Picture of Pastor Gettys

Sermon delivered December 27, 2008 by Pastor Don Gettys

McDonald Road Seventh-day Adventist Church

McDonald, Tennessee

Biblical quotations are from the New International Version NIV unless otherwise noted. Divine pronouns and titles are capitalized.

The Tongue Tamer

Proverbs 18:1-4

(RealAudio available)

I want to tell you about Karen.  Karen Carpenter died at the age of 32.  And she was a beautiful young girl.  And she did not need to die.  She starved to death!  Karen Carpenter died in the United States of America.  Starving to death.  She did not die for a lack of food.  She had plenty of food.  She died because she had anorexia nervosa.  A fatal obsession with food.  And how did she get it?  Do you know why she had this disease?  Because somebody spoke with her one day.  Let me tell you.  One day she was at school and somebody said, “Oh, you’re Richard’s chubby sister.”  And the words clung to her.  She couldn’t get that out of her mind.  “I am Richard’s chubby sister.”  And from that day on, every time she looked in the mirror, she saw “Richard’s chubby sister”.  And so she stopped eating.  She starved herself do death.  She thought, “I am fat.”  And you might say she committed suicide.  She killed herself.  Right?

Wrong!  I’ll tell you who killed her.  The person who said, “You are Richard’s chubby sister.”  They planted words of death in her heart.  Words that took her life.  You need to be careful when you speak to people.  Speak positive things.  Try to uphold the person and not belittle them.  And this includes your husband or your wife.  Speak good things.  The person who hung that label around her neck; just like pronouncing a curse on her life.  Be careful what you say.  You don't know how sensitive a person might be.  May God help us to know the power of our words.

Come in your Bible, over here to the book of Proverbs, the 29th chapter, and the 20th verse.  And here the wisest man says this.  “Do you see a man who speaks in haste?  There is  more  hope  for a  fool  than  for  him!”  I want to tell you that this Book contains the words of life.  And we all have had a wonderful Christmas.  The best gift that you can give to somebody is probably not a gift that you would wrap in paper, and put a bow around.  The best gift that you can give to somebody is your love.  And introduce them to Jesus’ love.  That’s what you can do for somebody.  Make sure that your own words are loving and sweet.

My burden, for us as Christians, is that we would make our words like Hershey, in Hershey, Pennsylvania makes their chocolate.  Make them sweet.  Make them delicious.  Make others want to hear what you have to say.  Make them good.  The finest chocolate that can be had.  They make that into small morsels which we break off, eat that little bite.  Then we think, “Well, I can just have that one.”  And then we break that off.  “Well, I could break that off.”  And the first thing you know, it’s all gone.  You never do that, do you?  Make your words sweet.

You know, we’ve all memorized rhymes.  I think of our Christmas that we celebrated.  My mother quoted a long Christmas story, ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, by memory.  My mother did that.  I think that’s so good.  And then we read the Bible and we had prayer together.  That was just so special.  And you’ve all memorized little rhymes, and sayings, and I want to tell you about one.  Many of them are good, but one of them is very bad.  One of the most inaccurate rhymes that you have ever heard, I want to quote it to you, and it says, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”  Is that true?  That is so inaccurate.  Words can kill you.  Words do hurt!

And you bet they hurt.  Sharp words have hindered the work of God.  Occasionally you drive into a community and there are 2 Seventh-day Adventist churches.  There are 2 Methodist churches.  2 Baptist churches.  The First Baptist church and the Second Baptist church.  You think, “Well, what’s going on here?”  And they are just close to each other.  There was a faction there.  Somebody spoke some harsh words, and so the church split, because of the harshness and the careless tongues that broke hearts in that place.  The sins of the tongue have besmirched the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Have you noticed that all parts of the human body get tired, except the tongue.  The tongue never gets tired.  I have people that I know that might even be relatives of mine, and maybe you have relatives or friends of yours, your neighbors or somebody that can talk and talk and talk, and keep on talking, and they never stop.  I don’t even know how they breath.  Be careful with what you say.  Make sure your words are words of life, and not words of death.

