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James 3: 1-12 “Loose Lips”

Sept. 16, 2018 Boardman UMC Rev. Jerry W. Krueger

“In WW II there was a phrase, “Loose lips, sink ships.” Meaning if you have info about troop movements, logistics, ship movements, someone’s pending orders, keep it to yourself. Don’t give information to those who do not need to hear it.


James is saying, watch what you say, to whom, and why. We each have probably said something we shouldn’t have. Maybe repeated something we had heard, even when told not to. Maybe you made an off the cuff remark and it got back to someone and hurt their feelings. And you think, “I should have kept quiet.”


In this day of social media, Facebook, twitter, emailing and instant text messages, it is easy to respond immediately to some comment that garners a reaction from us.

When we used typewriters, a smart person invented white out to cover mistakes. But often with texts, twitter or Facebook, it is hard to retrieve or “unsend” something before it is read or archived in someone files.


James writes this epistle to Jewish Christians in a situation where they are facing economic problems. Zealots in Judea had inflamed anti-Jewish feeling in the Roman Empire, and James is concerned that all fellow Christians, live as people who are careful with words. Restraint and caution must be used before speaking. James tells teachers of the faith, “be careful what you say. Not many of you should become teachers. Teachers, pastors should use proper grammar and pay attention to what they say, speak truth, and should not give false information, no fake news, or false teachings. Think before you speak, is wisdom taught and learned hopefully.”


You know you can turn your horse with the reins attached to the bit in their mouth. A 2,000 pound animal being turned by a 10 ounce piece of metal.


Ocean going ships for their size, have relatively small rudders that can turn the ship to any different navigational bearing with relative ease. And our tongue in the middle of our glorious bodies, can flap around and either lift others up in celebration and praise, or crush them with venom and a vituperative attack that leaves the recipient torn to shreds.


It doesn’t matter whether the words are be true or false. If we use our tongues poorly with language of hate and anger that drive fellow journeyers on the path of Christian life, into the muck and stinking mire of the world, then do not claim yourself as a Christian. Where is the love of God, or neighbor?


Out of control speech has the potential to upset the created order. Hate language, language that emboldens persons to act in a hate filled manner, has no place in civil society.


It is amazing how we can unleash with the same mouth that blesses God, the Christ, the Father and Holy Spirit, how we can unleash words that are spite filled, venom dripping, character assassinating and destructive.

I wonder if like a reptile, there is a reptilian part of our brain that when we are confronted with fight or flight, we react without thinking of the implications of our words on others.


If the source, and guide and model in our lives is Jesus Christ, then the words coming out of our mouths will be like cool, clear, life giving fresh water from a spring. Because a fresh water spring, is not capable of pouring our poisonous, non drinkable water from a fresh source.


At a city park in Canton, Ohio there is a spring that flows water into a pipe that allows people to fill up 5 gallon containers for home use. It is free, cold, non-polluted water that gives life.


Our words according to James, are the result of what is going on within us. We desire wisdom and understanding in our lives that lead us to wise actions and thoughts that emerge from a gentleness born of wisdom. (vs. 13) So how do we pump that water from the wellspring, into our lives?


It is quite simple James claims: 3 ways-

1. Be slow. Be slow in speaking. Think, wait. Don’t jump on an email, twitter or text response while you are angry, hungry or tired. Give it some time. Take a walk, make dinner, work in the yard. Be quick to listen, slow to anger. James 1: 19


2. Be teachable. Are you willing to learn from another, even from those we disagree with? It’s easier to come alongside the one with like minded social, political, ethical, moral, theological beliefs, than one who differs from us. There are lots of trolls on social media and in society just looking for someone to bait, and who love to stir the pot. Listen and learn, rather than just engaging in proving your point or argument.


3. Be honest. State what you believe unapologetically, firmly, but draw from a well of gentleness. You may not be able to convince the listener that you are right, and they’re incorrect. State your point and kindly say, “I disagree with you.”


Responding in anger it creates a situation difficult to navigate. Feelings get hurt, friendships can be broken. The real travesty of misused hurtful words is not so much the incidental swear word, incidental oath or petty bit of slander. Rather it is found in the creation of distorted worlds of meaning, in which the word of truth is suppressed.


We live in a virtual Tower of Babel in this day and age. Talking to and at, each other, and not hearing. We know how slippery half-truths are in advertising, in politics, and in ethics.


James instructs us in his discourse that we are given a mind, body, spirit, belief in Jesus Christ that allow us to shape language in the church, in our homes, in community, in schools, in public and in politics, that lifts the level of discourse.

We have a significant calling on our lives as Christians to speak the truth, to live truthfully, to act in truth, and to confront systems, bureaucracies, persons and individuals who do not speak the truth.

So I ask this question today of each of us; do your words glorify and honor God, the Christ, and Holy Spirit?

Do you use your voice to address injustice, evil, and untruthfulness where you find it?

We as baptized Christians, who accept Christ, the Father and Holy Spirit, have vowed in Baptismal Covenant to resist evil, and injustice wherever we find it. God has given you a tongue to praise him, to lift up others and to confront untruth.


Remember, be slow, and think before speaking or replying.

  1. teachable, be a ready learner, even from those you disagree with be honest. Finally, be honest with the call Christ has on your life as one of His own, and let your life, your actions and your speech reflect that daily. And the people of God proclaimed. Amen.