THE TAMING OF THE TONGUE
A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
14 SEPTEMBER 1997
1 Corinthians 13:1
1 Peter 2:11-12
God has given us an extraordinary body.
We have eyes that have the capacity to see things and even to tell approximately how far away they are.
We have the sense of touch to feel things, some soft and silky, and others that are rough and hard.
We have taste buds so that we can detect saltiness, and sweetness, and bitterness, and combinations of them all rolled into one.
We have ears to hear all kinds of sounds: mechanical sounds, the sound the wind makes as it blows through the trees, and the sounds that we make with our mouths.
And we have been given a brain to interpret it all.
And with our brain, and tongue, and our vocal cords, we have been given the power of speech.
With our brain we can also devise all kinds of things.
We have the ability to turn a red clay, that we call bauxite into aluminum.
And we can make all kinds of things out of aluminum.
We can make the aluminum foil that we use in our kitchens.
We can make building components, like window frames and screen doors.
We have learned how to lighten our motor vehicles by using this aluminum.
We use aluminum to make our airplanes to carry people and cargo.
And sometimes we use these airplanes to carry bombs to kill other people.
This is craziness.
But we continue to do it.
Why would we use the wonderful things God has given us to kill other people's bodies, whom God has also wonderfully created?
And if we care to think about it, why would we also do this to animals?
We do this because we use our ears and eyes to receive the wrong information into our brains, and then we believe these lies over the truth God has given us.
We do this because some people have used their brains, and the free will God has given us to do evil rather than good.
And we become just as guilty as they are, when we listen to them and believe them, or when we simply go along with their evil ways.
This happens because we lack an unconditional sense of love.
Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 13:1.
1. If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
Now, not every noisy gong or clanging cymbal is devising evil, some people just like to listen to themselves.
But on the other hand, there are evil gongs and cymbals, and far too many of us are attracted by their sounds, and we go along with them.
And there is another side to this; sometimes believers actually lead others astray, because they don't fully think out all the ramifications of what they are saying.
If we get angry with someone, and say, "Go to hell!" Do we really want them to go there?
If we participate in gossip, are we not speaking forth evil?
Perhaps we should have a continual prayer upon our lips before we speak forth, such as
what David wrote at the end of Psalm 19 (v. 14) .
14. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Thy sight, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer.
With these thoughts in mind, let's listen to what James tells us in 3:13.
1. Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we shall incur a stricter judgment.
When we teach others, we literally take their souls into our hands, as we would hold a cup.
And then we proceed to fill that cup with the ideas we have, whether good or bad, whether the truth or a lie, whether based on love or based on fear.
But the horrible thing about this is that, as a society, we usually fail to realize the role God plays, and the responsibility we take upon ourselves when we teach.
Thus, as individual teachers, we must pause and reflect upon what we are teaching others, whether our children, or other adults.
2. For we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well.
Whether we are men or women, we know we all stumble, and that none of us are perfect, and that we are not always able to control our thoughts and actions, even if we pray as David did.
Yet, we still go on teaching.
However, if we also sincerely pray before teaching, "Lord let me do no harm in what I do, and if I err, let it be on the side of love," then we are doing our best to control ourselves.
It's like the examples James gives us next.
3. Now if we put the bits into the horses' mouths so that they may obey us, we direct their entire body as well.
4. Behold, the ships also, though they are so great and are driven by strong winds, are still directed by a very small rudder, wherever the inclination of the pilot desires.
It only takes a little prayer, and our willingness to let God be in control to keep a great many things in check, and upon the proper course, including ourselves
5. So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things. Behold, how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire!
6. And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell.
When we speak forth evilness, we are actually spreading the fires of hell.
Would we knowingly work for Satan?
I doubt it.
But we do every time we speak forth something ungodly.
We all need to think more about this, really think about it, that we would focus more of our attention upon the Lord our God.
7. For every species of beasts and birds, of reptiles and creatures of the sea, is tamed, and has been tamed by the human race.
8. But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison.
Remember James wrote this nearly 2,000 years ago, and it is just as true today as it was then.
9. With it we bless our Lord and Father; and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God;
10. from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way.
11. Does a fountain send out from the same opening both fresh and bitter water?
12. Can a fig tree, my brethren, produce olives, or a vine produce figs? Neither can salt water produce fresh.
Thus we have to ask ourselves, "Do true believing and loving Christians produce other believing and loving Christians?"
And the answer is probably, "Yes!"
But then we have to ask ourselves, personally, "Am I, by what I say and do, produce other believing and loving Christians?"
And it's as we answer this question, that we come to know whether or not we have learned to tame our tongue.
So James asks us a question, and gives us direction.
13. Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom.
The key is to understand that Christian words and deeds are only spoken and acted upon in the gentleness of wisdom.
There are many many people in this world who consider themselves to be wise and understanding, but they aren't when it comes to the ways of the Lord.
They act like the world, and they speak like the world, and when they do, they are following the ways of Satan, for they kindle the fires of hell.
Have you ever heard of "flaming someone".
It means to speak evil of them or to gossip about them with the intent of discrediting them.
And from the all of recorded history, we learn that we have been "flaming" the whole of God's creation.
We have flamed it, because we have lost the gentleness of wisdom, which Jesus longed for us to regain.
And when we who are sensitive and compassionate and loving speak out, many people may belittle us, and try to turn others against us with their golden sounding tongues.
This is the hypocrisy of the world.
But we cannot let their untamed tongues stop us.
And we cannot allow ourselves, who have tamed our tongues to speak of love and peace, to resort to speaking like them.
We must remember to live as Peter tells us in his first epistle (2:11-12)
11. Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts, which wage war against the soul.
We need to constantly remind ourselves, that as born again believing Christians, we are not of this world, even though we are in it.
We are of the kingdom of heaven. And as ambassadors, we need to present the King, and His kingdom, to others in the gentleness of wisdom.
12. Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may on account of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation.
And we need to show our excellent behavior before our fellow Christians, for many of them do not seem to understand any more than the people of whom Peter was referring.
Many people, including some Christians, may never glorify God now, but when the Lord returns, we who have tamed our tongues, and lived as the Lord desires us to live, will testify against them, and they will be without excuse.
But this isn't the reason for us to tame our tongue.
We should desire to do so because we truly and deeply love the Lord our God and the whole of His creation, and because He desires us to do so.
So, my brethren, whenever we speak, let it be heard by others as hearing the voice of Jesus Christ.
Your Comments are welcome
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