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Think back to your biology or health class for a few minutes to your studies of the human body. I have some household items here that represent different parts of the body that I want you to help me identify: glove, glasses, calculator, rubber band, grinder, strainer, trash bag, shoe, earmuffs, clock, foot pump, sifter, sponge, eye dropper & water

glove - hand
glasses - eyes
calculator - brain
rubber band- vocal cords
grinder - stomach
strainer - liver
trash bag - disposal
shoe - foot
earmuffs - ears
clock - heart
foot pump - lungs
sifter - intestines
sponge - bladder
eye dropper & water - glands & hormones
    (Hint: 7th grade girl or PMS)

Somehow God put all these gadgets and systems together, put them in a frame of bones (tinker toys) and held it all together with some muscles and skin (balloon) and then added some hair (yarn), breathed life into it - and created the most fantastic creation of all--a human being ... ruler of His world - to have dominion over all the other creations.

We left something out - something that looks like this   (spatula), but sometimes looks more like this   (forked spatula). What is it? OUR TONGUE. God wanted His man to name all the animals and for that he needed a tongue to work with the vocal cords and lungs and diaphragm to produce sounds - words. This allowed man to communicate. And communicate he did.

Thinking back to Genesis 2 and 3, with whom does God's crowning creation communicate with first? We assume Adam communicated with God as he names the animals, although that conversation is not recorded. We're just told Adam named the animals as God paraded them in front of him and there was not found a helper fit for him. We're not told if Adam and Eve conversed after her creation. We don't know if they sat down and discussed weather, politics, or cited poetry or sang love songs--we're not told.

Between whom is the first recorded conversation held?

The next conversation is between Adam and God, then God and Eve. Then the curses are given. God doesn't even bother to interrogate Satan. God just curses him and sends him slithering away.

What a sad day that was. Satan cleverly planted questions and doubts in Eve's mind, undermining the Creator. Satan lies; Adam blame shifts. All possible because of tongues. And sin continued from there. Throughout the Bible we see man falling into sin through the medium of the tongue.

  • Genesis 11 - Because man communicated so easily at Babel, he became arrogant and proud of his accomplishments. God chose to confuse man's tongues/languages to stop the sin of man's ambitions and pride.

  • Genesis 12 - Abraham lies about his wife Sarah, introducing her as his sister. Well, it was only half a lie. She was his half-sister.

  • Genesis 27:24 - Jacob lies to his father Isaac to receive a blessing that was supposed to go to Esau. Isaac says, "Are you really my son Esau?" Jacob says, "I am."

  • Genesis 37:32 - Ten sons of Jacob lie to their father about Joseph's disappearance. "We found this coat..." We know they took his coat and dipped it in blood themselves.

  • Exodus 32:24 - CLASSIC - Aaron lies to Moses after Moses comes down from Mt. Sinai with the Ten Commandments. "The people gave me gold. I threw it in the fire and THERE CAME OUT THIS CALF."

  • Matthew 26 - Peter lies about not being an acquaintance of Jesus.

  • Acts 5:4 - Ananias and Sapphira lie about their generous contribution.

You can probably come up with as many biblical examples of sins of the tongue.

In Acts 21, we see Paul being the victim of sinful tongues in Jerusalem.

  • Acts 21:21 - "They have been told about you that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or observe their customs."

    And again in

  • Acts 21:28 - "Men of Israel, help! This is the man who is teaching men everywhere against the people, and the law, and this place; moreover he also brought Greeks into the temple and he has defiled this Holy Place."


Today we are a little more refined and civilized. Rumors, lies and gossip sometimes lead to mobs, riots and beatings. But around here, they more likely will lead to shuns, distrust and hurt. Whether it is mobs and riots or shuns and distrust - GOD IS NOT GLORIFIED.

Turn with me to James 3:2-12. When I turn there in my Bible, the end of chapter 2 jumps out at me on the left page - the section on FAITH AND WORKS going hand in hand. On the opposite page, chapter 4 jumps out at me about the consequences of being friends with the world instead of with God. Somehow chapter 3 has escaped my attention. I know some of the verses in here, but it must have been some time since I read it as a whole. I have forgotten how strongly it is worded. Let's read it.

For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body. Indeed, we put bits in horses' mouths that they may obey us, and we turn their whole body. Look also at ships: although they are so large and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires. Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening? Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh.

"Like a tiny rudder determines the course of a big ship - our tongue boasts and a great forest is set ablaze from a small flame. The tongue is a fire. It is an UNRIGHTEOUS world among our members, staining the whole body. Every kind of beast and creature can be tamed, but NO HUMAN BEING can tame the tongue - a restless evil - full of deadly poison." AND THIS THING IS IN OUR BODIES! "From the same mouth come blessing and cursing." Truly forked - this symbol   (forked spatula) is accurate. "My [sisters], this ought not to be."

Such strong language against a member of our body. "No human being can tame it." What are we to do? How can we keep from telling lies, spreading rumors, glorifying gossip? God gave us this tongue, yet He knew we would not be able to control it. He clearly says, "No human being can tame it."

Listen to all these cautions aimed at our tongues. (I'm gonna skip the numerous references in Proverbs and go straight to the New Testament.)

  • From Matthew 12:36, 37 - We are to avoid "careless words." We'll give an account for every one of them on Judgement Day.

  • Matthew 15:18-20 - We are to give up "false witness, slanders," for these defile men.

  • Romans 1:28-31 - We are to exclude from our lives gossip, slander, insolence, arrogance, boastfulness, and the invention of evil. God will give such people up to a base mind and improper conduct.

  • Romans16:17, 18 - "Those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned" are condemned. We are to avoid them. Our rhetoric is not to be filled with "smooth and flattering speech."

