Taming the Tongue
3 Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. 2 We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check.
3 When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. 4 Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. 5 Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. 6 The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.
7 All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
9 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. 11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 12 My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.
I have found some interesting facts about the tongue:
How do we use our tongue? It is important to remember that everything can be used for both good and bad. A knife, for example, can be used as a tool, but it can also be used as a weapon. Nuclear atomic energy is a clean form of energy, but it can also be used as a weapon of mass destruction. The same applies to the tongue; we too can cause enormous devastation.
A man came up to me and said, “Martin, you remind me of a computer.” I thought, wow, is that because I am quick, can solve most things and retain information? He said, “No. As you get older, you lose your memory, you become outdated, you crash unexpectedly, and eventually have to have your parts replaced.” Rude!
So, with our tongue, we can uplift, or we can vilify. At a football match, there is chanting from the spectators. This chanting can uplift, and players have said there is nothing better than hearing their names being sung. Yet, the chanting often becomes quite nasty against the opposing team.
We can control the tongue. We can control what we say and what we do. The reading in James is reminding us that there will be a judgement day. What we say and how it is received is very important. James is warning us to be careful.
There is a little mnemonic, which is quite useful: THINK. Before you speak, you have to think:
Is it True?
Is it Helpful?
Is it Inspiring?
Is it Necessary?
Is it Kind?
Before you speak, THINK, and if your words fit that criterion, then go ahead and speak.
This Sermon was first preached at Gants Hill URC on 12th September 2021
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Rev'd Martin Wheadon