A young pastor tells the story of his infant son and a ham sandwich. As ham sandwiches go, he said it was perfection. A thick slab of ham, a fresh bun, crisp lettuce and plenty of expensive, light brown, gourmet mustard. The corners of his jaw(s) ached in anticipation, He carried this precious sandwich it to the picnic table in the backyard, picked it up with both hands and was about to take a bite when his wife stopped suddenly by his side. "Honey, would you please hold Johnny, while I get my sandwich," she asked. Johnny was their little six week old infant son, an adorable little bundle of joy.
The young father awkwardly balanced his little son between his left elbow and shoulder and was just beginning to reach again for the ham sandwich when he noticed a streak of mustard on his fingers. Now the young pastor loved mustard. And he had no napkin. So he decided to just licked it off. The only problem was It wasn’t mustard. No man ever put a baby down faster. The young pastor sprinted into the house with his tongue protruding from his mouth and a cry of augghh escaping from his lips. With the each of washcloth gripped in each hand he did the sort of routine shoeshine guys do, only on did it on my tongue. Whit tears running down her cheeks his wife exclaimed, "Now you know why they call that mustard ’Poupon.’"
I fear far too often Christians are guilty of having a little more than mustard on their tongues. The quick, caustic tongues of Christians are even more frightening to me than any of the big public scandals of the church. People don’t need to look to the misconduct of the Catholic priests to find hypocrisy. They need not go any father than their own local community and their own local churches. There is a force that is destroying God’s church from within us, a force that has done as much if not more damage to the church than any other problem. I am talking about the inability of Christians to control their tongues. You may thing that this issue pales in comparison to other issues but I would argue more people have been kept from the church, kept from the kingdom of God by a loose scathing tongue of some self proclaimed Christian then has ever been kept from church because of some pastor who embezzled funds, or had an affair or molested a child. And I think that is a travesty beyond understanding. Tell me, if you were outside of the church and you heard people from within the church talking about each other and about their pastors the way that church people do, would you want to be part of us?
People come to church and sing praises to God, offer prayers, and then leave to cut people to pieces over Sunday lunch with other members of the church. They go to worship and then criticize and bad mouth how the worship was done. Sometimes they are still in the church when they are spreading the poison of gossip and dissension – in the name of prayer concerns or “we just think you should know pastor.” Sunday School meetings and luncheon are used to spread the poison of discord. — and a fire of destruction spreads. Far too often we as the church have made a sport of gossiping. The time has come for us to stop. If we are to accomplish anything that God desires for us to, then we must learn to control our tongues.
Through out God Word we find admonitions to control our tongue. Job 15:5 says “sin prompts your mouth” Ps 34:13 says keep your mouth from evil and your tongue from spreading lies. Proverbs 15:2 The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouth of the fool gushes folly. Isaiah 59:3 For your hands are stained with blood, your fingers with guilt. Your lips have spoken lies, and your tongue mutters wicked things. 1 Peter 3:10 “Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech. But James Chapter 3 says more than any other book about the tongue.
He begins by warning teachers about the power of their words. And then he expounds the thought by reminding all Christians about the might of the tongue. He points out that in fact the sins of the tongue is at least one of the sins that is common to everyone. Like the teacher whose errant teachings can cause great harm in the church the uncontrolled tongue can cause immense destruction. If you are using the outline in your bulletin, James gives us three tongue truths (try and say that three times really fast). The first is the “Tongue is small but powerful.” The tongue bears influence far out of proportion to its size. A wild Arabian stallion is control by a little three inch bit, a large aircraft carrier or cruise liner is controlled by a small rudder. The words of the tongue are like dynamite, if used properly and in the right place they are beneficial. Used improperly and in the wrong place they produce a lot of damage.