Lesson 7 For
November 15st 2014.
TAMING THE TONGUE.
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Four Quatter 2014
Taming the Tongue
Read for This Week's Study:
For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be
Words hold tremendous power.
A word fitly
25:11)-praise, poetry, stories can shape lives in profound
ways. What we say may linger for days or even years. Children, for
example, absorb words like sponges. That's why they soon speak fluently
whatever language they grow up hearing. It's also why the messages they
hear about themselves may foreshadow their future success or failure.
For better or worse, the communication style of parents is replicated
and amplified in their children.
The written word is powerful, too, and even more lasting. Most
powerful of all is God's Word. Consider:
Thy word is a lamp unto my
feet, and a light unto my path (Ps.
Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I
might not sin against thee (Ps.
119:11). Jesus directed the attention of the disciples away
from temporal blessings to something much more vital:
The words that
I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life
Words can soothe and reassure or poison and contaminate. How often
have you said something you wished you could take back?
This week, as we will see, James has some important words about,
*Study this week's lesson to
prepare for Sabbath, November 15.
James 3:1. What important point is he making here about
Teachers in the church and in Christian schools have an especially
heavy responsibility because they shape minds and hearts in ways that
will last for years. This effect includes the rippling impact they will
have on many others beyond their immediate sphere of influence. The more
we know, the more responsible we become for utilizing and imparting that
At the entrance to the Tyndale House library in Cambridge, England,
is a plaque reminding every scholar who enters there:
The fear of the
LORD is the beginning of wisdom (Prov.
9:10). Man is not the measure of all things; God is, and all
true education begins and ends with Him. Unfortunately, as knowledge
increases, dependence on God tends to diminish. It is too often
practiced and taught, for example, that science functions independently
from God. Some teachers of theology, in striving for credibility, also
may utilize methods that leave little or no room for faith. As a result,
faith can gradually get squeezed out of the minds and hearts of both
teachers and students. But as long as educating for eternity, not just
for this world, is uppermost for teachers and students alike, learning
will be a precious, even inspirational, endeavor.
Paul too understood this responsibility for he trained and ordained
leaders in the churches he raised up (Acts
Titus 1:5). He even gave instructions to Timothy to guard
God's flock from inexperienced and unwise shepherds
1 Tim. 1:3-7;
2 Tim. 2:14-15), warning that some are
always learning and
never able to come to the knowledge of the truth
Tim. 3:7, NKJV).
Parents carry a weighty responsibility in teaching their children,
who in turn influence others. All of us, in fact, by the example we set,
can have a profound influence on those around us. How important then
that we seek God's wisdom, which He has promised us (James
1:5), that we might model His ways and exert a godly
influence. For we all, for good or for bad, do exert influence over
Think about those who have influenced you in a
positive way. What did they do? How did they impact you? And, most
important, how can you do the same for others?
For we all stumble in many ways (James
3:2, ESV). What a refreshing admission, especially
considering James's emphasis on behavior! Still, our acknowledgment of
real need not dim our belief in God's ideal for us as His
representatives on earth.
If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man,
able also to bridle his whole body (vs.
2, ESV). The form of the condition
in Greek implies that not stumbling in word is a real possibility. The
importance of words can scarcely be overestimated. Thoughts lead to
words, which in turn lead to actions. Words also reinforce what we
think. Thus, they influence not only what we do but also what others do.
We are interconnected through language.
This week's passage contains several illustrations of the power of
the tongue. The first three emphasize how something small can have huge
consequences: a bit and bridle can turn a horse, a rudder can steer a
ship, and a spark can engulf a forest in flames.
What positive kinds of
word power do we find in Scripture? See
Young children are impressionable, but, like trees that grow stiffer
and more fixed, children resist change more as they age. In one sense we
are all teachers, whether in the home or in the church. Because our
words have so much power, it's important to bathe our thoughts in God's
Word early in the day. After all, what feeds our thoughts and words:
God's Spirit or another source? We must not underestimate the enormous
changes that are possible through God's Word (Ps.
2 Cor. 4:6), as opposed to other sources.
Words are so potentially powerful that, with just a few sentences,
you can devastate a person, perhaps for the rest of his or her life. On
the other hand, positive words can uplift someone, perhaps for just as
If you had dynamite in your hands, how careful
would you be with it? What should your answer tell you about how you
should deal with something even more powerful than dynamite?
"Little" Things Are the Big Things
James 3:3-5. What do the two illustrations have in common, and how
do they relate to the tongue?
