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How Powerful is the Tongue?

March 8th, 2020

Minoh International Church
Pastor Joseph Ricohermoso
James 3:1-12
ヤコブの手紙 3:1-12


One of my first encounters with the Japanese language has something to do with hayakuchi kotoba (literally, fast mouth words), the equivalent of tongue twisters in English. Here’s one example:

The tongue twister: “Nama mugi, nama gome, nama tamago.” Translation: “Raw buckwheat, raw rice, raw egg.”

Now, try saying that 3-4 times and fast….

Medically, the human tongue is only about 10 cm long and weighs about 70 grams for adult males and 60 grams for adult females. It enables us to chew, taste, swallow food and articulate words. Described in nontechnical, relational terms – it’s a tiny monster sometimes.
医学的には、人間の舌の長さはわずか約10 cmで、重さは成人男性で約70グラム、成人女性で約60グラムです。舌のおかげで、食べ物を噛んだり、味わったり、飲み込んだり、言葉をはっきり話すことができます。専門的な言葉を用いず、もっと身近な言葉で説明すると、舌は時々小さな怪物のようになるということです。

Sometimes the tongue pronounces deceit (Psalm 50:19おまえの口は悪を放ち、おまえの舌は欺きを仕組んでいる。), devises destruction (Psalm 52:2), is harmful (Psalm 52:4), a sharp sword (Psalm 57:4), breaks a bone (Proverbs 25:15), provokes (Proverbs 25:23), flatters (Proverbs 28:23), and poisons (Romans 3:13).

To impress upon us the importance of controlled speech and the great consequences of our words, James gives us six (6) pictures of the tongue: the bit, the rudder, fire, a poisonous animal, a fountain, and a fig tree. We can group them together into three (3) classifications that reveal the three (3) powers of the tongue.

  1. It has the power to DIRECT life: the Bit and the Rudder – verses 1-4
    舌は命へと導く力を持つ:くつわと舵について– 1〜4節

1 Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. 2 We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check.
3 When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. 4 Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go.
James 3:1-4

1 わたしの兄弟たちよ。あなたがたのうち多くの者は、教師にならないがよい。わたしたち教師が、他の人たちよりも、もっときびしいさばきを受けることが、よくわかっているからである。2 わたしたちは皆、多くのあやまちを犯すものである。もし、言葉の上であやまちのない人があれば、そういう人は、全身をも制御することのできる完全な人である。3 馬を御するために、その口にくつわをはめるなら、その全身を引きまわすことができる。4 また船を見るがよい。船体が非常に大きく、また激しい風に吹きまくられても、ごく小さなかじ一つで、操縦者の思いのままに運転される。
ヤコブの手紙 3:1-4

The tongue is small relative to our body size yet it’s powerful. Compared to a small bit, a piece of metal in a horse’s mouth, a rider can control the horse’s whole body. Likewise, a small rudder enables a pilot to steer the huge ship.

When my family first came to Japan to minister, I served among the military in Kanagawa Prefecture. I had opportunities to see and board US navy ships. The biggest ship forward deployed to the west Pacific at the time was the USS Kitty Hawk, an aircraft carrier. It was staffed with up to 5,624 officers and enlisted personnel. Her running length from bow to stern was 1,068 feet (325.5 meters). It can carry up to 90 aircraft. It costs over US$6.5 million daily to operate it! Yet this behemoth could be controlled by a relatively small rudder.

In the same way, our tongue is a small member in the body and yet it can control the direction of our lives. It has the power to accomplish great things.

Both the bit and the rudder must overcome contrary forces. The bit must overcome the wild nature of the horse, and the rudder must fight against the winds and currents that would drive the ship off its course.

The human tongue also must overcome contrary forces. We have an old nature that wants to control us and make us sin. There are circumstances around us that would make us say things we ought not to say. Sin on the inside and pressures on the outside are seeking to get control of the tongue.

