Tuesday, April 26, 2011

James 3:1-12- Taming the Tongue: Part 1

Now that I have a computer again, I can continue to blog once more. I hope this is a blessing to you as I finish up what I originally started so long ago on the book of James. If you need to refresh your memory on what was said prior to this point, feel free to go here. The formatting on my blog has always been better than that of Facebook notes, so if it still looks junked up with code in the FB note, feel free to click on the link to go to my blog.

James 3:1-12

Taming the Tongue: Part 1- Illustrations of the Heart at Work

  1. True Wisdom Taught (vv. 1-2)
    1. Is James commanding us that there should be few teachers of God’s Word, or is he telling us to recognize the responsibility that comes with being a teacher?
    2. James most likely here is referring back to what Jesus taught in Matthew 23 about hypocrisy in regards to them that were teaching.
    3. In that passage, Jesus makes it plain and clear that those who teach, but do not teach the truth are in danger of sending themselves and those that they teach to hellfire and damnation (this is what James means when he says that we’ll receive the greater condemnation).
    4. Also, what he is speaking of here is the idea, “To whom much has been given, much more shall be required.” If you’ve been given the responsibility of having an influence on others around you (and you always have that responsibility; it’s just a question of how much influence you have), then you need to make sure that you own up to that responsibility.
  2. True Wisdom Communicated and Lived Out (vv. 3-12)
    1. Communication is a show of what lies in the heart (though the heart may not always show itself in communication, eventually it will).
    2. This section is not separate from the previous; rather it is a continuation (hence, why I include it here). If you cannot allow the Holy Spirit to control what you speak, then you have no business in teaching.
    3. Allowing the Holy Spirit to control your tongue is a qualification for being a pastor (1 Tim3:2-3).
    4. First Illustration: Bridle in a horse’s mouth (v. 3)
      1. A picture of allowing God to lead in what we say.
      2. When we allow God to direct our words, we won’t stumble (not in the sense of stuttering, but in the sense of sinning).
    5. Second Illustration: Sailing ship (v. 4-5a)
      1. Comparison of the tongue to a rudder- idea here is the proportions
      2. “Inclination the pilot desires”- compares our hearts and God to a captain steering a boat with the rudder, which is what causes the boat to keep on course, even though the winds power it.
    6. Third Illustration- Spark that sets the forest on fire (v. 5b); idea here is that such a little thing causes GREAT destruction
    7. Fourth Illustration: Influence and stumbling block (v. 6)
      1. Jesus taught that it was what comes out of the mouth that defiles a man, rather than what he puts in his mouth as the mouth speaks forth that which comes out of a person’s heart.
      2. “Sets on fire the course of life”-
        1. James is using another illustration of how the tongue can be used improperly in how speech sets on fire the lusts and temptations that a man will respond to when a woman talks sensually to him, and vice versa for a man talking sensually to a woman.
        2. This expression can also refer to what happens when a person is goaded into losing their temper. Be careful to speak when all you’re looking for is a reaction to what you say. Such a one is guilty of this sin with their tongue.
      3. This is referring back to Matthew 5:22 where Jesus teaches how what we say is just as condemning of eternity in Hell as what we do. We need to live remembering that Jesus paid the price for our verbal sins, too.
    8. Fifth Illustration: Taming of the animals vs. taming of the tongue (v. 7)
      1. The animals have been tamed by man as they were put under our dominion by God.
      2. The tongue cannot be tamed by man as we do not belong to ourselves. The only way for the tongue to be tamed is for us to recognize that our tongue is under the ownership of God (1 Corinthians 6:20).
    9. Sixth Illustration: Poison (v. 8)
      1. It can poison the heart to bitterness depending on how we use it
      2. It can poison the mind to evil thoughts and actions
    10. Seventh Illustration: Blessing and Cursing (vv. 9-10)
      1. John writes this in 1 John 4:20 “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.”
      2. As James says, this ought not to be!!!!!! This is hypocrisy at its finest!
    11. Eighth and Ninth Illustrations: Fountains and Fig Trees (vv. 11-12)
      1. Fountains-
        1. Roman aqueduct system was set up so that a person could get either fresh water over long distances, or salt water depending on which aqueduct line they wanted to tap into. One line was used for the healing hot spas, the other for regular plumbing and washing.
        2. So, should our tongue be in hypocrisy by sending out both bitter words on one side and words of encouragement from the other?
        3. This is a rhetorical question. The answer is obviously a resounding, “NO!”
      2. Fig trees-
        1. Just as fig trees only produce figs, olive trees olives, grape vines grapes, salt water line salt water, and fresh water line fresh water, so should God’s tongues only be producing words that God would want said (It is His tongue, not mine because I have been bought and am not my own; 1 Cor. 6:20).


  1. As you influence and teach others around you, is your tongue a blessing to others or is it a stumbling block? Remember, you are not an island to yourself. Everything you do affects others around you.
  2. Who controls your tongue? You or the Holy Spirit of God?
  3. Is your tongue full of hypocrisy or does it demonstrate to all your love for God?
  4. Are you producing only the fruit that God would want your tongue to be producing?