Come to Proverbs 18, just a few pages back.  Proverbs 18, and verse 8.  "The words of a talebearer are as wounds.  They go down to the innermost parts of the belly."  Words of death.  Have you noticed that the sharp tongue is the only edged tool that the more it’s used, the sharper it gets?  I like to work with sharp tools.  Wood-working.  Metal-working.  But the tongue, the more you use it, the sharper it gets, if you’re not controlling it, and not allowing Jesus to control it.  And I’ve noticed over my years that a sharp tongue and a dull mind often inhabit the same brain.

There was a young minister who was driving along, and he had his wife and their new baby.  Just the 3 of them.  They were driving on the freeway, and the traffic was terrific.  And hasn’t the traffic been awful lately?  Have you tried to avoid that shopping mecca down there?  Don’t go there.  This young minister was driving along, his wife beside him and the baby was in the baby seat.  And he was cruising a little too fast and maybe he could have paid a little more attention to the traffic, and he tried to change lanes and a car shot by and almost caused them to have a terrible wreck.  And his wife said, “Honey! Watch where you’re going!  That windshield, look through there, pay attention to your driving.”  And he said, “I was watching.  How do you think we missed that car?”

And she said, “Honey, you need to be more careful.  You have 2 others here beside yourself to think about.”  And he became irritated and he snapped back, and he said, “I don't want to hear another word from you the whole trip!”  So she shut her mouth.  They drove along 15 minutes or so in total silence.  And finally he pulled over, slammed on the brakes, shut the engine off, and with tears in his eyes he said, “Honey, I’m sorry.  I blew it.”  He gave her a big hug.  But I will tell you, she did forgive him, but those wounds lasted for years.  When you hurt somebody it takes a long time to get over it.  Sticks and stones break our bones.  That’s true, and words can do the same thing.  Our tongues have got to be tamed.

During a football game the referee called a 15 yard penalty on the offensive team for unnecessary roughness.  And he went running out and got the ball and paced off the yards and positioned the ball, and the player responsible came up to him and said, “You know what I think of you?  You stink!”  And the referee said, “So I stink, huh?”  So he picked up the ball and went another 15 yards and put it down and said, “How do I smell from here?”  We’ve got to get control of our tongues.

Our tongues must be tamed.  I’ve seen a lot of bowl games, and have you seen them out there fighting, and hockey games.  I don’t even watch some of that stuff.  Ice hockey.  I think they have clubs and they know how to use them.

Come to James, chapter 3 in your Bible, if you have your Bible with you.  James, chapter 3, beginning with verse 7.  Here in verse 7 it says this.  “All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man.”  James 3, verse 8.  “But no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.  With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God's likeness.  Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be.”  We need to get control of our tongues, but the Bible says there’s a problem.  No man can tame the tongue.  It’s impossible.  We can’t do it.  No man can do that.  So, what is our hope.  How are we going to speak good words.  We’re going to allow the master tongue-tamer to come in and tame our tongue.  We can do that.  And He can do that.

Let me tell you about a boy.  This boy was ministering in a country church, a little lad, helping the priest in a Roman Catholic church, and at one point during the Sunday mass, the boy accidentally dropped the cup of wine.  Dropped it and it spilled and went everywhere.  And the village priest struck the altar boy on the face and said, “You have embarrassed all of us.  Don't ever come back to be an altar boy again.”  The boy went out and he never did come back.  In fact, you know what he became?  He became Tito, the Communist dictator.  That’s where he came from.

And let me tell you about another country church.  There was an altar boy who was serving on another Sunday Mass.  And he also had the cup of wine.  And he also spilled it, and it went everywhere.  And with a warm twinkle in his eyes the bishop gently whispered to the young boy, “Someday your going to be a good priest.  It’s ok, what you did.”  And do you know the name of that boy?  Archbishop Fulton Sheen.  You ever heard of Fulton Sheen?  That’s him.  The power of words.  You’ve got it.  You’ve got tremendous power in your mouth.  Be careful what you say.  Use your words wisely.  Make them sweet.  Allow Jesus to control yourself.  You can kill, or you can save with your words.

