FROM THE HEART TO THE TONGUE
The tongue is a marvelous complex instrument with several functions. It used as a sense organ, containing about 9000 taste buds which distinguish between different flavors such as bitter, salty, or sweet things. It aids in the forming and movement of food as we eat for ease of swallowing. And it is frequently used to express the temperament of the heart.
Webster dictionary defines the tongue as being a flexible muscular organ in the mouth used in tasting, swallowing, and for speech. This is the textbook explanation of what the tongue is but for our lesson this morning we are going to be examining what the Bible says about the tongue and just how powerful it can be when it used to express the intent or disposition of someone’s heart. I think we have all experienced what happens when we or someone else loses control of their tongue. As one person said, “Many things are opened by mistake, but none so frequently as the mouth.”
Lesson Text: James 3:2-13
James gives us some great details about how powerful the tongue is and how difficult it is to control in:
James 3:2 “For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body.”
Here James is pointing out to us, that as Christians we stumble in many areas of our lives because we are not perfect and God knows this but if it were possible that we could control our tongue then James said we could be perfect and that we would be fully capable of controlling our entire body so that we would never stumble. In this we are being taught that the tongue is harder to control than any things else.
James 3:3 “Indeed, we put bits in horses’ mouths that they may obey us, and we turn their whole body. 4 Look also at ships: although they are so large and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires.“
When you think about the illustrations that James gives isn’t amazing that something so small like a bit or rudder can control such big objects like a horse or a boat. He uses this illustration to point out the power of the tongue even though it is a small member of the body as we read in:
James 3:5 “Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles! 6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell. 7 For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. 8 But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. 10 Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so.”
We learn from James the tongue can be used for both good and for evil. When we fail to control of our tongue the words that we speak can be a powerful as a spark in dry forest because it can burn everything down in it path. James tells us it is difficult to control the tongue and we as Christians can learn to control our tongues with diligence and through the help of God and by keeping God’s Word in our heart. I have seen first hand on several occasions where a person who claims to be a Christian will praise God out one side of their mouth and then foul language and harsh word will come out the other side of their mouth but this should not be the case.
Another thing we need to realize about the tongue is that it will eventually express what is in a person’s heart. You can usually find out how serious a Christian is in the heart by what kind of language comes out of their mouths.
Jesus points this out to his disciples when he responds to the Pharisees after they accuse him of casting out demons by Beelzebub.
Matthew 12:34 “Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. 35 “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things.”
The words that come out of our mouth are reflection of what is in our heart and if our heart is not pure eventually it will be made known by what comes out of our mouth. That is why it important that we learn to heed what Paul said in 2 Corinthians 10:5, “…casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (NKJV).
Later on Jesus also rebukes the Pharisees and the scribes for trying to say that unwashed hands defiles a person. He tells them, “Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man.” Matthew 15:11 (NKJV),
Peter doesn’t understand what Jesus is telling these Jews here so he explains it to him in, Matthew 15:16-19, “So Jesus said, “Are you also still without understanding? 17 Do you not yet understand that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and is eliminated? 18 But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. 19 For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.” (NKJV).
So the tongue will reflect what is in a person’s heart. It is up to us on whether we use our tongue for good or for evil. If we choose to use it for good:
Proverbs 16:24 Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, Sweetness to the soul and health to the bones.
Proverbs 25:11 A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold In settings of silver.
But if we choose to use them for evil,
Proverbs 29:20 Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him.
Proverbs 15:26 The thoughts of the wicked are an abomination to the LORD …
We have free will and we must make our choice on how we use our tongue but understand that we will be judged by how we use our tongues as Jesus says in,
Mt 12:36 “But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. 37 “For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”
We need to keep this in mind before we let lose our evil tongue on those around us. We also need to realize that the tongue has the power to bring about life or death.
Proverbs 18:21 “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, And those who love it will eat its fruit.” Those who use their tongues well, will have life. Those who use their tongues for evil will have death.
The power of an evil tongue brings death…
Paul gives the Christians in Galatia a list of things that will keep them from inheriting the kingdom of God. He writes in
“Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, 21 envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. “
Of these these things Paul mentioned several are directly attributable to our speech. Contentions, outbursts of wrath, dissentions, heresies and revelries are all tied to the things which come out of our mouths.
Lies are a sin of the speech and will keep us out heaven,
“But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” NKJV
In Revelation 21:27, John goes on to say again,
“But there shall by no means enter it [Heaven] anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. “NKJV
And then again in Revelation 22:14-15
“Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city. 15 But outside are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie.” NKJV
Three times in a row John makes the case that there will not be any liars in heaven. Therefore if anyone has a problem with telling the truth and they want to live in heaven with God, then they need to make a change in behavior.
