Extreme Makeover: Pierced Tongue
This morning we’re going to continue our series on Extreme Makeovers, what God would do in each of our lives to help us look more like him and less like the world. We’ve looked at a Broken Heart, Dirty Hands, and having Cross Eyes. This morning we’re going to be talking about having a pierced tongue.
When I was a youth pastor, I got exposed to a lot of things that are popular with the youth of today (music, fashion, the relationships, the drama) and I can understand a lot of it, I can even relate to some of it, but I will probably never understand the fascination that some people have with body piercing. It just looks painful and it seems that it would be awkward to have metal sticking out of so many areas of your body. Despite my thoughts, tongue piercing continues to gain in popularity as more people have the procedure done.
From the world’s perspective, a pierced tongue makes you think of youth, rebellion, maybe foolishness and impulsiveness. You see the piercing or piercings and its hard not to jump to a quick judgment. It is a very visible and outward sign that’s hard to miss. God is calling for each of us to have a very visible and outward sign of our loyalty to Him in the form of a pierced tongue. Obviously we’re not talking literally here but for a Christian, a pierced tongue is one that has come under the control of the Father. In the times of the Bible, piercing had a whole different meaning and significance. In the book of Deuteronomy, we have a practice of piercing laid out for us. When a slave had served his master for six years it was the custom of the day to offer that slave their freedom, to allow them the opportunity to leave and have independence. If that slave loved the master and desired to stay with the master, a visible sign was needed to mark that loyalty and submission to the rule of another person. The slave’s ear was placed against a doorframe and an awl was pushed through it, their ear was pierced as a sign of voluntary submission and slavery. Piercing meant loyalty and devotion, a choice had been made to give up personal freedom to serve another. This is the piercing I’m talking about when it comes to our tongues, having a tongue that comes willingly under the control of another.
Controlling our tongue is one of the toughest battles we will face in our spiritual lives.
Our words and our speech are to be glorifying to God and used to build up those around us. It doesn’t take people long to get a feel for a person through the way they talk, the tone they use, the words they choose, a pierced tongue is going to sound different.
It’s going to be free of :
- coarse joking
- hurtful words
- negative talk
It’s going to be full of:
- Positive talk
- Healing words
The Bible is full of references to the importance of the tongue in the lives of a Christian because if we can’t control the tongue, the rest of our growth is going to be in vain. The tongue is the key to our maturity as a Christian.
James stresses this point in chapter one and verse 26.
If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight reign on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.
Our spiritual disciplines, our striving for maturity, all of that is wasted if our tongue is out of control because our tongue is the true measure of the change that’s taken place on the inside. Often we deal with the more impressive issues of faith, the seemingly more important issues, we may fast, spend hours praying, memorize whole books of the Bible, all of these are good things and commanded by God but if we fail to control our tongue, James says they are worthless.
We’re going to be spending the majority of our time in the book of James, chapter 3.
But, before we look at that passage, I want to look quickly at why it is so important for the Christian to control their tongue, what’s the big deal. So we slip up every once in a while and say things without thinking, does that really hurt anyone? I’ve already said that a pierced tongue is the key to maturity as a Christian but that may be hard to believe, it’s such a small part of our body how can its impact be so large? Well, here’s why.
See, the Bible says that all of us will give an account to God for what comes out of our mouths. We need to control our tongue because the day will come when we will answer to God for every word that comes out of our mouth.
Listen to what Jesus says in Matthew 12:36, 37
But I tell you that men will give an account on the Day of Judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted and by your words you will be condemned.
Whoa! Stop and think about that for a moment, most of us have probably already said things we regret just this morning! When I read that as I was preparing my message, it definitely made me stop and think. Every sarcastic remark, every flippant word, every careless statement, every half-truth, I have to account for all of them, not just a few or a certain percentage but every word.
So the mastery of the tongue for the Christian becomes essential when we realize the Truth of our accountability to God for the words we speak.
In order for us to begin controlling our tongue, James points out three truths that we need to be aware of and they’re found in:
Read James 3:3-12
First, our tongues are small but powerful. Verses 3 and 4
James uses a couple of word pictures here to demonstrate the power of the tongue and the influence that it has on the rest of our body.
My story of Working with horses. – Amazed at how powerful and muscular they were, tried to move one out of the way while cleaning the stall and I couldn’t budge it.
