Adult Sunday School Lesson for February 11, 2018
To elevate our faith by allowing God to discipline our speech
James 3:1-12 (CEB)
1 My brothers and sisters, not many of you should become teachers, because we know that we teachers will be judged more strictly. 2 We all make mistakes often, but those who don’t make mistakes with their words have reached full maturity. Like a bridled horse, they can control themselves entirely. 3 When we bridle horses and put bits in their mouths to lead them wherever we want, we can control their whole bodies.
4 Consider ships: They are so large that strong winds are needed to drive them. But pilots direct their ships wherever they want with a little rudder. 5 In the same way, even though the tongue is a small part of the body, it boasts wildly.
Think about this: A small flame can set a whole forest on fire. 6 The tongue is a small flame of fire, a world of evil at work in us. It contaminates our entire lives. Because of it, the circle of life is set on fire. The tongue itself is set on fire by the flames of hell.
7 People can tame and already have tamed every kind of animal, bird, reptile, and fish. 8 No one can tame the tongue, though. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With it we both bless the Lord and Father and curse human beings made in God’s likeness. 10 Blessing and cursing come from the same mouth. My brothers and sisters, it just shouldn't be this way!
11 Both freshwater and saltwater don’t come from the same spring, do they? 12My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree produce olives? Can a grapevine produce figs? Of course not, and fresh water doesn’t flow from a saltwater spring either.
No one can tame the tongue, though. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. (James 3:8)
What a timely lesson, wagging tongues seem to be in control of our dialog with each other. Wagging tongues spew venom from from both sides of the isle in Washington and on our nightly news.
We are left to sort out truth from fiction. Which leads me to quote Jesus, when He said, “I am the truth and the light. Or in Matthew 15:11: “It’s not what goes into the mouth that contaminates a person in God’s sight. It's what comes out of the mouth that contaminates the person.”
Paul used a similar image in Romans 3:13: “Their throat is a grave that has been opened. They are deceitful with their tongues, and the poison of vipers is under their lips.”
James reminded his listeners that loving God and loving neighbor are inextricably linked. When we curse those made in the image of God, we are, in effect, cursing God. Blessing is the life-giving relationship. Cursing is the cutting off of relationship and of life. James relied on the idea that like, begets like. James brought home his broader argument that faith is to be seen through actions with this multiplicity of images. Just as one cannot grow olives from a fig tree, a person who has been infused with faith bears the fruit of that faith. Likewise, a person without faith is unable to bear good fruit.
Reading in Ezekiel this morning, I saw this, in chapter 13, and was struck by how apt it is with today's lesson. “The word of the Lord came to me: "Son of man, prophesy against the prophets of Israel, prophesy and say to those who prophesy out of their own minds: 'Hear the word of the Lord!' Thus says the Lord God, Woe to the foolish prophets who follow their own spirit, and have heard nothing! . . . They have spoken falsehood and divined a lie; they say, 'Says the Lord,' when the Lord has not sent them, and yet they expect him to fulfil their word. Have you not seen a delusive vision and uttered a lying divination, whenever you have said, 'Says the Lord,' although I have not spoken?"
Who speaks for God today? There are many that claim to be speaking for God, but we need to view what they say and compare it with God’s word.
My hymn for this week is about faith and our speech, “In Christ Alone.”