This means that both the bit and the rudder must be controlled by a strong hand. The horse rider keeps the mighty power of his steed under control, and the experienced pilot courageously steers the ship through the storm. When Jesus Christ controls the tongue, then we need not fear saying the wrong things – or even saying the right things the wrong way. When Jesus the Lord of the heart, then he is Lord of the lips too.

  1. It has the power to DESTROY life: the Fire and Animal – verses 5-8
    舌は人生を滅ぼす力を持っている:火と生き物について– 5節から8節

5 Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. 6 The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.
7 All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
James 3:5-8

5 それと同じく、舌は小さな器官ではあるが、よく大言壮語する。見よ、ごく小さな火でも、非常に大きな森を燃やすではないか。6 舌は火である。不義の世界である。舌は、わたしたちの器官の一つとしてそなえられたものであるが、全身を汚し、生存の車輪を燃やし、自らは地獄の火で焼かれる。7 あらゆる種類の獣、鳥、這うもの、海の生物は、すべて人類に制せられるし、また制せられてきた。8 ところが、舌を制しうる人は、ひとりもいない。それは、制しにくい悪であって、死の毒に満ちている。
ヤコブの手紙 3:5-8

  1. A fire can begin with just a small spark, but it can grow to destroy a city. We’ve heard or seen in the news, bush fires in Australia that created its own weather pattern like a firenado, or forest fires in California and the Amazon in Brazil. Our words can start fires.
    火はほんの小さな火花から始まりますが、都市を滅ぼすほど大きくなる可能性があります。私達が最近耳にしたニュースでは、火災旋風と言われるような独特な気象現象を作り出したオーストラリアの山火事、またはカリフォルニアとブラジルのアマゾンでの森林火災がありました。このように、 私たちの言葉も「火」を起こすことがあり得るのです。

20 Without wood a fire goes out; without a gossip a quarrel dies down.
21 As charcoal to embers and as wood to fire, so is a quarrelsome person for kindling strife.
Proverbs 26:20-21

20 たきぎがなければ火は消え、人のよしあしを言う者がなければ争いはやむ。
21 おき火に炭をつぎ、火にたきぎをくべるように、争いを好む人は争いの火をおこす。
箴言 26:20-21

Like a fire, the tongue can “heat things up.” King David described his experience in Psalm 39:1a &3:
1 “I said, ‘I will watch my ways and keep my tongue from sin … 3 my heart grew hot within me.
While I meditated, the fire burned; then I spoke with my tongue.'”
1 わたしは言った、「舌をもって罪を犯さないために、わたしの道を慎み、悪しき者のわたしの前にある間はわたしの口にくつわをかけよう」と。2 わたしは黙して物言わず、むなしく沈黙を守った。しかし、わたしの悩みはさらにひどくなり、3 わたしの心はわたしのうちに熱し、思いつづけるほどに火が燃えたので、わたしは舌をもって語った。

Have you ever had that experience? A hot head and a hot heart can lead to burning words that later we will regret. We definitely need God’s help in controlling it. The Book of Proverbs has more to say.

Whoever is patient has great understanding, but one who is quick-tempered displays folly.
Proverbs 14:29

29 怒りをおそくする者は大いなる悟りがあり、気の短い者は愚かさをあらわす。
箴言 14:29

The one who has knowledge uses words with restraint, and whoever has understanding is even-tempered.
Proverbs 17:27

27 言葉を少なくする者は知識のある者、心の冷静な人はさとき人である。
箴言 17:27

Left unchecked, fire spreads and the more fuel we give it, the faster and farther it will spread. The tongue “sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell” (v.6).

  1. Not only is the tongue like a fire, but it is also like a dangerous animal. It is restless and cannot be ruled, and it seeks its prey and then pounces and kills. Some animals are poisonous, and some tongues spread poison.

The deceptive thing about poison is that it works discreetly and slowly, and then kills. As a pastor, I’ve seen the great damage a dangerous tongue has caused to individuals, families, and entire churches.

Would you let loose hungry lions or poisonous snakes in our morning service? Of course not! But untamed tongues accomplish the same results.

