James 3: 9 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness.
First of all, if you want to read a challenging book in the Bible, pick James. It’s a letter written by the half-brother of Jesus, who didn’t believe his brother was the Messiah. So Jesus pulls the “Messiah card” and proves his little brother wrong by appearing to him after the Resurrection. James then becomes an important figure in the early church and an ardent supporter of action, in addition to faith. But is also critical of the way we live out our faith.
As I was working on a sermon for James 3, this verse stuck with me. James is peering into our lives and pointing out the hypocrisy of praising and cursing out of the same mouth. That we praise God, and we should, but we curse those made in God’s likeness. We use our mouths for the highest calling, blessing God, and the lowest evil, cursing those made in God’s image.
It worries me what I see on social media. We’ve become so distant from seeing everyone as people made in God’s likeness. They’re dangerous or they’re scary or they’re views are wrong. Who are they and aren’t all of us made in the image of God?
How do we worship in comfortable places or pray in our comfortable homes, then reject those we see through the windows? We don’t see people in that Facebook post that harms. We don’t see people in a spiteful tweet. We don’t see people in the Instagram post meant to shame.
I’ve told this story before, but years ago we spent an afternoon on a beautiful, white-sand beach in the Barbados. A man came up to us selling necklaces and said, “Welcome to my office.” I told the man his office had a better view than mine.
I learned his name was Sunny and found out we are the same age. He loves creating jewelry and believes God rewards him when he stays busy and that Satan creeps in when he’s idle. His mother has dementia, so his son has to stay with her during “office hours.” This is his only source of income.
I’m not really sure why, but I asked Sunny how he is treated by the people who come to the beach. He responded, “People are usually nice, but I just want people to greet me even if they don’t want to buy anything. Many people won’t even acknowledge that I exist.”
Won’t even acknowledge I exist. Sunny, child of God, doesn’t exist.
Immigrant, doesn’t exist.
Strange neighbor, doesn’t exist.
Person with difficult views, doesn’t exist.
The person on the other side of a malicious post, doesn’t exist.
God, control not only our words, but control our hearts.