January 22, 2012 Flattering Lips and a Double Heart
Jonah 3:1-5,10 Psalm 12 James 3:1-12 Mark 1:l4-20 or John 6:63-69
Oh, what wicked web we weave, when first we practice to deceive – the tongue is a mighty weapon indeed, it can be used for good or evil. Even best intentioned among us have trouble at times knowing what to say, when to hold our tongues, when to speak up. Not addressing a problem or conflict out of fear of hurt feelings can lead to greater problems than if it was addressed and dealt with at the beginning. It can be hard to choose the right words when dealing with conflict and strong emotions. Conflict, if not dealt with well, can lead to greater hurt and damage.
Warnings about the tongue abound in Scripture. Tongue referred to as a scourge in Job, well he knew since he suffered much from his friends’ tongue (Job 5:21 From the scourge of the tongue you shall be hidden.) Psalms and Proverbs refer frequently to the tongue, the benefits of a truthful tongue, and the dangers of lies.
Psalm 5:9 For there is no sincerity in their mouths; their hearts are corrupt. Their throats are open
graves; on their tongues are subtle lies.
31:20 strike dumb their lying tongues, proud lips that attack the just in contempt and scorn
34:13 Keep your tongue from evil, your lips from speaking lies.
39:1 I will watch my ways, lest I sin with my tongue; I will set a curb on my mouth
52:2 Why do you glory in evil, you scandalous liar? … your tongue is like a sharpened razor
78:36 but they deceived him with their mouths, lied to him with their tongues.
140:3 (Deliver me Lord from the wicked) who sharpen their tongues like serpents, venom of
asps upon their lips.
Proverbs 6:17 (There are six things the Lord hates) haughty eyes, a lying tongue and hands that shed
6:24 To keep you from your neighbor’s wife, from the smooth tongue of the adulteress.
10:20 Like choice silver is the just man’s tongue
12:18 The prating of some men is like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise is healing.
12:19 Truthful lips endure forever, the lying tongue, for only a moment.
15:4 A soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse one crushes the spirit.
17:4 The evil man gives heed to wicked lips, and listens to falsehood from a mischievous
18:21 Death and life are in the power of the tongue; those who make it a friend shall eat its
21:6 He who makes a fortune by a lying tongue is chasing a bubble over deadly snares.
21:23 he who guards his mouth and his tongue keeps himself from trouble.
25:15 By patience is a ruler persuaded, and a soft tongue will break a bone.
Isaiah 30:27 His lips are filled with fury; his tongue is like a consuming fire (day of judgment)
Jer. 9:5 Each one deceives the other, no one speaks the truth. They have accustomed their
tongues to lying.
9:8 A murderous arrow is his tongue, his mouth utters deceit.
Micah 6:12 You whose rich men are full of violence, whose inhabitants speak falsehood with
deceitful tongues in their heads.
Romans 3:13 Their throats are open graves; they deceive with their tongues; the venom of asps is on
1 Peter 3:10 Whoever would love life and see good days must keep the tongue from evil and the
lips from speaking deceit.
James provides an excellent description of the difficulties with controlling the tongue, comparing it to bits in horses’ mouths that then guide whole horse, or the rudder on a ship. So the tongue gives direction to the whole body. But it is not easy to tame, though a small member of the body it is a fire that can set whole body aflame.
Our Psalm for today is a plea for help in a Godless age where corruption and lies are everywhere – universal in nature for it seems every age has its share of lies and deceit. An Egyptian poet writing in the 2nd millennium BCE state: “Gentleness has perished, Insolence hath come to all men . . . There are none that are righteous, The earth is given over to the workers of iniquity.” (Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. 4, pp. 68-69) The same has been heard over and over again throughout history by people suffering from the effects of misuse of the human tongue, who live in a society where it is hard to trust the word or motives of others. Certainly as another election year is upon us and the political rhetoric keeps heating up, hard to trust word or motive of candidates.
Psalm states, everyone utters lies to his neighbors, with flattering lips and a double heart they speak. Ungodliness (vs. 1) produces inner untruth which then leads to speaking lies. Their hearts are not true, thinks one thing while doing another.
In response to this state, the writer asks God to remove the lips and tongues of those who boast of their ability to use their tongues for lies (vs. 3-4). They believe in the power of their lies. God responds “because the poor are despoiled, because the needy groan, I will now arise.” (vs. 5) God hears the cries of those who are poor and needy and responds. We are not told exactly what God does or will do, just that God will protect them and that “the promises of the Lord are promises that are pure, silver refined in a furnace on the ground, purified seven times.” (vs. 6) In contrast to the words of evil men that cannot be trusted, God’s word is pure and trustworthy.
The psalm ends on a note of trust, asking God with confidence to guard them from the evils of this generation.
The problem with training the tongue is that it entails training the mind, for it is from the mind that lies are formulated, words formulated. That is why James finds it so heard to master the tongue, for one must master the mind and heart first. As the psalmist tells us, first people turn from God and from truth which then produces untruth, lies. Only help in such situations when lies are so prevalent is to fall upon the truth that is God.
Jonah is a prime example of a reluctant prophet, of how someone can be used by God despite themself. He does what God commands but only half-heartedly, only after having tried to run away, spending three days and nights in the belly of the whale and being spit out. He goes about the city of Nineveh proclaiming “forty days and Nineveh will be destroyed.” He doesn’t call for repentance, doesn’t say, thus says the Lord, as prophets usually began a pronouncement from God. Still the words were effective, the king heard and with all of his people, they repented and God relented. Jonah’s response was one of anger because God did what he knew God would do, making him appear the fool. Jonah is more concerned about himself and his appearance, than doing God’s will. Yet God used this human fallible vessel to bring about God’s will.
In Mark we read about the call of the first disciples. The men are called to follow Jesus, follow in his footsteps and take direction from him. While their initial response today was to do so without hesitation, we know that that isn’t the case for the rest of the gospel. The disciples constantly fail because they try to lead, telling Jesus what he should do rather than following, a common problem for Christians throughout the centuries. Far too often we try to tell God what to do.
In John 6, after the bread of life discourse, many were leaving because of Jesus’ words. When Jesus asked his disciples if they too were going to leave, Peter responded, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” God alone has the words of eternal life, eternal and true.
If we are to train our tongues, we must train our minds. We must take on the mind and heart of Jesus so that we can be of one heart, not a double heart. Only then will we speak the truth we desire to speak. Only then will our words and motives be pure. So let us follow Jesus with all of our heart and mind, then our words will follow.
Robertson, Copyright January 2012