James says that both fire and animals can be tamed. When an animal is tamed, we can put it to use. When fire is controlled, it can generate power. Tongue is more difficult to tame but God can tame it.

  1. It has the power to DELIGHT life: The Fountain and Tree – verses 9-12
    舌は人生に喜びを与える力がある:泉と木についてー 9〜12節

9 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. 11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 12 My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.
James 3:9-12

9 わたしたちは、この舌で父なる主をさんびし、また、その同じ舌で、神にかたどって造られた人間をのろっている。10 同じ口から、さんびとのろいとが出て来る。わたしの兄弟たちよ。このような事は、あるべきでない。11 泉が、甘い水と苦い水とを、同じ穴からふき出すことがあろうか。12 わたしの兄弟たちよ。いちじくの木がオリブの実を結び、ぶどうの木がいちじくの実を結ぶことができようか。塩水も、甘い水を出すことはできない。
ヤコブの手紙 3:9-12

James shows how the nature of the human heart is not found in nature. Unlike humankind, nature is consistent. However, the tongue has great potential for good. Yes, even to delight.

The words of the mouth are deep waters, but the fountain of wisdom is a rushing stream.
Proverbs 18:4

箴言 18:4

The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life, turning a person from the snares of death.
Proverbs 13:14

箴言 13:14

Water is life-giving, and our words can give life. Paul’s prayer was that he might “refresh” the saints in Rome when he came to them (Romans 15:32). Likewise, he often mentioned the names of those Christians who had refreshed him.

For they refreshed my spirit and yours also. Such men deserve recognition.
1 Corinthians 16:18

コリント人への第一の手紙 16:18

7 Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the Lord’s people.
20 I do wish, brother, that I may have some benefit from you in the Lord; refresh my heart in Christ.
Philemon 1:7, 20

7 兄弟よ。わたしは、あなたの愛によって多くの喜びと慰めとを与えられた。聖徒たちの心が、あなたによって力づけられたからである。
20 兄弟よ。わたしはあなたから、主にあって何か益を得たいものである。わたしの心を、主にあって力づけてもらいたい。
ピレモンへの手紙 1:7, 20

The tongue is also delightful because it is like a tree. In Bible lands, trees are vitally important to the economy: they help hold down the soil; they provide beauty and shade; and, they bear fruit. Similarly, our words can help to shelter and encourage a weary traveler, and can help feed a hungry soul.

The lips of the righteous nourish many
Proverbs 10:21a

箴言 10:21

The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life.
John 6:63

ヨハネによる福音書 6:63


Warren Wiersbe suggests using the “Twelve Words That Can Transform Your Life.” If we use these words and sincerely mean what we say from our heart, we will find that God can use us to be a blessing and encouragement to others.

“Please” and “Thank you” – When we use these three (3) words, we are treating others like people and not things. We are showing appreciation.

“I’m sorry” – These two words have a way of breaking down walls and building bridges.

“I love you” – Too many people take it to mean, “romance,” but they go much deeper than that. As Christians, we should love the brethren and even love our enemies. “I love you” is a statement that can carry tremendous power.
「愛しています」–この言葉は「ロマンス」を意味すると思う人が多いと思いますが、それよりもずっと深い意味を持ちます。クリスチャンとして私たちは、兄弟姉妹を愛し、敵でさえも愛すべきです。 「私はあなたを愛しています」は、途方もない力を生むことができる言葉です。

“I’m praying for you” – And, be sure that you are. When we talk to God about people, then we can talk to people about God. Our private praying for people helps us in our public meeting with people.
「私はあなたのために祈っています」- そう言うだけでなく必ず祈ってください。祈りを通して、私たちが神と人について話すことができるなら、人と神について話すこともできるはずです。私たちが個々に人々のために祈ると、祈りをきっかけにして他者と話をすることができ、私たちの人間関係を助けてくれます。

Yes, the smallest but the largest troublemaker in all the world is the tongue. But it doesn’t have to be a monster. God can use our tongues to direct others into the way of life, and to delight them in the trials of life. 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 a blessing to others.