Summary: This is the seventh in a series of sermons working through the book of James. This one focuses on the power of the tonuge, and the words we speak into the lives of others.
(To draw the attention of the congregation at the start of this sermon, we conducted an old fashioned soda taste taste with two adults in attendance. They were provided four unmarked sodas, and asked to identify the correct one - Coke, Pepsi, Diet Coke, Meijer. Seemed to really get everyone’s attention.)
Sometimes our taste buds can deceive us. At other times, they tell us a truth we would rather not know. Take for instance this rather timely story with Father’s Day just a week away.
“As ham sandwiches go, it was perfection. A thick slab of ham, a fresh bun, crisp lettuce and plenty of expensive, light brown, gourmet mustard. The corners of my jaw were aching in anticipation. I carried it to the picnic table in our backyard, picked it up with both hands but was stopped by my wife suddenly at my side. ‘Hold Johnny, (our six-week-old son), while I get my sandwich,’ she said.
“I had him balanced between my left elbow and shoulder and was reaching again for the ham sandwich when I noticed a streak of mustard on my fingers. I love mustard. And I had no napkin. So I licked it off.
“It was NOT mustard. No man ever put a baby down faster. It was the first and only time I have sprinted with my tongue protruding. With a washcloth in each hand I did the sort of routine shoeshine guys do, only I did it on my tongue.
“Later my wife said, ‘Now you know why they call that mustard ’Poupon.’’”
Sometimes our taste buds can provide us a most accurate warning. Little lesson about taste buds today. Our taste buds are able to distinguish four qualities in a substance: sweetness, sourness, saltiness, and bitterness. The number and shape of taste buds that a person has vary greatly between people. And by about 50 years down the road, about half of your taste buds are no longer effective. In general, women have more taste buds than men. So yes, I’m afraid it appears to be true that women have better taste than men.
It would appear that the greater the number of taste buds, the greater the ability to distinguish the four qualities. You may not have known that not only are taste buds located on the surface and sides of the tongue, but also on the roof of your mouth, and the entrance to your pharynx. Did you know that your taste buds and their ability to distinguish the four qualities are located in different sections? For instance, bitterness is sensed by the buds near the back of the tongue, while sweetness is from the buds at the tip of your tongue. Saltiness and sourness come from the sides of the tongue.
However, taste is just one function of our tongue. It is the primary organ of taste, but it is also important for chewing and swallowing food, as well as in the formation of speech. For example, in chewing, the tongue holds the food against the teeth; in swallowing, it moves the food back into the pharynx, and then into the esophagus.
Interestingly enough, or possibly just gross to some of you, observations of cow tongues have recently revealed the presence of natural antibiotics on the tongue. Antibiotics that can prevent infection of cuts in the mouth by resident bacteria. Similar antibiotics are presumed to be produced by the human tongue as well.
Such a small part of our body in the big picture, and yet a very major part. Especially when it comes to the living out of our faith. The words that are expressed, the expressions that are formed, the things that role off the tip of our tongue often reveal what we really believe. Not just what we say we believe. But what we really believe, deep down inside.
We’re in the book of James, chapter 3. James 3:1 (read through 2a). As we get into the rest of this section for today, that verse will probably stand out as a bit out of place or unusual. The rest of this passage flows pretty logically, but that verse is just kind of there. In fact, there are those that believe it may have been added to the letter following the original transcribing of the letter because it seems so out of place. So we are not going to spend time looking at that, because I really want to get to the crux of this passage.
So picking up on the second half of Verse 2 (read 2b). You may remember from earlier in our study when James was looking at this idea of perfection. He uses that word for perfect again here. . .telios. And isn’t it interesting what he says. “If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body.”