May I kindly point you to the master tongue tamer?  To Jesus Christ.  He’s coming soon, and He’s going to save people whose tongues have been given to Him.  You never want to own your own tongue.  Let Jesus be the owner of your tongue.  Do you have to be careful of your anger?  Does your anger get out of control.  Does your fist come up like that?  Let Jesus be in charge.  Pray that Jesus will take control of your life.  You know, there’s a lot of mad people out there.  There’s a lot of people that are under; they need to be under God’s control, but they’re out of control.  Turn your life over to Jesus and you’ll not have to worry about your tongue. Somebody said, “I would rather play with forked lightning, and take my hands and touch fiery electrical wires than to speak a reckless word against a servant of Jesus Christ.”

So let’s always speak kind words.  Let’s be known here at McDonald Road as people who know how to be sweet.  If you say anything nice about somebody and you want to, say it now.  You know, my daddy died a couple years ago, and I can’t, the days go by and I think, “I’ll ask daddy that,” and I can’t do that anymore.  That’s gone.  All gone.  And if you want to say something nice to somebody, say it now.  Send the flowers now, while they’re still alive.  Do it.  Encourage them now, before they go off the deep end.

Make your words like M&M candy.  You know, you can do a lot more like that, than making them out of vinegar.  Keep your words sweet.  Proverbs 16:24.  “Pleasant words are like the honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones.”  You want to help somebody be healthy and get over a cold, speak nice words to them.

A minister was preaching.  He said, “You know, you can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar”.  And don’t ever do what his wife did, but she leaned over, during the sermon, and whispered to her husband, and said, “Honey, I just love the way your muscles ripple when you take out the garbage!”  Use sweet words.  Well, they’ll get you someplace.  And you might have to eat them yourself so make sure they’re sweet.

You know, psychologists have said that if you shout at somebody, they will shout back at you.  If you yell at your kids, you’ll promote yelling in the house.  So, speak gentle, tender, quiet, kind words, and that’s generally the words you’ll get back.  Control the other person's tone by speaking in a soft tone yourself.  The Bible says, “A soft answer turns away wrath.”

Shouting matches don’t bring peace.  The person who is always blowing a fuse, is usually in the dark anyway.  You know, if you speak nicely to others, they will generally speak nice to you.  But just try wearing a frown all day and see how many friends you’ve got.

When Jesus’ own people speak, their words should edify and build up the hearer.  David said in Proverbs 25, verse 11, “A word that is fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of” what?  “Of silver.”  That’s the kind of words that you want.

There was a Christian who went to a restaurant, and I don’t have the name of the restaurant here, and he was sitting at his table, and at the very next table beside them was a father and his 7 year old, what looked to be like a 7 or 8 year old, boy.   And the boy had ordered milk, and he spilled his milk, and the Father yelled at him and said, “Son, you’re good for nothing.  What are you good for?”  And the boy said, “Nothing.”

Later this Christian man, he’d gone away from the restaurant, and later that day, the man became disgusted with his own son for a minor mistake, and he asked his son a cruel question.  He said, “Son, what are you good for anyway?”  The boy said, “Nothing.”  And it smote him, in his soul.  And he said, “uuhhh.”  He realized that the question was probably all right but the answer was terrible.  And so the next time his son did something that wasn’t right, he said, “Son, what are you good for?” and before his son could answer, the father said, “Let me tell you what you’re good for.  You’re good for loving!  You are good for loving.”  And the next, anytime then after that, when the son did something wrong, the father would say, “What are you good for?”  “I’m good for loving.”  And it changed the boy.  Changed his whole life.  You know, we need to let Jesus be in charge of our mouth.

Any good plumber can tell you that any faucet can turn the water on.  Have you noticed that?  Any faucet can turn it on, but it takes a good faucet to turn it off and keep it off.  And our mouth is like that.  We need Jesus to be in charge.  The average person, they say, speaks 25 thousand words a day.  And I know some people who speak a hundred and 25 thousand words a day.  Be careful what you talk about.  Make sure that Jesus is in control of your words.

First Thessalonians 5, verse 11 says, “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”

When Cheryl Prewitt was four years old, she hung around her father’s small country grocery store.  She loved to be there, and her dad was the proprietor.  And every morning, the milkman would come in and deliver the milk to the store.  And the milkman would see little Cheryl and he would say, “How’s my little Miss America?”  And she, “I’m doing good.”  She thought it was kind of cute that he would say that, and she giggled.  She became comfortable with it.  Kind of enjoyed it, because every morning, “How’s my little Miss America?”  And finally, as she got older, it became a childhood fantasy.  And then it became sort of a dream.  A teenage dream.  And then it became a goal.  And I want to tell you that in 1980, in Atlantic City, New Jersey, Cheryl Prewitt was crowned Miss America.  She made it.

