Have you ever seen the result of a fire that burned out of control? Where the fire left devastating damage, destruction, and ruin? We have fires here in California, and just 100 miles north of where we live, a fire burned a whole town where over 10, 000 homes were lost. Fires can be very destructive. Do you know that you have a member, or a part of your body, that can cause damage and destruction just like real fire? This member is destructive, and it can destroy friendships, cause division, cause irreversible damage in homes, and be a very destructive part of someone’s life. This member weighs less than 1% of your body weight but can do more damage than your fist or foot.
Take a moment to stick out your tongue. Oh, such a little member, but it can be very destructive.
“5 Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth!
6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell.
7 For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind:
8 But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.”
James is writing about this little member, the tongue, which like a fire, is so destructive it can destroy many things. God is calling on his saints with the challenge to control their tongues! Only God can change a man from the inside and tame an out-of-control tongue. If you do not know God, you will find you have little or no control over your tongue. If you are serving God, you will want to control your tongue as a Christian.
Do you know the devil would like nothing better than to cause us to lose control of our tongues and then cause severe damage? The devil works on young people in this way, and he endeavors to cause young people to lose control over their tongues, which creates trouble wherever they go.
We Are One Body
“So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.”
We are all a part of the same body – one body. Suppose that the finger on your left hand was bleeding. Would your right hand jab your left hand with an arrow or a knife? No! Your right hand would bind your bleeding hand with a bandage and stop the bleeding. You would not use harsh words against your finger. Like, “you stupid little finger you got in the way!” You would say, “Ouch!” and get a bandage to stop the bleeding. You would care for your injured finger, show it kindness, make sure it was helped and in good condition. This example is how we need to be with the members of the body of Christ. If you find yourself hurting others or causing ill feelings with your tongue, it might be good to start praying earnestly to God for help to control your tongue. Our tongue can cause much hurt and damage if it remains out of control.
“And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”
God calls his young people who are part of one body to treat each other with kindness. When we think about what we say before we speak, we are treating each other with kindness.
“Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath:”
Sometimes we find we are too slow to hear and too fast to speak. In James 1:19, the writer challenges us to be swift to hear what is said and slow to respond.
“23 For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass:
24 For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.
25 But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.
26 If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain.”
In verse 26 of the same chapter, the writer is now challenging us to bridle our tongue. A bridle is a tool that fits on a horse or other animal and is used to control the animal. James, the writer, says, “if any of you have religion but do not bridle your tongue, this man’s religion is vain.” God help us all to bridle our tongue!
Some people have different sets of words and tones they use in which they speak, depending on whom they are around. If people visit the home, they might be agreeable, speaking kind words in pleasant tones. But, when it is just them and their family, they become cross, speaking harsh words in unpleasant tones. God wants to help us control our tongue wherever we are and whoever we are with.
If you can’t say something nice shhh, say nothing
Take a bit of good advice shhh say nothing
Think of friendly things to say. That’s the path to follow
When you think of unkind words, button up your lip and swallow gulp
If you can’t say something nice, take a bit of good advice, and don’t say anything at all!
We teach children to sing this song, but the lesson here is just as important for us who are older. We need to look at our family and friends that we attend church with as the body of Christ. Remember, we are all part of the same body. Being a member of the same body means we should not be shooting arrows of criticism and unkind words at each other. Remember, our tongue is like a fire and will destroy and leave things in ruin behind us if we do not control it. So, will you allow God to control your tongue? Sometimes this can be difficult, especially when someone speaks harsh words to us. Our first response may be to defend ourselves and say something harsh or unkind in return. But God is challenging us to be kind to one another, tender-hearted, and forgiving. When we say something and another person hears it, we cannot take back words already delivered. I want to challenge you to think about what you say before it comes out of your mouth.
Say No to Gossip!
“Thou shalt not go up and down as a talebearer among thy people: neither shalt thou stand against the blood of thy neighbour; I am the Lord.”
This scripture in Leviticus is simply stating thou shalt not gossip among God’s people. Do you know there are places in the Bible that teach us God hates whispering, talebearers, slanderers, and backbiting? Young people, I encourage you not to be the kind of person who knows everything about everyone and tells everyone else what you know. People who gossip often try to raise their reputation by destroying someone else’s reputation. We need to watch our tongue simply because people who are not Christian are watching us. People that we want to win to Christ. If you are a gossiper, the person who is not Christian watches you go to church, and at the same time, sees you telling stories about others. This testimony is not a soul-winning example. God does not want gossip among his people. If you know someone that is always a gossip, here are a few tips for handling them.
- Change the subject
- Say, I am not interested in listening to that and walk away
- You can say stop! I don’t want to hear it.
We have a right to choose what we hear. We do not need to listen to tale-bearing, bad news about someone or gossip. Here is a little secret for you, a talebearer needs an ear to listen. So, if you do not allow the talebearer to use your ear, they will take their gossip somewhere else.
“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”
Before you talk to someone, make sure the words you say are compatible with this list in Philippians 4:8. Most people that carry gossip are not sharing anything good about someone else. The Philippians writer is challenging us to listen to things that are of an excellent report. Sometimes young people feel they were wronged and say, “But he did something really bad to me.” or “She hurt my feelings. Don’t I have a right to tell them off?” The Bible tells us exactly how we need to handle this scenario.
“Moreover, if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.”
Here, Jesus was teaching us how to deal with an issue in a case where someone hurt our feelings. Jesus did not say, take what they did and run to tell ten friends about the wrong thing they did or said. The scripture teaches if someone has offended us, we need to work it out directly with the offender and not run and tell ten people. God gave us a way to control our tongues.
Dealing with Confrontation
Other times, young people have come to me and said, “What if someone is in my face and trash-talking me? Don’t I have a right to yell back and give them a piece of my mind?”. The Bible has an answer for this scenario too.
“A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.”
I have often needed to practice Proverbs 15:1 with people I work with. We must remember that people who do not know God will often allow their tongue to get moving in the wrong way, which can stir up many bad feelings and situations. God is challenging us to take the Bible way so we will not stir up destructive emotions and situations, but instead, we can help people toward kindness. Next time someone is in your face yelling at you, upset, or saying mean things to you, remember Proverbs 15:1, a soft answer turned away wrath. In my experience, I have found this scripture is true.
Using God’s Name in Vain is Sin
Finally, do not take God’s name in vain when you speak. Misusing God’s name is something that can separate us from God. Cursing or using God’s name in profanity is called – taking God’s name in vain. The old testament teaches that using God’s name in vain is unacceptable; it is a sin and will separate us from God. So, be very careful of what comes out of your mouth. Let us be fast to hear but slow to speak.
Our tongue has a Purpose for Good.
We want to use our tongue for good to help and encourage others. Use your tongue to edify each other or build up and strengthen each other. The Bible teaches us to use our tongues to minister to each other. We can teach and admonish each other. The Bible teaches us to comfort each other with our words. If someone is going through a hard time, we should not put them down. We need to help lift them up. If someone fails an exam, we don’t tell them they are stupid. We say, “let me see how I can help you. I think you can do better next time.” Remember the quote from the beginning of this lesson:
“A word that is spoken can never be taken back. It has already been delivered.”
Let God help you bridle your tongue. If you allow God to do this, he will bless you, and all people you meet will see you as one that strengthens and encourages.