Both the bit in a horse's mouth and the rudder of a ship are very
small compared to what they control. Yet, with a slight movement of the
hand, the horse's or the ship's direction can be completely changed. By
the same token,
even so the tongue is a little member and boasts
great things (vs.
5, NKJV). In other words, a word or
even a look or a gesture might seem small, but each can change a friend
into an enemy or transform a bad situation into something good.
soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger
15:1). Imagine a horse galloping at full speed and a ship
slicing through the water at full throttle but both headed in the wrong
direction. The faster something goes, the farther away it gets from its
destination. The best course then is to stop and turn around as soon as
possible. The same is true of our words. If a conversation is going from
bad to worse, the sooner we stop the better.
Luke 9:51-56. What was Jesus' response to the suggestion of the
disciples? What was the result, and what lessons might this story have
Although the disciples had a biblical precedent for their suggestion
12), Jesus rejected the suggestion. His rebuke dramatically
altered the situation. The story ends simply by indicating that
went to another village (Luke
9:56). Jesus turned His rejection by a Samaritan village into
a learning experience for His followers. In the heat of the moment, when
feelings rise up and clamor for us to defend ourselves, we can remember
the example of Jesus and, figuratively speaking, move on
As drops of water make the river, so little things make up life.
Life is a river, peaceful, calm, and enjoyable, or it is a troubled
river, always casting up mire and dirt.-Ellen G. White,
That I May Know Him, p. 209.
What are some
little things in your life
that, as you dwell further on them, might not be so
We've all experienced it. Something we said gets magnified, perhaps
even exaggerated, to the point that we don't even recognize it anymore.
As James says,
See how great a forest a little fire kindles
Read prayerfully and
James 3:6. What is he saying about the power of our tongue, of our
defile everything about us? Why should this verse make
us tremble before we speak?
While fire, when used symbolically, can signify cleansing
Zech. 13:9), it more frequently refers to destruction
(see, for example,
1 Sam. 30:3;
Matt. 7:19), including the destructiveness of ill-advised
Not only can a large fire start from a spark, it can also ravage and
destroy with amazing speed. In the same way, words can destroy
friendships, marriages, and reputations. They can sink into a child's
psyche and mar his or her self-concept and future development.
Sin originated on earth with a seemingly innocent question
Gen. 3:1). It began in heaven in a similar way. Lucifer
began to insinuate doubts concerning the laws that governed heavenly
beings.-Ellen G. White,
Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 37. So, it is
no exaggeration to say that the tongue is
set on fire by hell
While it is true that words once spoken are gone forever and that we
cannot fully undo what we have said, we should do all we can to lessen
the damage and correct what we can. Taking steps to make things right
will also help us not to repeat the same mistake. For example, after a
further revelation from God, Nathan the prophet returned to David
immediately to correct something he had said (see
2 Sam. 7:1-17). Peter wept bitterly over his denial of Christ
and later demonstrated more openly the genuineness of his repentance
no man can tame the tongue (James
3:8, NKJV), we are admonished to
keep your tongue from
evil and your lips from speaking lies (Ps.
34:13, NIV). Only the Spirit of God can help us keep our
words in check (see
James 3:6-8. Why should the thoughts in these verses make us be so
careful with what we say? How can we learn to appreciate the power for
good, or evil, contained in our mouths?
Blessing and Cursing
James 3:9-12. What truth does James illustrate using the fountain,
the fig tree, and the grapevine?
The idea of both blessing and cursing coming out of the mouth of a
Christian is disturbing, to say the least. What about watching
profanity-laced television programs or movies during the week and
attending church on Sabbath to hear the Word of God? What about someone
who speaks the truth and wonderful words about Jesus, only to later be
heard telling an off-color joke? These images should be spiritually
disturbing because they are contrary to what we know to be right. The
same mouth that praises God later tells a dirty joke? What's wrong with
James uses the image of a spring. Water quality depends on its
source, and the root determines the fruit (compare
Matt. 7:16-18). Similarly, if God's Word is implanted in us,
its working will be evident in our life. Understanding this truth frees
us from the burden to
prove our faith. Pure religion is rooted in
faith, which is self-authenticating, just as a pure water spring needs
no proof other than the water that flows naturally from it.
At the same time, though, one could ask,
If we were to take a
snapshot of certain devoted followers of God at low points in their
experience (Moses murdering the Egyptian, David with Bathsheba, and so
on), might we not legitimately question their profession?
