Let's start with a riddle. In the verse below, can you tell me what "IT" is?
"Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it breaks out into curses against those who have been made in the image of God."
Have you figured out what "IT" is?
This is actually a riddle from the Bible, the book of James, chapter 3 verse 9. However, the answer to the riddle is in the verses just before and after this one so that we need to read the entire text which is written below:
James 3:7-10 "People can tame all kinds of animals and birds and reptiles and fish, but no one can tame the tongue. It is an uncontrollable evil, full of deadly poison. Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it breaks out into curses against those who have been made in the image of God. And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth."
After reading the text, have you figured out that it is our tongue which sometimes praises our Lord and sometimes curses those who have been made in His image?
Now I know that this is an easy question, but when we meet people for the first time, what will we most likely use to introduce ourselves to each other?
Once again, hopefully you have answered that we will use our tongue. But since we are generally uncomfortable when placed in a position of meeting new people, let's look back at what we now know as our "riddle verse" and pick out a new and different way to look at ourselves and others. The verse is talking about "those who have been made in the image of God."
Who is that? The answer is people. We humans have been made in the image of God.
But the question arises, is there anyone or anything else included like plants, rocks, or animals? And the answer is "No." Those who have been made in the image of God include just us people. Humans. Men and women.
We learn this fact from a verse in Genesis, chapter 1 verses 26-27 printed below:
"Then God said, "Let us make people in our image, to be like ourselves. They will be masters over all life - the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the livestock, wild animals, and small animals. So God created people in His own image; God patterned them after Himself."
Before we go on, did you notice the common connection between these two verses in James and Genesis? The Bible is not just a book written over many years by various authors. The Bible is God's book that He has given us to learn more about Him and to learn how great and powerful He is so that the more we read the Bible, the more we realize that mere man could not have written it and tied all of its themes together to make the Bible make sense. The Bible was written over a period of many thousands of years by more than 40 different authors. There is no way that authors spread out over that time span could write in a way that everyone agreed with each other.
Only writers that were being directed by God could write in such a manner where the Bible themes interweave themselves from book to book and writer to writer over thousands of years! And we just read two verses written almost 2000 years apart that provides an example of this.
Once again, were you able to catch the common connection between these two verses from James and Genesis that we just read?
IT'S THE ANIMALS!!!!
In the Genesis verse, God made man to be master over the animals and in the James verse we learn that we can tame the animals (or be masters over them) and yet we cannot even tame or be master over our own bodies.
But how does our relationship with the animals teach us about being made in the image of God?
God made us to be masters over the animals so that we would better understand our relationship with God being master over us. We have been made in the image of God so that we may care for those around us in the same way that God daily shows us that He cares about us as our master. Our culture has typically portrayed the word "master" in a negative way as someone who is cruel and overbearing. However, the essence of the word "master" is really describing someone who tenderly cares for someone or something else. Let me give you an example to explain. How many of you have ever held a puppy or owned a dog? Our English language has typically related the term "master" to the relationship between man and dog. The man is master of his dog. We understand that to mean that the man cares for his dog, teaches his dog, and protects his dog. To see the relationship between a man who loves and cares for his dog and a dog that is completely loyal and attentive to his master is an enviable sight. That is a good "down to earth" example of explaining the word "master" in a positive light.
Getting back on track, being made in the image of God means that we have been made like God. So if we have been made in God's image, let's consider some words that describe God.
Loving (Galations 5:22-23)* Patient "" Good "" Faithful "" Gentle "" Jealous (Deuteronomy 5:8-9)** Kind (Romans 11:22)*** Severe (Romans 11:22)***
* Galations 5:22-23 - "But when the Holy Spirit controls our lives, he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Here there is no conflict with the law."
** Deuteronomy 5:8-9 - "Do not make idols of any kind, whether in the shape of birds or animals or fish. You must never worship or bow down to them, for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God who will not share your affection with any other god!" (Just an additional thought. This verse also mentions animals. Consider the heirarchy of God, man, and the animals. God is master over man and God has placed man as master over the animals. Why would man choose to worship a category of beings created below him rather than the Creator above him?)
*** Romans 11:22 - "Notice how God is both kind and severe. He is severe to those who disobeyed, but kind to you as you continue to trust in his kindness."
Now let's continue our thinking on how these characterstics of God listed above help us understand how we were created. Because we have been made in the image of God, that means each of us is a person made in God's image. Each of us reflects these characteristics within our lives in some way or another. Therefore, let's assume that we are meeting each other for the first time and we must introduce something about ourselves which represents that we have been made in God's image.
This leads us to the list above requiring us to think some way we can share any of those characteristics with other people. Are we able to demonstrate that we are made in God's image by being loving, patient, good, faithful, gentle, and kind? This is not bragging or boasting or saying "Look how good I am," but rather sharing a way in which we, personally, are living in the image of God.
While you are thinking of a way in which your life reflects God's image, allow me to share an example in my life where I reflected God's image of "Jealous."
Remember the verse above said, "I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God who will not share your affection with any other god." Well, I was jealous on a trip that my husband and I recently took to Tennessee. We signed up for a bus tour where two women comedians were the tour guides. My husband was sitting in the front row of the bus and was the brunt of many of their jokes, in good humor of course. However, one of the stunts that the women pulled was to snuggle up to my husband in an inappropriate way. As his wife, I became jealous because my husband and I are committed to each other and this woman's stunt was infringing on that committment.
Hopefully, you have also thought of an example where you have reflected God's image within your own life toward others. Have you been kind to a stranger? Patient with that slow driver in front of you? Gentle with the youth? Severe in your discipline? Faithful to your spouse? Loving to your Lord?