Words are Windows
Pastor Michael L. Ford
First preached in the Chapel of the Community Chaplain, Osterholz-Scharmbeck, West Germany,
to the Faith Baptist Mission congregation in the early 1980’s, exact date unrecorded.
Good morning. It appears, looking over the people present, everyone here is either in the military or the family of a military member, which makes you in the military too. While I am saddened we do not have anyone from the German community or civilian employees of DOD in attendance today, my introductory job may have been made easier by the fact you are all well acquainted with the military aspect of what I am about to tell you. I know you soldiers are aware of the fact words are a big part of your world in the military, and I credit your mates with being insightful enough not to miss out on the importance of these things either. If there is doubt among any of you about the truth of this, you should really take time to talk about the importance of words in your family time together.
You are aware the words of politicians, both in our country, our allies, and potential enemies are important indicators of what might have to be faced in the future. Not only that, you have to pay attention to the words of your military leaders. They not only set immediate objectives by their utterances, but give some indication of what will be expected of you in order to accomplish your part of the mission. Those of you in leadership position have to learn how to speak words in such a way they accomplish the most positive impact on the listener, too encourage, reprimand, and instruct. You work to learn how to choose your words in such a way they convey clear messages. No small talent. Then there is the fact that words impact relationships, even among family members and unwisely spoken words can impact relationships for years, yes, and even destroy them forever.
At the same time you are not only having to deal with the stresses all families are subject to you have to endure the special stresses the soldier’s calling puts on families. Listening to one another in a military family becomes even more critical than it is in a civilian family, because of the factors you know well and I do not have to detail these for you. So those of you here today should be interested in the topic of this morning’s sermon; Words Are Windows, and be prepared to listen closely as I speak to you on the matter because the subject is an integral part of your lives. Hopefully, by the time we are finished your appreciation of the importance of words from a Christian perspective will enhance, even transform your lives. This is the desired objective that I have and the reason I believe the Lord has guided me in the preparation of this sermon.
This morning our text is coming from the Book of James. Just starting out with the message I want you to understand how important it is that it is James speaking to us. The truth is I had a wide range of Scripture to go to in order to speak to you on this subject today. In fact, when I was studying for the sermon, I found myself almost overwhelmed by biblical material. I could have come from the Psalms, Proverbs, or even the examples of men’s lives contained in Scripture and spoke of Words as Windows wisely. I could appeal to the very words of our Lord and showed He was much concerned with words and their power; with what they showed of the human soul. The glimpses words give us all into the hearts and minds of men. But I felt the Spirit leading me back again and again to James. I gave the reason for that some thought and I would like to share with you why I think that the Lord guided me in that direction. It is important to why this Scripture is relevant to you and you should meditate upon it and talk about it around you family altar time. It has to do with the person of James himself.
James is an interesting fellow in his own right. I don’t want you to get confused about whom I am speaking of because there are three different fellows named James in the New Testament. But the guy we have here, who has written these words for our benefit is none other than the half brother of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Now, some people say he and his siblings were children of Joseph by a prior marriage before he married Mary. Joseph was certainly an older man and we do not know how old. Mary was about fourteen when she became the mother of Jesus. But there is no reason for us to believe James was not a younger child conceived after our Lord was born. Some of you were Catholics before you met me and you were told Mary lived a virginal life. For that to be true the Bible would have to be a liar and I don’t think the Bible lies. You see, the Bible says in Matthew 1:25 that Joseph did not “know” Mary in the biblical sense till after our Lord was born. This means that after he was born they were intimate. This is important too. Because if they had not been, if Mary had withheld herself from her husband, she would have been sinning, defrauding her husband under the law. And frankly, she was a better woman than that.
I am telling you all this because I want you to understand the relationship between our Lord and His siblings was much like those we find in other households. Older brothers often get a lot of flack from their younger brothers and sisters at times, words becoming windows into relationships, and we have reasons to believe this happened to Jesus too. In fact, there is good evidence James was not one of those people who early recognized our Lord as Messiah. But when he did come to faith in Christ, he was faithful even unto death. So the words of James on the subject of words have added importance, both because they come from a half brother of our Lord, but also because they come from a faithful martyr of Christ.
But there is a third reason what James has to say is important to our consideration of words being windows. This reason is because so many people have wanted to reject James epistle written to devout Jews who lived outside the Holy Land. You see he says uncomfortable things about how people ought to live in order to be living, what I like to call, practical Christianity. And, James had much to say on the subject that some, through erroneous interpretation of the Gospels, assume are in contradiction to other holy text. In fact, when you rightly divide the Word of Truth you find the Book of James to be complementary to the rest of Scripture, to go along with and illuminate what we are presented by other Holy Spirit inspired writers.
