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The Worlds Smallest but Largest Troublemaker James 3:1-12Welcome to Empowered Bible Study Ministries.James has explained to us two characteristics of the mature Christian: We have seen in James 1 that the mature Christian is patient in trouble, then in James 2 that he practices the truth.In our study today, we will see the third characteristic of the mature Christian: AMature Christian has power over his tongue.The tongue is known as the worlds smallest but largest troublemaker. In fact,just mention you are speaking on the tongue and people immediately think of thebad aspects of the tongue and go on defense.The power of speech is actually one of the greatest powers God has given us.You can use your tongue for good or bad.With the tongue, you can praise God, pray, teach or preach the word of God,lead a person to Christ, encourage someone, and bring a smile to their face.What a privilege it is to have a mouth!But that same tongue can also be used for lies, to spread false doctrine, andcurse God. It can be used to hurt another person and bring tears to their eyes.The tongue can cause division and ruin friendships. How tragic it is that apersons words that come out of their mouths could cause such pain in anotherperson’s life.Im sure we could all say we have been on the receiving end of both of theseillustrations. We have been blessed through the words of someone else, but wehave also been hurt.Lets begin our study and turn in our Bibles to James 3:1-12In these verses, James gives us six pictures of the tongue.1 The Bit James 3:32 The Rudder James 3:43 Fire James 3:64 Deadly Poison James 3:85 A Fountain James 3:116 A Fig tree James 3:12
Warren Wiersbe has put these six pictures into three meaningful classifications thatreveal the three powers of the tongue.1 Power to Direct (bit, rudder) James 3:1-42 Power to Destroy (fire and poison) James 3:5-83 Power to Delight (fountain and fig tree) James 3:9-12Lets begin with the first Power of the tongue and read verses one through four:James 3:1-4 "My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that weshall receive a stricter judgment. 2 For we all stumble in many things. If anyone doesnot stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body. 3Indeed, we put bits in horses mouths that they may obey us, and we turn theirwhole body. 4 Look also at ships: although they are so large and are driven by fiercewinds, they are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires." NKJVProblems existed in the early days of the Church because of false teaching. Jameshere points out that as teachers of Gods word we are held accountable to speakwhat the scripture says and will be held accountable for how we handle the word ofGod. Then James in verse two shows that everyone stumbles in many things.My friend, one characteristic of a mature Christian is that you control your tongue.The tongue is an area that we really need to watch, because even though it may bea small part of the body, it can cause a lot of problems.As we see in verse eight, we cannot tame our tongue; it is only through Christspower that we can fully control our tongue.The person who is able to discipline his tongue gives evidence that he can controlhis whole body. Why, because most of the time words usually lead to deeds.What we say usually ends up in action. Sometimes that action is defendingourselves because we said something before thinking.James gives us two examples in verses three and four of two items that are small insize yet very powerful to direct or lead just like the tongue. James 3:3-4 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." NKJVA bit is a small object, but it controls the entire animal. Likewise, a person who cancontrol his tongue can control his entire being.What is in the heart determines speech content and attitude.Matthew 12:34 ".....For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks". NKJV
If there is a genuine faith in the heart, the accompanying works will be bothappropriate speech and conduct.James further illustrates the relationship of the activity of the tongue to the activityof the entire body with the rudder of a ship. A slight pressure on the rudder of theship controls its course. That small rudder enables the pilot to steer the huge shipwhere he wants it to go.Both the bit and the rudder must overcome contrary forces. The bit must overcomethe wild nature of the horse, and the rudder must fight the winds and currents thatwould drive the ship off its course.James pointed out that no matter how adverse the circumstances, if the rudder canbe controlled by the pilot, the entire ship can be controlled.The point of the illustration is that if a believer can maintain control of his tongue inadverse circumstances, he can maintain control over his entire being.As believers, if we are to maintain control, then we need to turn the control over toJesus Christ right. He needs to be in the driver’s seat. We need to surrender ourlives over to Christ. When Christ controls the tongue, then we need not fear sayingthe wrong things.David knew this that is why he said in Psalms 141:3 "Set a guard, O Lord, over mymouth; Keep watch over the door of my lips."The bit and the rudder have the power to direct, as the tongue does. What we saycan have an effect on someone elses life.On April 21, 1855, Edward Kimball went into a Boston Shoe store and led youngDwight L. Moody to Christ. The result; one of historys greatest evangelists of hisday, a man whose ministry