Horses are very powerful animals and cannot be controlled easily. But when you place a small bit of metal in their mouths you are able to turn them and take them in any direction that you want. Control the mouth and you control the horse. The same concept is true of a ship, it is an immense vessel, weighing hundreds of thousands of pounds and it is controlled by a small rudder which is responsible to steer it and keep it on the right course.
Both the bit and the rudder must overcome forces that are working against them. The bit fights the wild nature of a horse; the rudder must fight the winds and currents that would drive the ship off course. Both the bit and the rudder must be under the control of a strong hand to steer the vessel where it needs to go.
The same is true of our tongues.
Because our tongues are small it is tempting to think that the words we speak are inconsequential but James is telling us not to be fooled by the size, the tongue is a powerful thing. James says it has the power to control the direction our lives take. We are known by the way that we talk, by the words that come out of our mouths. They literally shape our lives from the trust people put in us to the friendships we have, to determining who we marry or who is willing to marry us, to what kind of job we’ll get. The tongue steers us in the course of our lives. The pierced tongue, like a rudder or a bit, works against our natural impulses, our human nature, and controls what passes through our lips. And like that rudder or that bit, that needs to be steered by someone who knows what they’re doing, unless our tongues are controlled by the sure hand of God, and come willingly under his laws and decrees, it will be impossible for us to stay on the course that He has set for us.
Proverbs tells us the course that an uncontrolled tongue is on…
Proverbs 17:20 says:
A man of perverse heart does not prosper; he whose tongue is deceitful falls into trouble.
And on the other end of the spectrum, Proverbs 21:23 paints a picture of the one who has learned to control the tongue.
He who guards his mouth and his tongue, keeps himself from calamity
Our tongue is the key to following the course that God has set for us.
We also need to understand that our words can also have an impact on the direction of other people’s lives.
Me and the Beulah Beach kid – prayer and share time.
Everyone needs a cheerleader in their life, someone who see something special and can encourage them to chase after what God has for them. The one with a pierced tongue understands this and takes the time to be an encouragement to those around them. We can have such an impact on our children, on our co-workers, family, and friends when we understand that the tongue is small but it is powerful and can set the direction of not only our lives but the lives of those we come in contact with.
James moves on to another illustration. Verses 5 and 6
He points out that our tongue is small but very dangerous.
A few years ago in California, a forest fire ripped through 14,000 acres, doing millions of dollars worth of damage, destroying acres of beautiful forest, and killing one person. The fire took 1350 firefighters to put it out! It was started by a 15 year old boy and a spark from a match. Something as small as a match was capable of destroying something that was so beautiful.
Again, this is the way it is with our tongues, our tongues have the power to destroy beauty in our lives. Careless words and arguments can take the beauty of a relationship and destroy it. Friendships are ruined, marriages fail, trust is destroyed, reputations are marred, jobs are lost, and families are broken, all by the power of the words we choose to use.
There’s wisdom in the old saying, “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”
A Greek philosopher once noted: I’ve often regretted my speech, never my silence. Learning to think before we speak can help us to take great strides towards winning the battle with our tongues.
Consider before you speak the impact your words will have on the ears that hear them. We are called by God to build others up. As Christians, God commands us to protect and guard the conversations that we have, they are to be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, salt makes things better! We need to be aware of the power of words.
As parents, and anyone that works with teens or kids, we need to be especially aware of this Truth, of the power of our words. Self-esteem can so easily be destroyed by our careless words.
- A basketball coach power to tear and build self-esteem
The words of Proverbs 12:18 are so true:
Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.
James says we need to realize the danger to tear down and destroy that we have in our words and make a conscious effort to be one who brings healing and encouragement through our words to others.
The final point that James makes about the tongue is that it is small, but very revealing.
Read verses 9-12
Our tongue will eventually show us for what we are. James says that a fig tree cannot bear olives and a grapevine cannot bear figs, if we are not right with God, if we are full of deceit and anger, and bitterness, that’s what will be seen in our speech. We cannot be full of praise for God on Sunday and with the same mouth talk behind the back of our co-worker on Monday. James says that a Christian must be consistent. We can fool people for a time but eventually our speech will show the true reflection of the state of our hearts. If our lives are not right with God on the inside then our words and speech will eventually reflect that.
