“So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire!” James 3:5
Good Morning! I have a question for you. Raise your hand if you have a tongue. Alright, It’s good to know you all have one. Have you ever thought how useful a tongue is? What are some of the things a tongue can do? Yup, it tastes things. And it moves food around in your mouth so you can chew it all. Good. And tongues wet our lips when they get dry, and wipe off the jam from our teeth after lunch. I think a toothbrush would do a better job of that, don’t you?
All of this is necessary, isn’t it, for us to live. Do you agree with me that God is amazing to make us with something as simple as a tongue to help us live? My favorite tongue function is the taste bud thing. Do you know how many taste buds are on the tongue? There are thousands, but they fall into basically four types of taste. Do you know what they are? Good – sweet, sour, bitter and salty. There is a fifth taste we believe called umami.
Now the really cool thing is that the tongue doesn’t have salt buds and sweet buds and umami buds. All the taste buds can detect all of the tastes. The nerve endings transfer the taste to the brain where the brain figures out whether it is sweet or bitter, salty or sour.
There is another really important reason why God gave us tongues. Try this with me. Stick out your tongue and grab it with your left hand between your index finger and thumb. Like this. “Now twy to tawk.” What is your name? Hold on to that tongue! And where do you live? I can’t hear you. No cheating. Hold on to your tongue. My point is that you need a tongue to speak correctly.
Words need tongues to let us communicate. They help form words and sounds. And that is important because just like we need food to eat and the tongue makes the food tasty, we also need words to work together. And the tongue lets us give instructions.
So let’s see how this works. I need two of my chapel assistants for a demonstration. Alright, you get the blindfold. Now kneel here and I am going to put these foam blocks in front of you. Feel them to make sure they are not snakes. Just kidding.
Now your partner here is going to instruct you how to build a tower while you are blindfolded. This is teamwork right? The rest of you have to be quiet so they can speak and hear. OK, let’s see what you can do.
Times up. Good job. Take off the blindfold. See what you can do when you work together, using good words, even when you are blindfolded?
Now, let’s see team two. It is your turn. Who gets the blindfold? That means you are the instructor. But, you have to hold your tongue when you give directions. Do not speak unless your fingers are firmly on your tongue. Ready. Go… OK that’s enough. Not as effective is it? That’s because the tongue is necessary for words and words are essential for us to live together.
Now I have another demonstration. I need a volunteer. I think you will do. Come on up here. In this bag I have a bunch of feathers. Each feather represents a word. And the bag is your mouth. I am going open the bag like you open your mouth and let the words fall out here in the chancel. OK, your job is to put them back into the bag. Ready. Go.
[A fan blows the feathers around while the student tries to put the feathers in the bag]
Stop, stop, stop. That’s enough. That was pretty hard wasn’t it? There is an old Jewish proverb that says, “Words are like feathers emptied on the street. Once the wind blows you can never put the feathers back into the bag.”
When James writes that the tongue, “is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.” He is saying the tongue (words) can be helpful, useful, constructive, beneficial. Words can create, and heal, and make life better.
But when he says, “How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire!” he is saying that at the same time words can be hurtful destructive, painful, and injure other people.
When God gives us the ability to use words He gives us the responsibility to use words in positive ways, not in selfish ways. In fact this is so important to God that He gives us a commandment to remind us to use words the right way. That’s the eighth commandment.
But God is so good that He doesn’t just give us the commandment to teach us to use words wisely, but He sends His Word to us as Jesus to be the perfect Word for us. His Word forgives and redeems and restores, and helps us to use our words in ways that lift people up and not tear them down.
So when you feel like saying something that God wouldn’t like, let the Word of Jesus give you a better choice. And when you hear someone using words that hurt someone else, tell them to please stop or just walk away and don’t listen. Because their tongue might hurt you when their words get to your ears. Like the feathers that can’t be put back into the bag, words spoken can’t be taken back, they can only be fixed by Jesus, the Word of forgiveness.