still continues.But the story doesn’t end there ladies. It continues; D.L. Moody went to England andworked a profound change in the ministry of F.B. Meyer. F.B. Meyer, with his newevangelistic fervor, influenced J. Wilbur Chapman. Chapman helped in the ministryof converted baseball player Billy Sunday, who had a profound impact uponMordacai Ham. And Mordacai Ham, holding a revival in North Carolina, led BillyGraham to Christ. And the man who started it all was a layman, Edward Kimball,who took seriously Christs commission to be a witness in his world."My friend, never underestimate the power of the tongue and how good words canspread from person to person the same way bad words can.We can have an influence on people by what we say.Proverbs 15:1 "A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh words stirs up anger."NKJV
Proverbs 12:22 "Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who dealtruthfully are His delight." NKJVProverbs 10:19 "In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, but he who restrains hislips is wise." NKJVProverbs 11:9 "The hypocrite with his mouth destroys his neighbor, but throughknowledge the righteous will be delivered." NKJVProverbs 17:27 "He who has knowledge spares his words, and a man ofunderstanding is of a calm spirit." NKJVJames has been pointing out that small things can have a beneficial effect. A smallbit can be used to guide a horse. A rudder can affect the course of a large ship. Nowhe goes on to show that small things can also be destructive in their effect.Which leads us to the second power of the tongue is the Power to Destroy:Lets read James 3:5-8 "Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts greatthings. See how great a forest a little fire kindles! 6 And the tongue is a fire, a worldof 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 ofbeast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed bymankind. 8 But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadlypoison." NKJVThe two illustrations James uses here are fire and deadly poison.Like a fire, the tongue can heat things up. We have all experienced this. A hottemper can lead to burning words that later we will regret.Proverbs 14:29 "He who is slow to wrath has great understanding, but he who isimpulsive exalts folly." NKJVFire can be very destructive just as the tongue can. Fire burns and hurts, and ourwords can burn and hurt. Fire spreads, and the more fuel you give it, the faster andfarther it will spread. The tongue can spread hurtful gossip and the more fuel yougive it the faster it spreads also. The sad thing is, words can break hearts anddestroy reputations.Colossians 4:6 "Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that youmay know how you ought to answer each one." NKJVI liked how Warren Wiersbe put it: “James reminds us that animals can be tamed,and for that matter, fire can be tamed. When you tame an animal, you get a workerinstead of a destroyer. When you control fire, you generate power.”“If the heart is filled with hatred, Satan will light the fire. But if the heart is filled withlove, God will light the fire.”
The second destructive aspect of the tongue is compared to deadly poison.The tongue is unruly (akatastaton PWS: 4172), that is, restless, uneasy, unstable, alwaysroaming about (James 3:8-10). And it is full of deadly poison.The deceptive thing about poison is that it works secretly and slowly, and then kills.How many times have we seen a person inject a bit of gossip a bit of poison intoconversation with the intent that those words would spread like the wild fire. Apoisonous tongue can do a lot of damage to a persons reputation, to friendships,cause division all by a few planted words.Mountain climbers have said that there are certain times and places when thevibration from a faint whisper could bring down an avalanche. Whenever the guidedetects such sensitivity in the air, he cautions every climber to remain silent.Oh, let us not be guilty of sinning with the tongue. An avalanche of sorrow andseparation may be caused from the faintest whisper of gossip, slander, lying,jealousy, bitterness, and the like."An ungodly man diggeth up evil: and in his lips there is as a burning fire" (Prov.16:27).Think about it. As verse 9 says our tongue can go in many different directionsdepending on who is controlling it. One minute we can be praising God and in thesame breath be cursing man.James 3:9 With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who havebeen made in the similitude of God."This leads us to our third Power of the Tongue: the Power of DelightIn this illustration James uses A Fountain and a Fig tree.Lets read James 3:9-12 "With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we cursemen, who have been made in the similitude of God. 10 Out of the same mouthproceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so. 11 Doesa spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening? 12 Can a fig tree,my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring yields both saltwater and fresh." (NKJV)People in Palestine were familiar with the reference to fountains and springs. Theywere dependent on them for their water supply. Towns were built around springswhich provided adequate water.The people to whom James wrote understood that a spring does not alternatebetween yielding sweet and bitter water. It was either one or the other, but not both.The reason towns were not built around the Dead Sea is because springs in thatregion were known to yield only brackish water.