The milkman never knew what he did to influence that little girl.  You never know when you say something to somebody else, you don’t know its influence.

“This is Richard’s chubby sister.”  “Good morning, Miss America.”  You know, let’s say things positive about people.

Words can convey thoughts and feelings.  Words can bless or curse.  They can encourage or discourage.  They can start a war or they can make peace.  Cold words can freeze.  Hot words can scorch.  What we need are warm sweet words, and Jesus can give you that.  Christ’s Object Lessons, page 341, says “If we commit our ways to our Heavenly Father, His angels.”  God’s angels.  Now listen to this.  “Will choose our words for us.”  And impress them, I guess, upon our minds, so that that’s what we will say.  I want the angels to be in charge of my words.  I want Jesus to be in charge of my words.

Your words can be so helpful, or you can just lash out at your mate.  Your husband.  Your wife.  Your children.  Don’t do that.

One day a newspaper man was visiting the Raiders' football camp, and he had just come from Jack London’s Historic Monument.  Maybe some of you have been there.  And he had read a sample of London's prose and he had it with him, and he read it to quarterback Ken Stabler.  And he read this.  “I would rather be ashes than dust! I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry rot.  I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy, permanent planet. The proper function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them. I shall use my time.”  And after reading that to quarterback Ken Stabler, he said, “What does that mean to you?” and the quarterback said, “What it means to me is, throw deep.”  Throw deep.

You know, the Bible is God's word, and these are words of life.  If we were to take your words and bind them in a book, would they be words of life?  Think about that.  Would they be?

I want to ask you a question, and I’m going to ask you to raise your hand.  How many of you can go for twenty-four hours without saying any unkind words about, or to, anybody?  Raise your hand.  Hmm.  Many of you raised your hands.  Most of you didn’t.  I wonder what that signifies.  Quite a few of you were motionless.  You know, if you can't answer ‘yes’ to that, then you must recognize, I think, that you have a serious problem.  Let me rephrase the question.  If you cannot go for twenty-four hours without smoking a cigarette, you’re addicted to nicotine. If you can’t go for twenty-four hours without drinking alcohol, you could be an alcoholic.  If you can’t go twenty-four hours without criticizing somebody, you may be addicted to that type of speech.  We can do it, with Jesus.  We can.  You may have lost control over your tongue, and you may need Jesus to be in control of your tongue.

There’s a wonderful promise here in the book of Psalms.  Psalm 1 hundred and 41, and I’m going to read it to you.  It’s in verse 3, and this is my prayer.  Psalm 141, and verse 3.  “Set a watch O Lord, before my mouth, and keep the door of my lips.”  That’s what I want Jesus to do for me.  Is to keep the door of my lips.

Jesus is the master tongue tamer.  Jesus is the lip keeper of the universe.  And Jesus will make your speech Word Perfect.  The things that you say.  Jesus can keep your words sweeter than chocolate.  And Jesus can do this all day long.  He can do it 24 hours if you only will commit yourselves totally to Him.  Do you believe that?  He can do that for you.  The words of Christians who have Jesus at the controls of their innermost control panel, in their heart, are naturally sweet; because the Sweetheart of the Ages, the Desire of Ages, lives inside of them.  Invite Jesus into your life.  And let’s be sweet.  We’ve got a whole brand-new year coming up in just a few days.  We can be new people in Jesus Christ.  We can change.  He can manage our anger.  He can manage our words, and we can be new people.

Let’s sing our closing hymn.  It’s about words of life, and as you sing this hymn, it’s primarily about the Bible, but I hope that it will be, also, about your words.  That your words will be words of life.


 Hymn of Praise: #136, Good Christians, Now Rejoice
Scripture: Proverbs 18:1-4
Hymn of Response: #286, Wonderful Words of Life



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McDonald Road Sermon transcribed by Steve Foster 1/7/09