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
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.
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.
RUMORS, LIES and GOSSIP lead to MOBS, RIOTS and BEATINGS for Paul.
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.)
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.
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.
West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR