Summary: The tongue is a small part of the body, but can cause more destruction than any other part of the body when it is out of control
THE PETITE, POWERFUL AND PERVERSE TONGUE
I would like everyone to do something I’ve never asked you to do again. Stick out your tongue. And keep it out. Not very pretty is it? A small part of your body. But just think of what you could not do if you didn’t have a tongue. For example, I could not yell “NOBORU!” when he comes on Tuesday night for English class. I could not give this message. I could only pray to myself. I could not share with you my excitement at seeing a 777 or Fuji San. I could not tell a special person how special she is to me and how thankful I am God has brought her into my life. I could not taste the lovely KFC, Dr Pepper, or Emiko’s curry. I guess I could eat bananas because I wouldn’t be able to taste them.
These are all good things we can do with our tongues. But did you ever stop to think about the bad things we can do with our tongues? For example I can say some pretty bad words about how I feel about someone or something. Words that can really hurt. Have you ever heard phrases like, “I take that back,” “I was only joking.” Don’t you wish you could take it back? Gomennasai, it’s not possible. Think back to something you said to someone you wish you had never said before.
Did you know how powerful words can destroy? When people ask me about the scar over my right eye, I could always say Noboru got mad at me for always yelling “Noboru” and he let me have it. Just kidding. But let’s say Noboru did let me have it. He hit me really good. He hit me so hard I needed to go to the hospital and get 6 stitches. OK, after a week, the doctor takes the stitches out, and the cut heals. Pretty soon it is all healed and all you have left is the scar.
It’s not like that with words. You can cause irreparable damage with your tongues. Don’t believe me? How many of you have ever been told, “You’re no good,” or “You’ll never amount to anything?” How many marriages have been destroyed by one or both partners saying in a fit of anger, “Why did I ever marry you? That was the biggest mistake I ever made.” OK, maybe you didn’t mean it or you just said it in a fit of anger, but remember, you can’t take it back. You can’t repair the damage.
This has all been convicting, hasn’t it. And there’s more. But we need to see exactly how destructive we can be with our tongues. Because remember James is talking about maturity here. And if you want to grow as a Christian, you’re at the right place. If you don’t want to grow, gomennasai, I’m going to preach it anyway. Let’s look at the problem in verses 1 and 2.
James 3:1 ¶ Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.
James 3:2 We 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.
There was a little problem here. Remember James is writing to a group of Jewish Christians. When they meet for worship, they still do many of the things they did in the Jewish synagogue. And one of them was that any man could speak if he wanted to. He could stand up and address the assembly. Many men aspired to doing this for the prestige it brought. The title Rabbi was a prestigious title. Much like Sensei or Doctor. And so a lot of men were anxious to stand up, speak up and show off. But there was a problem. They were not qualified to do this. James gives a very strong warning in verse 1. He says very few of you should become teachers because of the greater responsibility and stricter judgment.
You see many men in those days were only too eager to stand up, speak up and show off, only because of the prestige it gave them. One of the things I’ve learned is if you have a true estimation of yourself and wanting to handle God’s word, it would make you run, because you don’t feel able or worthy to teach God’s word. You know of the responsibility it entails. And you know God will hold you accountable. People might find it surprising when I tell them how much time I spend preparing a message from the Bible. As much time as I need, because if I give a message that is contrary to God’s word and lead people astray, God will hold me accountable for that. And gomennasai will not be a good answer for me.