A Serpent of Poison

“For every species of beasts and birds, of reptiles and creatures of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by the human race. But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way. Does a fountain send out from the same opening both fresh and bitter water? Can a fig tree, my brethren, produce olives, or a vine produce figs? Nor can salt water produce fresh.” (James 3:7-10)

When mankind was formed from the clay by the hand of God, when God gave man the breath of life, God gave man dominion over the earth and rule over the animal kingdom. It is the responsibility of mankind to care, rule and tame the animals which are also God’s creation. “”Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” (Genesis 1:26) James notes that man has tamed the animals but the word tame as used here by James is not complete control. The word is more of the idea of momentary control that can be lost in a moment of negligence. It is as a caged animal that is restless and seeking a means of escape. James compares this to the tongue of men.

The tongue of a man is tamed by his discipline but it is as a caged animal seeking a way of escape and can at an instant direct its poisonous venom upon a friend, neighbor or enemy. The tongue can become as the snake and strike death upon the soul of a man with its deadly venom. David, the shepherd king, prayed to the Lord that he would be rescued from men of evil tongues. “Rescue me, O LORD, from evil men; Preserve me from violent men Who devise evil things in their hearts; They continually stir up wars. They sharpen their tongues as a serpent; Poison of a viper is under their lips.” (Psalm 140:1-3)

Man is to glorify God, he is to be a reflection of God by his word and deed. This is man’s chief end to glorify God his Creator. We are to enter His courts with praise and be thankful for the loving kindness He has shown to mankind. As David, the man after the heart of God declared, “My mouth will speak the praise of the LORD, And all flesh will bless His holy name forever and ever.” (Psalm 145:21) James notes that with our tongue we bless the name of God and recognize Him as our Lord, and recognize Him as our provider of every good and perfect gift. We reverently fear Him as He is the Almighty. “Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name.” (Hebrews 13:15) Certainly it is our honest intention to honor the name of the Lord. Then in weakness we lose the fetters of a tamed tongue and curse our brethren.

Jesus taught us that we are to bless those who hate us, we are to bless those who curse us, and we are to show the love that He has given us so that others may see His love in us. “But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.” (Luke 6:27) I have as you have had to endure some very hateful words spoken at us. We live in a world of people that are easily offended. It has been my observation that the easily offended are the very ones that quickly offend. When I am at my best I do not display back to them a temper born in anger. I try as best I can to show love and understanding. This is the image that I am aspiring to, the image of my Lord. As the Lord pleads, “Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the LORD.” (Isaiah 1:18)

The truth is that the righteous and the unrighteous, the good and the bad, are of God’s creation and He loves them. Jesus died for us while we were yet sinners and He paid the sin debt for the whole world. The only difference between the sinners of this world are that the Christian has been forgiven by the grace of God and their acceptance of Jesus Christ His Son. God is love and He loves His creation. Jesus commanded us to love our neighbors. “The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:39) This how we verify our testimony of Jesus living in and through us, that we love one another, that we love our neighbor. If we do not love and bless our fellow man then we are not living in the image of our Lord. “If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.” (1 John 4:20-21)

As Christians we are beings that have rivers of flowing water springing forth from our heart. How can this be if the mouth that blesses God is the same mouth the curses men? James illustrates this point. Does a fountain send out from the same opening both fresh and bitter water? The world can see the impossibility of a Christian who praises God being true when his tongue curses his fellow men. They have made their testimony a lie and dishonored their Lord. Jesus had much to say of those who displayed such hypocrisy. These are a part of the Christian fellowship that my father called parasites. If one talks the talk then the proof is in the walk.

The problem is not a dislocated tongue but a heart that is darkened. “But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man.” (Matthew 15:18) To protect our hearts from the evil that constantly flows in from the darkened world about us we need to constantly discipline it with the truth of God’s Word. It is His Word that sanctifies us with the power of the Holy Spirit that lives within. It is then that we will have the hearts that are springs of living truth. “Watch over your heart with all diligence, For from it flow the springs of life.” (Proverbs 4:23)

Thomas N Kirkpatrick

First Baptist Church, January 13, 2016

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