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OceanSide church of Christ

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James Speaks about the Tongue

Lesson One

Victor M. Eskew




A.     The Bible often focuses our attention upon little things.

1.       The ant (Prov. 6:6)


Go to the ant thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise.


2.       Four things that are small, but wise (Prov. 30:24-28)


There be four things which are little upon the earth, but they are exceedingly wise:  the ants are a people not strong, yet they prepare their meat in the summer; the conies are but a feeble folk, yet make their houses in the rocks; the locusts have no king, yet they go forth all these by bands; the spider taketh hold with her hands, and is in kings’ palaces.


3.       Little children (Matt. 18:1-4)


At the same time can the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?   And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, and said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.  Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.


B.      Our discussions this quarter will be about another small thing, the tongue.  The title of our Quarter is:  “Taming the Tongue.”


C.      James addresses the tongue in the third chapter of his epistle.  We will being our study by looking at some of the things that he has to say about the tongue (James 3:2-12).


I.             THE IMPORTANCE OF THE TONGUE (James 3:2)


A.     The Struggle (James 3:2a)


For in many things we offend all…


1.       The word “offend” means “to trip, to err, to sin, to fail, to make mistakes.”

2.       No Christian is perfect.

a.       The general course of the Christian life is called the way.

b.       Occasionally, on the way, we stumble.

c.       I John 1:8, 10


If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us…If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.


B.      The Start (James 3:2b)


If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, an able also to bridle the whole body.


1.       The control of the tongue.

a.       The man who masters the use of the tongue evidences his growth in Christ.

b.       The same is a “perfect” man, that is, one who is full-grown and mature.

2.       The control of the body

a.       The tongue is not an easy thing to control.

b.       The one who has disciplined his speech, also has the ability to bring him entire body under control.

c.       Luke 16:10a


He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much…


II.            THE ILLUSTRATIONS OF JAMES (James 3:3-5a)


A.    The horse and bit (James 3:3)


Behold, we put bits in the horses’ mouths, that they may obey us; and we turn about their whole body.


1.       Bit:  the mouthpiece of a bridle, having fittings at each end to which the reins are fastened


Image result for the tongue


2.       Man learned early on that he needed to be able to control the direction of the horse.

a.       “Excavations from the Ukrainian steppes have unearthed horse teeth from 4,000 BC which show possible wear from a bit” (, “Bits and Bitting”).

b.       “In 1,500 BC metal snaffle bits first appear – both a plain bar and jointed” (Ibid.).

3.       Facts

a.       Adult horses can range in size from 840 – 2200 pounds.

b.       A shire name Mammoth was 86 ¼ inches tall and weighed 3360 pounds.

c.       These large animals are controlled by a very small bit.


B.      The helm and ship (James 3:4)


Behold also the ships, which though they be so great, and are driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned with so small helm, withersoever the governor listeth.


1.       James makes two points about the ships.

a.       They are great, that is vast in size.  The hold passengers, cargo, crew, supplies and equipment for a long voyage.

b.       They are driven by fierce winds.

2.       The helm

a.       Strong (4079):  the blade of an oar

b.       Thayer:  a ship’s rudder


Image result for rudder


c.       Again, a small object is able to control the direction of something that is quite massive.


C.      The human and the tongue (James 3:5a)


Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things.


1.       Size:  the tongue is a little member

2.       Significant:  boasteth great things

a.       All are aware of the tongues influence and power.

b.       James “means doubtless to convey the idea that it boasts not unjustly of its importance.  It has all the influence in the world, for good or for evil, which it claims” (e-sword, Barnes).


III.          THE INIQUITY OF THE TONGUE (James 3:5b-6) 


A.   Analogy (James 3:5b)


Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth!


1.       “The sense is, that a very little fire is sufficient to ignite a large quantity of combustible material…A spark will kindle a lofty pile” (e-sword, Barnes).

2.       We have all seen evidence of this.  Thousands of acres have been destroyed by a lightning strike, a campfire, or a disgarded cigarette.


Image result for causes of forest fires


B.      Application (James 3:6)


And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity:  so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and is set on fire of hell.


1.       The tongue is a destructive force (a fire).

2.       The tongue is a world in miniature (a world of iniquity) and contains much evil..

3.       The tongue is a sign of further corruption in the individual (defileth the whole body).

4.       Unless it is tamed, it runs its course (setteth on fire the course of nature) throughout life.

5.       It derives its fire from gehenna hell (and is set on fire of hell).


IV.          IMPOSSIBLE TO TAME (James 3:7-8)


A.     The control of the animal kingdom (James 3:7)


For every kind of beast, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind. 


1.       There is hardly an animal that man has not tamed.

2.       Animals are savage, wild, big, have small brains, and are often deadly.  But man has tamed them.


B.      The contrast of the tongue (James 3:8)


But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.


1.       The tongue can no man tame.

a.       Many animals become domesticated.  They do not have to be constantly tamed.

b.       Not so with the tongue.  Each man’s tongue is wild and deadly.

c.       Each has to learn to control his tongue by the grace of the Almighty God.

2.       Two descriptions of the tongue:

a.       Unruly evil:  it knows no restraints

b.       Deadly poison:  it is like the venom of a deadly snake, killing many it is path


V.            THE INCONSISTENCY OF THE TONGUE (James 3:9-12)


A.     Two different actions (James 3:9-10)


Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God.  Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing.  My brethren, these things ought not so to be.


1.       Men look highly upon God and bless and praise him.

2.       With the same tongue, they pour out cursings upon their fellowman.

3.       We often forget that man is made in the similitude of God.

a.       Similitude

1)      Strong (3669):  resemblance

2)      Thayer:  a making like, likeness

b.       Genesis 1:26-27

4.       My brethren, these things out not so to be!


B.      Two different analogies (James 3:11-12)


Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter?  Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries?  Either a vine, figs?  So can no fountain yield salt water and fresh.


1.       Fountains either yield fresh water or salt water, but not both.

2.       Plants either yield figs or olives, but not both.

3.       The tongue of man is either wholesome, or vile, but it cannot be both.

4.       The corruption of the tongue, even in small amounts shows the quality of a man’s heart.




A.     All of us need to become “animal” tamers.  The animal that needs to be tamed is our tongue.


B.      We need to reduce the negatives.


C.      We need to increase the positives.

1.       Telling the truth

2.       Preaching the good news

3.       Praying

4.       Comforting the hurting

5.       Praising God

6.       Expressing thanksgiving

7.       Exhortation of others

8.       Encouragement of others

9.       Teaching helpful skills

10.   Silence