Pentecost 16 Sermon: The Untamed Tongue
Proper 19B/Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost
13 September AD 2015
Title: The Evil Within (MP3 Audio)
Summary: Violent sins, sexual sins, even sins involving property — all of these are wicked but they are usually judged to be worse than sins of the mouth. Yet gossip, deceit, and all manner of foul and evil talk damage lives and reputations daily.
Small wonder, then, when Luther wrote on the 8th Commandment in both Small and Large Catechisms, he spent considerable time on the evils of gossip, even of shamelessly telling nothing but the truth about someone else. As you study the commandment under his guidance, you can almost hear your parents telling you, “If you can’t say anything good about someone, then don’t say anything at all.”
If you’ll pardon another cliché, “silence is golden,” for if we haven’t been appointed to judge and condemn others, then we have no right to drag out their past sins and put them on display. For in remembering and pointing out others’ sins, we invite God who forgets our iniquities to instead remember them and hold them against us.
Left to our own devices, we have no way of remedying this sad situation. We are born with “salt pond” mouths that would not only destroy our neighbor but also ourselves. However, just as the Lord brought forth sweet water from the bitter pool of Marah (Exodus 15:22-25a http://www.esvbible.org/Exodus%2015%3A22-25/ ), so He can remake our toxic tongues into instruments of sweet comfort, forgiveness, and peace.
This is our gift from Christ, who endured bitter taunts on the cross and repaid them with words of encouragement, forgiveness, and life. By the power of the Holy Spirit, it becomes our gift as we serve and love our neighbor.
Text: Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For we all stumble in many ways.
And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs.
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! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing.
My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water. James 3:1-12
Scripture quoted from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Audio: Click to hear the MP3 of the Proper 19B sermon The Evil Within
NB: For some reason, a few people have had problems trying to play the inline audio if Windows Media is their default MP3 player. If this occurs, you can either change to QuickTime or another default browser player, copy and paste the link directly into a selected player, or download it to your computer, where it seems to work regardless of which player. Several folks have suggested VLC Player from VideoLAN.
Other Readings: Psalm 116:1-9; Isaiah 50:4-10; Mark 9:14-29