God's will, of course, is that we do not sin (1
John 2:1). However, since the Fall of Adam and Eve, God has
made provision for our forgiveness if we do sin, based on faith in the
promised Sacrifice (compare
Ps. 32:1-2). Nevertheless, the fact remains that sin brings
sadness while obedience brings blessing. Moses spent 40 years tending
sheep to unlearn the training that led him to kill, and David suffered
the death of the child Bathsheba bore, as well as a divided household
that threatened his kingdom to the end of his life. Sure, we can be
forgiven our sins after we do them; the problem, however, is that so
often the consequences of those sins can remain, often with devastating
results not just for ourselves but for others, too. How much better to
be on our knees asking for the power of victory than having to ask for
forgiveness afterward and then plead for the damage to be brought under
Read about the power of speech in
Talents, from the book
Christ's Object Lessons, pp. 335-339, by
Ellen G. White and share the points that impressed you with your Sabbath
"When in the company of those who indulge in foolish talk, it is our
duty to change the subject of conversation if possible. By the help of
the grace of God we should quietly drop words or introduce a subject
that will turn the conversation into a profitable channel. . . .
Far more than we do, we need to speak of the precious chapters in
our experience. We should speak of the mercy and loving-kindness of God,
of the matchless depths of the Saviour's love. Our words should be words
of praise and thanksgiving. If the mind and heart are full of the love
of God, this will be revealed in the conversation. It will not be a
difficult matter to impart that which enters into our spiritual life.
Great thoughts, noble aspirations, clear perceptions of truth, unselfish
purposes, yearnings for piety and holiness, will bear fruit in words
that reveal the character of the heart treasure. When Christ is thus
revealed in our speech, it will have power in winning souls to Him.-Ellen
Christ's Object Lessons, pp. 337, 338.
- The problem with words is that, for most of us, they come
out so easily. So often, too, they come out almost before we
even have a chance to think about what we are saying. Because
this is true, how can we learn to think carefully before we open
- Think about the power of your words even upon your own self.
Do this experiment: consciously talk to others as much as you
can about what God has done in your life, how He has blessed
you, how He has gotten you through trials, et cetera. Do this
even for only a day or so, and then ask yourself, How has
this impacted my faith?
- What do you think your words reveal to others about what
goes on in your heart? Might they be revealing more than you
would like to think? If you recorded all your spoken words in a
single day and then played them back to yourself, what would
they reveal about you?
The Disobedient Son, Part 1
Vitaliano had it made. As an officer in the Cuban military, he had a
steady job that carried with it a certain amount of respect. He and his
wife, Migdalia, had two small children and lived in a modest home.
Things were going well, and he had no interest in God or religion.
One day Vitaliano returned from work early and greeted his wife. But
his 5-year-old son, Alexey, did not come running to greet him. "Where is
Alexey?" he asked.
"He's at Rosabel's," Migdalia answered.
Rosabel was a teenage girl who lived next door. She was a good girl
who loved all the children. She sponsored a children's Bible club every
week, and when she invited Alexey to attend, Migdalia agreed to let him
go, but she warned Alexey not to tell his father, for he would be angry.
Alexey attended the Bible club whenever his father wasn't home. He
loved the songs and Bible videos, which taught him so much about Jesus.
"What is Alexey doing at Rosabel's?" Vitaliano asked. Migdalia hoped
that he wouldn't ask. Now she had to tell him that Alexey was attending
the children's Bible club.
Vitaliano's face turned red with anger. "You know I don't want
anything to do with religion!" he exploded. "Why did you let him go?"
"Rosabel invited him," Migdalia said. "Please, let him stay. He is
learning such good things, and this is his only chance to be with other
A few minutes later Alexey arrived home. But when he saw his father's
face, he knew that he was in trouble.
"Alexey," his father said firmly. "I do not want you to go to that
Bible club meeting again! I do not want God in this house!"
Alexey didn't want to disobey his father, so for several weeks he did
not attend the Bible club. But when he heard the children singing, he
longed to go. One evening he asked his mother if he could return to the
Bible club. She agreed, and he happily ran to join the other children.
Alexey attended the Bible club regularly after that. Then one evening
his father again came home early and found Alexey gone. "Where is he?"
he asked. When Migdalia did not answer promptly, he guessed. "Is he at
that house church next door?" he stormed. Migdalia nodded. "Go get him,
right now!" he demanded.
"Please, Vitaliano," she pleaded. "Let him go. It is better for him
to be there than running in the streets. At least let him stay until the
meeting is over."
A few minutes later Alexey bounded into the house. But when he saw
his father's angry look, Alexey began to cry. "Please don't spank me,
Papa!" he pleaded. But Vitaliano was not going to let his son disobey
him. As he spanked him, he ordered, "You will not go back to that house
Vitaliano Marrero and his wife, Migdalia, are
active lay workers in their home church in Holguín, Cuba.