So, you mothers and fathers holding babies keep your seats, but I want to ask the rest of you to rise in respect for the reading of God’s Word as we hear James speak to us under the direction of the Holy Spirit across two thousand years of time:
1. My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation.
2. For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body.
3. Behold, we put bits in the horses' mouths, that they may obey us; and we turn about their whole body.
4. Behold also the ships, which though they be so great, and are driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small helm, whithersoever the governor listeth.
5. Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth!
6. And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell.
7. For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind:
8. But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.
9. Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God.
10. Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be.
11. Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter?
12. Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either a vine, figs? so can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh.
13. Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom.
14. But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth.
15. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish.
16. For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.
17. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.
18. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.
And when the reading of God’s Word was concluded all His people said, Amen!
You may be seated and let us bow our heads in prayer.
Almighty God, I stand before You this morning in the presence of these Your people to confess my unworthiness and inability. I know I am unworthy to be in the place I am this morning, and am only here by Your grace. I also know I am unable to accomplish the task You have set before me this morning, of convincing these Your servants of the importance of Words as Windows, and the job will only be completed successfully if it is carried out in the power of your might visited upon the subject.
For this reason, I approach you with several petitions:
The first of these is that You will not let any failing on my part hinder Your purpose.
The second of these is that You will help those present to put away concerns and thoughts apart from the reason we are gathered so they can pay attention to the message.
My third petition is that You will not allow the devil to pinch babies or make children restless to distract from the message; he likes doing stuff like that, so I pray against him.
And finally Lord, I know some of these men have been on duty through the night and yet they are here in church; all of them have worked hard through the week and their bodies are yet recovering from the stresses they have been under. Please give these men the refreshing they need and do not allow the warmth of the building or the closeness of the quarters make them doze or slip away mentally. Rather I pray You will refresh them and cause their dedication to be here a cause for refreshing and reinvigorating them for the things they will face in the days to come.
I submit these petitions, confident they are in keeping with Thy Will, so that I can ask them boldly in the Name of our Precious Lord, Savior, and Redeemer Jesus Christ.
And all God’s people said …Amen!
As I have already said this morning the topic of the message is Words Are Windows and the desired objective of this message is to bring each and every one of you to an understanding that this is a great truth, one you should consider as you live out your lives. In order to help you to understand Words Are Windows I feel led to share with you three important and relevant points:
1. The first of these is the importance of the comparisons James makes to the power of the tongue to the fundamental truth of words being windows.
2. The second point will be some of the things James says in other parts of the epistle that complement this passage and also illustrate the importance of words being view ports or windows into the hearts of men.
3. And finally, I will give you some illustrations that prove the importance of words and the opening they give us into the hearts of men…and women too.
James shows us how small things can have great power in his address to us on the power of the tongue or the words, if you will, that come out of people’s mouths:
His first example was the bit that is put in a horse’s mouth, so that even the most stubborn horse has a hard time resisting the man setting on his back. Now most of you Texas boys with the Second Armored will have an appreciation for that example. I used to throw my legs over some fractious horses back when I thought I was a horseman too. I can tell you a curved bit in a horse’s mouth can generally persuade even an animal that wants to take the bit and run. But I never wanted to use a harsh bit on a horse that had a willing heart. Harshness can breed harshness and words are like that too. We have all known hard men who had hard hearts and hard souls who were needlessly rough on animals and people alike. Their actions were windows into the person they were, however they got that way. But a horse that will neck rein, one that you can use a straight bit on, makes for a more pleasant ride. The same is true for people too. Winning people with kind words and pleasant speech makes for better relationships that generally get more done in the long run, and shows them that inside you are a person with consideration for others.
James second illustration was the rudders of ships, which by comparison with the ships are small things indeed. Even in the most awful storms rudders are essential to keeping a ship from foundering in the waves. A ship without a rudder can sink in a storm, but the knowledgeable man at the wheel can play the key role in saving the vessel in the worst of storms. History is replete with accounts of men who had the right words that saved the day and weathered a trying time in history:
About 125 miles from here a Germanic warrior named Herman found the right words to do a strange thing many years ago. He managed to say the words that got the tribes to unite to resist the Roman invasion moving North and conquering the peoples, giving them baptisms of blood.
And just a few years ago in World War II, South and East of here the Germans launched their operation called “Unternehmen Wacht am Rhein,’ which led to what history remembers as the Battle of the Bulge. Some of you men were on the tour of the battle area last summer. You remember when General Anthony McAuliffe, of the 101st Airborne, got the German invitation to surrender, he replied "Nuts!" When word of his reply got around it helped to raise the spirits of the men who had been having such a hard time of it during that winter battle. It helped to give the men heart to carry on.