How about Gossip? Paul uses some very strong language about this and other sins of the speech in
“And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, 30 backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; 32 who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them. ” NKJV
Paul says whisperers and back biters are worthy of death. Gossips whisper behind the backs of others. They make false accusations against others behind their backs. Gossips slander others, meaning they speak evil of them. Paul wrote to Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:1-5,
“But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: 2 For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3 unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, 4 traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, ”
Gossiping is a sin of speech which will bring death to those who practice it. Notice Paul used the word “blasphemers” in this list of people who won’t be spending eternity in heaven if they don’t repent. Blasphemy is a sin of speech which will keep us out of heaven. Blasphemy is a term which means to speak evil of. It can mean speaking evil against God or others. This word in the Greek language is also translated as railers which is someone who engages in malicious and abusive speech. The term for blasphemy is not in any way limited to a sin against God. When anyone reviles, or speaks in a malicious and abusive manner towards another, they are guilty of blasphemy in the sense that this word portrays.
Concerning the conduct of Christian, Paul wrote in the same letter to Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:24-26
“And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, 25 in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, 26 and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.” NKJV
And now come to the most obvious of all. Filthy speech. Many today use the term cussing. What it all boils down to is filthy language coming out of our mouths. Paul mentioned this in Colossians 3:8-9
“But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. ” NKJV
Paul mentions this with some very harsh words in Ephesians 5:3-5
“But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; 4 neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. 5 For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God” NKJV
James summed it up completely in James 1:26
“If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless.”
James comes right out and says that if a Christian cannot control his speech, his religion is useless or worthless, meaning it’s for nothing. Lying, gossiping, slandering, boasting, quarreling, filthy language, foolish talking and course jesting are all sin of speech and if practiced unrestrained, will keep any Christian out of eternal life in Heaven with God. If we want our religion to be of any use at all, either for ourselves or for others, we must learn to bridle or control our tongues.
Proverbs 18:21 “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, And those who love it will eat its fruit.” Those who cannot or will not control their tongues will eat of the fruit of death.
So how about the fruit of life?
Good speech which contribute towards life.
“Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.“
We must use our speech to help edify and build one another up.
Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.
These are examples of speech that not only help to bring life to us, but help one another as well. We are commanded to use our speech for good. Good speech portrays a good heart and sincere love and concern for others.
We use our speech to proclaim Christ to the world. Paul wrote in Romans 10:8-10, “But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach): 9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”
And then Paul well on to write in the next chapter,
Romans 10:14-15, “How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? 15 And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written:
“How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace,
Who bring glad tidings of good things!”
Our speech can be used to glorify God. In Romans 15:6, Paul wrote, “that you may with one mind and one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Evil speech brings the fruit of death. Controlled, gracious, gentle and kind speech brings the fruit of life.
As we learned earlier, what comes out of our mouths is a reflection of what is in our hearts. All of these things we looked at so far on controlling the tongue has to do with the condition of our heart. So the key to using your tongue for righteousness is making your heart pure which means your thoughts will be pure and words will be pure. Paul stresses the need for us to control our thought in,
- Cor 10:4 For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, 5 casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ,
This should be every Christian’s goal to bring into captivity every thought of man to the obedience of Christ. This is not an easy task because evil thoughts may arise which could cause us to sin. But, if we stay as close to God as possible, and have an active prayer life, even these thoughts can be brought into obedience of Christ. We must train our minds with the Word of God so that eventually good thoughts, not evil, will dominate our hearts. This can only come about by much prayer and much training. However, it should be the goal of every Christian. Someone once said, “You may not be what you think you are, but you are what you think.” One who thinks filthy thoughts is likely to live that kind of life. The book of Proverbs also teaches this.
Proverbs 23:7 For as he thinks in his heart, so is he…
Proverbs 4:23 Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life.
Jesus told us in the great Sermon on the mount that it is possible for us to commit murder or adultery in our hearts (Matt. 5:27-28). Bringing our thoughts into captivity is a never-ending battle. However, it can be done and must be done. Keeping our heart and speech pure is necessary in order to keep ourselves away from the corruption of the world. It takes constant diligence and effort because we are out in the world on a daily basis and it is so easy to allow ourselves to become influenced by it. It is easy to become weary of resisting it and let our guards down. It is so easy to allow the things of the world to creep in and overtake us. We must never give in to Satan and never give up.
James wrote in 1:27
“Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.” (NKJV)
I hope this lesson has made us all think more about how we use our tongues and I hope that if we have not been using it properly that we will start today. I also hope we have leaned how important it is for our hearts to be pure so that our thoughts can be pure and finally I hope we have learned that the our tongue has the power to make the difference between life and death.