In man, though redeemed and regenerated, the tongue is capable of both good andevil, because he retains his fallen nature along with the new nature. In Galatians5:17 Paul describes the conflict between the old and new natures.Galatians 5:17 "For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh;and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that youwish.” NKJVProverbs 10:11 "The mouth of the righteous is a well of life, but violence covers themouth of the wicked." NKJVWhile man cannot tame his own tongue, he can turn the control of it over to the HolySpirit. When he does this, the Holy Spirit becomes a well of living water in his life(John 7:37,38). When the believer quenches the Spirit, the bitterness of his fallennature expresses itself.The other illustration here is the fig tree in verse twelve.In Bible lands, trees are vitally important to the economy: they help to hold down thesoil; they provide beauty and shade; and they bear fruit.The most important thing about a tree is the root system. If the roots do not go downdeep, the tree will not grow in a healthy manner.If we are rooted in the things of the Lord, then our words will be the fruit of ourfellowship with Him. Our words can help as we share Gods word to encourage andfeed a soul which we can bring delight to people.If we are going to have tongues that delight, then we must meet with the Lord eachday and learn from Him.We must get our spiritual roots deep into His word. We must pray and meditate andpermit the Spirit of God to fill our hearts with Gods love and truth.Just as it is not the nature of the fig tree to bear olives, nor of the vine to bear figs, itis not the nature of the regenerate spirit to speak evil.Whichever nature man allows to dominate his life—the old or the new—determineswhat his speech will be. This is why it is important to be filled with the Spiritcontinually (Ephesians 5:18).As we fill our hearts with Gods Word and yield to the Holy Spirit, he can use us tobring delight to others, and we will be refreshing fountains and trees.
There was once these two men who were in a health care center. They were bothbedridden with illnesses and all they had was each other to communicate with. Theone mans bed was by the window so he decided one day out of the kindness of hisheart to share with the other man what he saw. Oh how he would describe it, thesun shining down on this beautiful grassy area where the flowers were bloomingand the animals were roaming. Well this really blessed the other man; just to pictureit in his mind brought a smile to his face. So each day as the nurses came in, theywould open the curtains and he would proceed to tell his friend what was going onoutside and describe it as his friend listened with great anticipation. Well one day,the man by the window had some complications in the night and he passed away.Oh this was heart breaking to his friend as he recalled all their times together. As hewas thinking about his friend the next morning, he asked the nurse if she couldmove his bed by the window and she did. As she opened the curtains to let the lightin, he waited with anticipation to be able to look out and view all the things his friendhad told him that lifted his spirit so much. To his surprise, the only thing on the otherside of the window was a big brick wall. You see, his friend wanted to encourageand lift his spirit that he made up visions of grassy areas with flowers and sunshining just to bring a smile to his friends face. What sacrificial love that man had.Yes my friend, the smallest but largest troublemaker in all the world is the tongue.But it doesnt have to be a troublemaker!God can use our tongues to direct people to the Lord, to edify instead of destroy,and to bring delight to someone’s life. It is a matter of the heart. Is it filled withChrist’s love.The tongue is a little member, but it has great power.Give God your tongue and your heart each day and ask Him to use you to be ablessing to others as this elderly man was to his friend.I have enjoyed studying God’s word with you and look forward to being with youagain as we continue our study on the Book of James.Until then,God blessTo view this study and archives on the book of James go to:http://thestudyofthebookofjames.blogspot.com/For other Bible studies and inspirational articles go to:Empowered Bible Study MinistriesJoin us on: