James 3:1-12



Most of us have gotten is trouble at one time or another because of our failure to control our tongues.      

This week in James 3:1-12 we find that “Faith Works Vocally”.  A real reflection of our faith is to examine how well we allow God to control our tongues.  The use of our tongue is a reflection of our faith.




Vs. 1 – James is giving a warning here. The warning is for those who would be teachers.

God has sent us gifted men and women who can communicate the Word of God.  And each of us has the responsibility of teaching at home.


The use of the tongue to communicate truth is an important use of that tongue. But James tells us, if we would be teachers, I think this means especially in the church, we had better be careful.


The one who would teach, either formally, or informally, is in a position of receiving stricter judgment.

·        There is strict judgment because of accuracy. We are responsible to communicate the truth.

·        There is strict judgment as far as practice is concerned. We who teach are to practice what we preach. The one who teaches one thing and practices another is nothing more than a hypocrite.

Romans 2:22


If you would like to pray for your pastor and our Sunday School teachers, ask God that they would be like Ezra, the Scribe. Ezra 7:10


By the way the faithful pastor shall be rewarded, and I’m sure the faithful teacher will be as well.

1 Peter 5:4


Vs. 2 – James begins to show us another reason the tongue is important.  He says, “For in many things we all offend or stumble.”  I think that he is still referring to the tongue here.

There is not a person around who has not sinned with the tongue. Notice that James included himself when he said, “We all stumble.”

It is the mature man who has learned how to control his tongue.

It is the mature woman who has learned how to control her tongue.

“If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man.”


As we will see in a few minutes, there is none who can do this in his or her own strength.

But if you can control you tongue, the rest of your life will be under control.

A lot of us have problems in the area of self control in other areas that would clear up if we would learn to control our tongues.


Vs. 3 – Here James gives us the first of two examples.

One does not just get on a horse and ride!

A horse needs to be tamed.

A horse needs to be trained.

A horse needs to be controlled by the person doing the riding.

And so a bit is placed inside the mouth.

The bit is attached to a bridle and reigns, so that by pulling on the reigns the horse can be controlled.


Vs. 4 – The second illustration is concerning a boat or ship.

A great big ship can be turned and controlled by a little rudder.

The lesson is clear, control the tongue and the rest of the life can be under control

The important tongue is important for teaching and for maturity or control of our lives.




Vs. 5 – James is saying, “The tongue is small, but its power is great!”

And this little item can be instrumental in causing big trouble!

Like fire, a little flame or spark can multiply into big danger.


Vs. 6 – Note that the tongue is a fire.


The tongue can destroy things even more important than a city.

The tongue will destroy churches.

The tongue will destroy families and marriages.

The tongue will destroy Christian organizations.

The tongue will destroy school and work situations.

The tongue will destroy friendships.


A rash tongue can cause someone else to be rash.

One person yells and the other yells back.

Or someone gets wind of something being said about them and gets “heated up”.

Or a person is unduly criticized, and this causes bad feelings.


All of us have burned and hurt people with unkind, angry and harsh words, and lived to regret it.

Although words can be forgiven when we apologize, they often leave scars for a time to come.


Proverbs 26:20-21 - Where no wood is, there the fire goeth out: so where there is no talebearer, the strife ceaseth.  [21] As coals are to burning coals, and wood to fire; so is a contentious man to kindle strife.


Fire needs fuel.

When the fuel is removed, there is no more fire.

So, before we repeat information, perhaps we should ask ourselves dome pointed questions:

1.     Is it true?

2.     Is it kind?

3.     Is it necessary?

4.     Is it edifying?

5.     Why do I really want to share this?


Gossip is not the only sin of the tongue.

There is unjustified and uncontrolled anger.

There is lying.

There is back-biting and slander.

There is unwarranted criticism.


Vs. 6 – Note that the tongue is a world of iniquity.

Note that the tongue defiles the whole body.

Just as smoke from a fire defiles clothing, the stench from our tongue defiles our whole lives.

The whole course of nature, our lives, is set afire by hell, the home of Satan and his demons.

Do we need any more reasons to be careful about the use of our tongues?


You can be a wonderful Christian in every way, but if you have a critical, or gossipy, or a slanderous, or an enraged tongue, you will destroy all the good that you do.




Vs. 9 says we bless with our tongue.  We even bless the right God, our Father.

Then we curse man who was created in the image of God!

Like a fire, the tongue is good under control.

The fire warms, our words encourage.

The fire purifies, our words can correct and purify those we love when we use our words properly.

The fire gives light, our words give light.


Vs. 10 – Out the same mouth comes blessing and cursing.

              This is terribly inconsistent.

               It shouldn’t be!

               We shouldn’t bless and curse at the same time.


Vs. 11 – James illustrates that a fountain only gives out one kind of water.


Vs. 12 – A fig tree only gives figs.

A vine only gives grapes.

An olive tree gives olives!

As Christians our tongues should only give out what is good, and right and proper!

There is no fountain that gives out both salt and fresh water!


Because the tongue is a reflection of what is going on in our hearts, we need to strive to be consistent on the inside and the outside. Luke 6:45




Every type of beast has been tamed

Dolphins in the sea

Parrots of the bird world

Snakes to a point,

And all kinds of wild animals to a point,

But the tongue no man can tame.


I can not tame my tongue.

You can not tame your tongue.   

Why is that?


As we already saw, the tongue is a reflection of our hearts.

Our hearts are inherently evil and deceitful. Jeremiah 17:9


In order to have a proper tongue we need a new heart!

We need a new heart.  That new heart comes when we trust Jesus Christ as Savior!


Ezekiel 36:26 - A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.


2 Corinthians 5:17 - Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.


That new heart needs to be a surrendered heart, totally given over to the Lord Jesus Christ.


Romans 12:1 - I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.


And that surrendered heart needs to be a heart that wants to speak the right things.

Psalm 141:3 - Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips.


How surrendered is your heart?

How surrendered is your tongue?

Will you allow the Lord Jesus to control both?