9/17/06, P-15-B

Taming The Tongue
James 3: 8-11

“..no one can tame the tongue—a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
9With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse those who are made in the likeness of God.
10From the same mouth comes blessing and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this ought not to be so.
11Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and brackish water?”
James 3: 8b-11, NRSV

ince it is obvious that one of humanity’s fatal frailties is the infliction of our un-tamable tongue, we have forever attempted to control its many mistaken words, or at times allowing venom to be spewed forth on purpose.

“Taming The Tongue” is evidently a bigger problem than ever. One night last week one of our many channels was promoting an upcoming TV special report on the topic: “Teenage Girls with Cruel Intentions.”  Sorry, but that’s not new news. From the promo it seemed that the old sin of gossip has been turned up several decimals with the use of the ever present cell phones and worse, cell phone clandestine photos. We can imagine the topic lines, “They’re Not Going Steady Anymore!” If you have ever been the victim of the untamed tongue or tongues afire on the internet you know how quickly trust and reputations can be destroyed.

Some school Superintendents and principals are taking a stand as have businesses and hopefully someday the churches. In Milford High School, Utah, a young student described on the internet his principal as a “town drunk” and disparaged other teachers, describing one as, “possibly addicted to speed or some other narcotic.” The Beaver Creek County Attorney has charged the youth with a crime.

The business world sees a sea of civil lawsuits intended to halt the damage caused to reputations and careers. Candidates for public office must realize going in that they will be the target of groundless gossip.  

There seems to be no stopping the unbridled tongue. Or is there?

James offers hope when we read on…

“7Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9Lament and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy into dejection. 10Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. 11Do not speak evil against one another, brothers and sisters.” (Jas. 4:1-11, NRSV)

C. S. Lewis reminds us that “self renunciation is the very core of Christian ethics.”      The Grand Miracle, And Other Selected Essays. Ch 17, p. 119.

Renunciation is when a Christian decides to draw closer to God by resisting evil and setting ones mind on becoming the best that one can be, with God as our helper. And, the promise of God is that when we decide to draw closer to Him, He will draw closer to us.

Football fans expect total dedication from their favorite team’s players. Whenever a player is just half trying to play up to their potential, the fans get restless and the coach gets them out of the game. Can we expect to be the best that we can be if we do not give it our all?

This must be what John Wesley was getting at when he, in the language of over two centuries ago, expected his Methodists to “go on to perfection.”  

God has implanted His Spirit into us to help us overcome. Although it seems impossible that a person, even a dedicated believer, can ever overcome occasionally saying something improperly. We might have what we call “a slip of the tongue.” However, if we will count to ten and think about our response we can learn to overcome gossip.

Each of us needs to be aware of not only what we say but how our words might be taken by another person. And when we find out that we have offended another person we must make every effort to go to that person and ask forgiveness. Asking for forgiveness is often a good way of making a new and trusted friend. Even the Pope had to ask forgiveness from the Muslim world this week for publicly overstating his position.

And it is not easy to hold our tongue. “Lament and mourn and weep,” said James.

a sermon synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor
9/17/06, P-15-B