Summary: This is the third sermon in the Extreme Makeover series. James teaches us how to T.A.M.E. the tongue.
EXTREME MAKEOVER: PIERCED TONGUE
April 25, 2003
This morning we will be continuing our study of the book of James titled “Extreme Makeover.” We have already learned that if Jesus were to do an extreme makeover of our lives he would give us big ears so that we could hear His word. Next we saw that He would give us dirty hands as we learned to work out our faith.
Today we will be looking at a part of the body that is not often dealt with on makeover shows - the tongue. When the mouth is looked at on the TV program Extreme Makeover it is usually the teeth that are being made over. On last week’s program a young man from right here in Colorado Springs had some serious dental surgery - something like 6 root canals followed by lot of caps - in order to give him a more attractive smile. But once again we see that we are obsessed about all the wrong things. As nice as it is to have a good smile, that is only cosmetic. God is concerned about something much deeper. When Jesus turns his attention to our mouths it is our tongues that he is interested in. He is interested in how we use our tongue - our speech. If Jesus were to give you an Extreme Makeover this morning he would pierce your tongue. Not for the reasons that people pierce their tongues today. Not as a showcase for jewelry. He would pierce your tongue to bring it under control.
This is so important because James’ thesis is that if we can control our tongue then we can control our whole body - our whole life. The problem is that James goes on to say later that no man is capable of controlling or taming the tongue.
I read a story once about a little frog that wanted to go south for the winter. It was too far to hop and he did not have wings to fly. Two Little birds felt sorry for the little frog and together they came up with a plan. The little birds would hold each end of a stick in their beaks, and all the frog would have to do was to clamp down on the stick with his mouth and hold on.
The sky was clear and everything seemed hopeful for the little frog. Two farmers were standing in a field and saw the little birds carrying the frog and one said to the other, "That was a brilliant idea, I wonder who came up with the plan." The little frog couldn’t keep his mouth shut and He said, “I-I-I-I-I-I”. (Robert Travis/SermonCentral) All he had to was to keep his mouth shut. His life depended on it. But he could not do it. Have you ever felt like that?
A wise man once said, “I have often regretted my speech, never my silence.” If you have ever regretted your speech, then this makeover is for you. Will you let Jesus’ pierce your tongue and bring it under his control? If you are willing, then James will teach us how to TAME the tongue.
How to TAME the Tongue:
T - Take It Seriously.
Unfortunately, we have a tendency to not take our speech as seriously as we should. We say things like: “Oh, its just mere words.” Or the little rhyme: Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” It is a cute poem, but it is bad theology. Our words do have real power and therefore, real consequences.
In the first couple of verses James teaches us about the importance of the tongue.
The Importance of the Tongue
1Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. 2We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check.
James begins by warning us that we shouldn’t presume to be teachers. Or as Moffatt translates it: “Do not crowd in to be teachers.” The Greek construction is such that it implies that many of the people were trying to get into teaching positions. It is interesting to note that we seem to have the exact opposite problem today. It is usually difficult to find someone willing to teach a Bible class. However, in James’ day this was a coveted position and many were interested in getting it - probably for the prestige.
What does this have to do with the importance of the tongue? The purpose of teaching to influence students toward the truth. And the teachers primary instrument in teaching is the tongue - speech. In this case the teachers are to be teaching the Word of God - the content of the Christian faith. This is literally a matter of eternal life and death. For such a weighty matter as this, there are heavy consequences. Those who teach will be judged more strictly. The KJV rendering of “condemnation” is unfortunate. James is not saying that all teachers will receive great condemnation. If that were the case, who would want to be a teacher? The Greek word (krima) used here refers to the decision of a judge, whether it be favorable or unfavorable. James is saying that those who teach well will receive a great commendation, but those who teach wrong will receive a great condemnation. Matthew 18:6-7 warns us of the dangers of leading those we teach into sin. “If anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.”