH A RESPONSIBILITY TO BE A TEACHER, ESPECIALLY A TEACHER OF THE SCRIPTURE?

The Spanish people are always eager to help others, especially foreigners. Tourists are warned that if they ask directions, people will give them even if they don’t know. They’d rather give you wrong information than have to disappoint you by saying they don’t know. Spiritual guides must always give the right directions. That’s why James warns, “Not many of you should presume to be teachers” (James 3:1).

— Robert C. Shannon, 1000 Windows, (Cincinnati, Ohio: Standard Publishing Company, 1997).

In the early church, a person did not become a teacher by going to a seminary or Bible college.  None existed.  Teachers were called and empowered by the Holy Spirit.  In the same way, teachers today should be filled with the Holy Spirit and pray for that filling before every opportunity to come before someone and share the Good News with them.

Being a teacher brought much respect and, in some cases, much pride.  Two problems can arise from being a teacher – (1) a teacher may begin to teach their own opinions instead of God’s truth and (2) they may teach one thing and live another.  Both problems are cause for James’ warning.

A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.

   Henry Gardiner Adams (1812-1881)

We teach what we know; we reproduce what we are.

— Robert Schmidgall,  Leadership, Vol. 6, no. 2.

DOES THE WARNING IN VERSE 1 MAKE YOU THINK TWICE ABOUT OFFERING TO TEACH SOMEONE ELSE?  DOES IT SCARE YOU OFF COMPLETELY?

Becoming an effective teacher is simple.  You just prepare and prepare until drops of blood appear on your forehead. 

— Marlene LeFever, Leadership, Vol. 8, no. 3.

It is important to note that James is not calling on us to be silent.  He his calling on a greater task – control of our tongue.

(WHEN IS A TIME YOU PUT YOUR FOOT IN YOUR MOUTH?  WHEN IS A TIME SOMEONE REALLY ENCOURAGED YOU BY SAYING SOMETHING NICE?)

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF JAMES’ DEFINITION OF MATURITY IN VERSE 2?

Mature = complete and whole.

Spiritual maturity: the quiet confidence that God is in control.

Charles R. Swindoll (1934- )

Maturity begins to grow when you can sense your concern for others outweighing your concern for yourself

John MacNaughton

WHO DO YOU KNOW THAT SEEMS TO BE VERY MATURE IN THIS AREA?

(thought) HOW WELL DO YOU THINK YOU MEASURE UP?

Lettuces, radishes, and such garden crops are soon out of the ground and ready for the table–a month almost suffices to perfect them. But an oak requires long centuries to come to the fullness of its growth.

   Those graces which are most precious and durable will cost us longest to produce. Those good things which spring up hastily may have some transient worth about them, but we cannot look for permanence and value in them. There is no need to deplore the slowness of our spiritual growth, if that which comes of it is of a solid character.

— Charles Haddon Spurgeon, The Quotable Spurgeon, (Wheaton: Harold Shaw Publishers, Inc, 1990)

WHAT DO THE EXAMPLES OF THE BIT, RUDDER, AND FIRE TEACH US ABOUT THE IMPORTANCE OF WATCHING WHAT WE SAY?

It was his first day on the job. He was a new clerk in the green goods department of a super market. A lady came up to him and said she wanted to buy half of a head of lettuce. He tried to dissuade her from that goal, but she persisted.

   Finally he said, “I’ll have to go back and talk to the manager.”

   He went to the rear of the store to talk to the manager, not noticing that the woman was walking right behind him. When he got into the back of the store, he said to the manager, “There’s some stupid old bag out there who wants to buy half a head of lettuce. What should I tell her?”

   Seeing the horrified look on the face of the manager, he turned about and, seeing the woman, added, “And this nice lady wants to buy the other half of the head of lettuce. Will it be all right?”

   Considerably relieved, the manager said, “That would be fine.”

   Later in the day, he congratulated the boy on his quick thinking. He then asked, “Where are you from, son?”

   The boy said, “I’m from Toronto, Canada, the home of beautiful hockey players and ugly women.”

   The manager looked at him and said, “My wife is from Toronto.”

   The boy said, “Oh, what team did she play for?”

— Bruce Thielemann, “Because,” Preaching Today, Tape No. 105.

That such a big structure driven by such powerful forces (strong winds) could be controlled by so small a device as a rudder amply illustrates what James wants to say about the tongue.  The person who controls the bit or rudder or tongue has control over the horse or ship or body.

IN WHAT WAY DOES THE TONGUE POLLUTE THE WHOLE BODY AND SET THE COURSE OF LIFE ON FIRE? Negative thoughts lead to a defeated person, when you talk about others, you begin to believe what you say, you can’t take back loose words, you begin to focus on the wrong things, and it is difficult to get back on course, the words seem to slip out before you know it, you can destroy relationships that will lead to further hurt, etc.?

A slip of the foot you may soon recover,  But a slip of the tongue you may never get over.

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790)

In his book with Ken Blanchard, Everyone’s a Coach, Don Shula tells of losing his temper near an open microphone during a televised game with the Los Angeles Rams. Millions of viewers were surprised and shocked by Shula’s explicit profanity. Letters soon arrived from all over the country, voicing the disappointment of many who had respected the coach for his integrity.

   Shula could have given excuses, but he didn’t. Everyone who included a return address received a personal apology. He closed each letter by stating, “I value your respect and will do my best to earn it again.”

   There are two ways to gain respect. One is to act nobly. The other is, when you fail to do so, to make no excuses.

— Leadership, Vol. 17, no. 1.

VERSE 8 SAYS, NO MAN CAN TAME THE TONGUE.  IT IS A RESTLESS EVIL, FULL OF DEADLY POISON.”  IN LIGHT OF THIS, IS THERE ANY HOPE FOR US AS WE SEEK TO CONTROL OUR TONGUES?

An old man once said, “For a long period I puzzled myself about the difficulties of Scripture, until at last I came to the resolution that reading the Bible was like eating fish. When I find a difficulty I lay it aside and call it a bone. Why should I choke on the bone when there is so much nutritious meat for me? Some day, perhaps, I may find that even the bone may afford me nourishment.”

— Charles Haddon Spurgeon, The Quotable Spurgeon, (Wheaton: Harold Shaw Publishers, Inc, 1990)

WHAT IS JAMES SAYING WITH HIS ILLUSTRATION OF THE SWEET AND BITTER WATER AND THE GRAPEVINES, FIGS, AND OLIVES?

If your mind should go blank, don’t forget to turn off the sound.

–James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988), p. 473.

WHAT ARE SOME EXAMPLES OF HARMFUL SPEECH THAT YOU HAVE SEEN IN YOUR LIFE?

(Dobson – Hillary Clinton and the power of a parent’s words)

Think to yourself the answer to question 7 –

IN THIS PAST WEEK, HOW MUCH BITTER WATER DO YOU THINK WAS A PART OF YOUR SPEECH?

IN WHAT WAYS CAN YOU MAKE SURE THAT WHAT YOU ARE SAYING IS PLEASING TO GOD AND UPLIFTING TO OTHERS?

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