Herman showed he had a heart for the German peoples by finding the right words, and some of you have visited his statue in Paderborn commemorating his dedication. General McAuliffe showed his understanding and heart for great undertaking in his reply to the German High Command when he was tested.
My final account related to ship’s helms had to do with my own position as head of my household. It took place back in the USA after Kaye and I had returned from Turkey to find the people running the mobile home park had been renting out our trailers and pocketing the money, which left us deeply in debt and struggling to make ends meet. One day I came home and asked my wife what was for supper? She said nothing. We did not even have oil and flour in the house to fry some cakes to feed the kids. The children were reflecting her distress and all were looking to me to see what to do. I told her to set the table and we would bow our heads and thank the Lord for what He would provide. I had some idea of taking my shotgun to the woods with the two shells I had left and seeing what I could get. But we had scarcely finished praying before a knock came at the door and there stood a friend with his arms full of food. It seems he had come home and started craving a steak supper, and one shared with us. So he had gathered up the steak and all the trimmings and came over to our house. God wanted the human head of the Ford house to acknowledge the True Head and Provider I suppose. I needed to speak words of leadership that calmed the situation and pointed to where our heart’s reliance should rest. I never have forgotten the lesson of God’s provision.
James third illustration of the power of the tongue most mistake for just commentary.
“Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth!”
How we use our tongue is a window into our heart that reveals whether our life is spent being all about us, or whether we place importance on other things with a divine order of priority. You can listen to a man, his talk, his boasting and tell where his heart is. In leadership we tell people that a good leader know how to give away credit to others to whom credit is due, they find their leadership enhanced. But the principle is greater than that. A man’s words can ultimately show where his heart is. It is a window into the inner core of the man. Just listen to a man for a short time and you will find out what sort of man he is.
James was about to tell his Greek speaking readers an ill-used tongue could start the verbal equivalent of a wildfire in the woods that will race along from treetop to treetop until soon the whole forest is engulfed. Words can be just that destructive, but they do not have to be. It makes a great deal of difference what sort of man the words that come to the tongue come out of. He had been building the case for our understanding of this throughout his epistle. For instance, in James 1:8 he says”
"A double minded man is unstable in all his ways."
And just in case we missed the point in verse 26 he continued:
“If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain.”
The fact is a man can try to tint or distort the windows into his heart, even to the point of deceiving his own self about his hypocrite status.
But James knew it is hard to get the attention of a self-deceived man so he went further saying in chapter 3 verse 10:
“Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be.”
You can see the self deceived man as he goes about his duties from day to day being profane in his speech and going along with the crowd only to come into the church on a Sunday and be all so holy, thinking he is alright with the Lord, his family, and has a good testimony before men. That is great self-deception. But others see through the windows of his words more clearly. Robert Burns, who is called the National Poet of Scotland, some two hundred years ago expressed the thing in a poem I learned as a child:
“Oh wad some power the giftie gie us
To see oursel's as others see us!
It wad frae monie a blunder free us,
And foolish notion”
I could continue on and use other illustrations from James, like telling you how the windows to the heart are opened based on whether or not people heed his words:
“Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms. Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord:” These words found in James 5:13&14 go a long way to opening a window on whether a man believes the Word of God or not in his heart. I could do that and more. I promised you I would show how things James said in other parts of his epistle pointed to the importance of words as windows, but I did not promise to show you all the illustrations of that we might find. That might weary you and it is probably the sort of thing that would take more than one sermon. The hour grows long and I have made the point I promised already. I could also give you more illustrations from both Scripture and life to show the importance of words in giving an opening into the hearts of men. But I did give you a number of illustrations already and the more I give the harder it is for you to remember them and also keep track of the important issue of the sermon which is Words Are Windows.
What we have covered already raises the question we all have to face and answer. What kind of windows are we opening up to the world?
What do they say about us and our faith in the God we proclaim?
When people look into our windows does what they see make them desire the Lord Jesus Christ?
These are questions you need to face and answer not only today but for all the rest of your life. It is a question I have to answer too. No one, not pastors, pastor’s wives, deacons, not the President or the commanding general himself are exempt from eventually facing these questions. We will all have a day when we must face not the deception but the truth about our windows. It is better for the believer to be constantly answering the question every day of their lives than to have a sad reckoning before the Throne of God for the windows we opened to the world, our fellow workers, and our families. Let us now bow and pray to God about the quality of the windows our words reveal.
P. O. Box 752
Buchanan, Georgia 30113