John Corby Illustration – never forget those words!
When the guard is down, our hearts are revelaed.
A life that God is in control of will bear fruit according to the condition of their heart and their words and speech will be in line with that. They will flow from the good that is in them. In the same way, failure to control your tongue indicates a heart condition that needs to be addressed.
The words that we use and the control we have over our tongue can be the sign of a deeper spiritual issue in our life. Which brings us to some steps we can take to gain control in this area of our lives. Once we realize these three truths that James shares, that the tongue is small but it is powerful, dangerous, and revealing, then there are some action steps that we can take to tame the tongue.
First, we need to address the real issue.
We need to address the condition of our heart and our relationship with God. We need to look at where the anger or bitterness is coming from or the desire to gossip or the inability to tell the truth is coming from and ask God to change our heart and heal us from the inside.
We’ve already seen that what comes out of our mouth flows from what’s inside.
MT 12:33 "Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit.You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. 35 The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.
Making a promise to stop lying or doing our best to speak kind words is only addressing the surface problem and until we do business with God and allow him to come in and clean up the messes in our life than our tongue is something that we will never have victory in. This goes back to acknowledging our sin and our natural inclination towards sin and allowing God to break our heart so that He can build us up with a new one.
As a people, as a church, it needs to be our prayer that God would remove the old and give us a new heart that longs to follow his ways and his decrees. Once we ask God to work and allow him to do that, then the problem of the tongue will begin to come under control as our the words coming out of our mouths are flowing from the work that God has done in us, the tongue will reflect our heart, but he won’t work unless we ask him to and we are willing to address the real issue.
Next, we need to learn to lead with our ears, not our mouths. We need to learn to listen before we speak. So much of what we regret saying comes from not listening and then not thinking before we talk.
I came across a little poem, it didn’t have an author listed, it reads.
I’m careful of the words I say
To keep them soft and sweet
I never know from day to day
Which ones I’ll have to eat.
Chances are if we find ourselves doing more talking and less listening, there are going to be plenty of words that we get to eat later.
James says earlier in his book that we are to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry. So often we want to do that completely backwards, we are quick to speak and slow to listen. We want to get our words in so bad we don’t care if we cut someone off. Or we’re satisfied as long as we get our say and have no idea 10 minutes later what the other person was saying. Think of some of the problems in our lives that could be avoided if we learn to lead with our ears. We will be able to have much more control over our tongue.
Finally, we need to ask for help. We’ve already talked about asking God to help and the promises that he makes to us. Listen to verses 7 and 8 again. No one can tame the tongue! This is not something that we can do on our own. It is going to be a continual battle and the best way to fight a battle is never to try and fight it alone.
Asking God to help is the first step, then we need to find someone we love and trust to hold us accountable. Someone who can say, Hey, do you know how that sounded? Or Weren’t you a little rough on him? Someone that you can hold accountable to God’s standard at the same time that they’re helping you to grow.
One of my biggest problems is being negative. This is an area that I struggle with when it comes to controlling my tongue. I come by it very honestly, I’m a chip off the block of my parents. My prayer is that my children will not follow the lead of their dad, but I know that if they hear me being negative a lot then they are more likely to turn out the same. I start with God, I am aware of the issues and of the heart issues that go with it and I ask God on a regular basis to teach me and to change my heart. God is working on me and has been faithful to his promises but the change can be slow at times. After that first step, I asked my wife for help. I asked her to hold me accountable in my speech. Now whenever I begin to get negative she will change the subject, or take me aside and tell me what I am saying, or sometimes its just the look. My wife is standing beside me and helping me as I seek to follow God and gain control of my tongue.
PR 27:17 As iron sharpens iron,
so one man sharpens another.
That’s what’s happening. My wife is helping to sharpen me and I am helping her in return. Taming the tongue is a task that begins with the help of God and is greatly aided with the help of other Christians who can hold us accountable.
It’s time to get control of our tongues, to address the issues of our heart, to learn to lead with our ears, and to ask for help in the battle.
This is a hard teaching as much has been these last few weeks. Because everything we’ve talked about are real issues that each of us must wrestle with daily. God has great things in store for us as a congregation and He wants to make us over to look more and more like Christ. Piercing our tongue, willfully submitting to our master, bringing it under the authority of God, is one big step in that process.