  • 1 Corinthians 10:10 - The Christian does not grumble as the children of Israel did in the wilderness.

  • Ephesians 4:31 - Bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor and slander are to be put away.

  • Ephesians 5:3,4 - Filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, are prohibited.

  • Ephesians 5:6 - Empty words must not be used to deceive anyone. This sin brings on God's wrath.

  • Colossians 3:8-9 - Excluded are anger, wrath, malice, slander, abusive speech, lying.

  • 1 Thessalonians 2:5 - Flattering speech is not to be used by the Christian speaker. We are not to speak simply to please men.

  • II Timothy 2:14 - We are not to dispute about words.

  • II Timothy 2:16 - Avoid worldly and empty chatter. It leads to more and more ungodliness.

  • James 1:19 - We are to be slow to speak.

  • James 1:26 - The person who does not bridle her tongue has a worthless religion.

  • James 4:11 - Do not speak against one another.

  • James 5:9 - Do not complain, brethren, against one another.

  • 1 Peter 2:1 - Put aside all malice and guile and hypocrisy and envy and slander.

  • 1 Peter 2:23 - We do not revile.

  • 1 Peter 3:9,10 - Do not return evil for evil, insult for insult. We refrain our tongue from evil and our lips from speaking guile.

  • II Peter 2:18 - Don't speak arrogant words of vanity.

  • Jude 16 - Condemned are grumblers, finding fault, speaking arrogantly, loud-mouth boasters flattering people for the sake of gaining an advantage.

Are you duly depressed? We might as well give up! We see these things all the time in our media, the tabloids, news broadcasts, from politicians, from our neighbors, even among our brothers and sisters in Christ. We can't isolate ourselves from others' tongues. We can't help but listen to what others have heard, or think has happened, or do a little surmising on our own. Somehow we just have to deal with this "information." We just have to talk to someone about it. Maybe they will know more or have different insight into the problem. It will do us good to get it off our chest after all. We can find all kinds of excuses to let our tongues run loose.

Or we may be too smart or righteous to just out and out lie, like Aaron did to Moses--"There came out this calf." But when the husband asks, "Did you buy those new shoes you wanted today to go with your dress?" We truthfully answer, "Oh, yes." And we fail to mention that we also bought "the matching purse and scarf, along with new earrings to really set the ensemble off." Allowing the husband to believe a half-truth. Which means they are half lies.

We just can't win. We need a tongue-lashing. Our tongues enslave us, separate us from God and stain and defile us. God says through James that NO HUMAN BEING CAN TAME THE TONGUE. And we prove Him right. It is full of deadly poison. Well, we are human and we admit WE CAN'T TAME THE TONGUE.

But we are not alone. We're not just human - we have the Spirit to help us contend with this staining, deadly poison. From Acts 2:38 we know that each of us who has repented and was immersed in baptism has been given the gift of the Holy Spirit. We Christians are not just human, we have God's Spirit in our hearts. The more we shun evil - putting it out of our lives - the more room we have for the Holy Spirit in our lives and the more the Holy Spirit will help us battle this deadly, poisonous tongue.

Of course, we're using the tongue symbolically. It is just the mechanism that mirrors our thoughts. Our tongue allows others to see what is in our hearts. We're gonna speak what we feel. We're gonna feel what we fill our minds with. If we fill our minds with others' rumors and gossip and our own lies, that is what we're gonna be speaking to others. But Paul tells us in Philippians 4 to fill our minds with whatever is true, honorable, just and pure, lovely, gracious, excellent, anything worthy of praise. Think on good things and we'll speak good things.

With God's help our tongues can be used for good.

  • We can use our tongues to TELL OTHERS of God's deeds in our lives as Paul is doing in Jerusalem reporting on what God did on his journeys. And he is going to report twice more about his own personal encounter with Christ [in Acts 22 and 26]. Let's communicate God's love. That's the main message. It should be ever on our minds.

  • We can use our tongues to PRAISE GOD as Paul does in his various letters.

  • We can use our tongues to ENCOURAGE OTHERS as Paul did as he returned to churches he helped establish for Christ.

  • Use our tongues to COMFORT OTHERS as Paul must have done in Lystra after being stoned and the brethren gathered around him (Acts 14). Or after Eutychus fell from the window (Acts 20:10). Acts 16:40 (King James Version) says Paul comforted Lydia and the brethren before leaving Philippi. Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 to comfort those who have lost loved ones. Remind them we are all to be resurrected when Christ comes, to meet Him in the air and always be with the Lord.
    Proverbs 12:18 - "The tongue of the wise brings healing."

  • We can use our tongues to TEACH OTHERS as Paul did everywhere he went, teaching the whole counsel of God, giving him a clear conscience. Proverbs 10:20 - "The tongue of the righteous is choice silver." Teach our children, neighbors, grocery sackers, whomever we come in contact with.

  • We can use our tongues to SING. Paul sang while in prison with Silas in Philippi. Paul tells us of the importance of singing in Ephesians 5:19, "addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart always, and for everything giving thanks in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father."

  • We can use our tongues to PRAY to God as we saw Paul do last week on the beach with the Ephesian elders in Miletus (Acts 20:36). Spend time communicating with God.

With the Lord's help, that potentially poisonous member of our body--the tongue--can produce Good Fruit. Then we will be a blessing to those around us, as Paul was whether speaking boldly on his journeys or in prison or on trial. He never ceased to praise the Lord and give God the glory. Paul tells the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 11:1 to be imitators of him - not because he himself was great, but because he imitated Christ and he knew Jesus was the Great Example. That is our example today.

Praise the Lord.

Jeannie Cole

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Ladies Bible Class, Spring 1992

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