The Book of James

Lesson 7 - "Taming Your Tongue" (Part 2)

by Pastor Frank J. Cuozzo

Pastor Frank Cuozzo

James 3:5-12, “Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! 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 it is set on fire of hell. For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind: But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. 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. 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 both yield salt water and fresh.”


-Introduction:

In our last lesson we discovered if we can control our tongues we can also control our evil tendencies. We also learned we should use our tongues unselfishly, carefully, and beneficially. Like a horse without a bridle or a ship without a rudder, an untamed tongue means our entire lives are out of control. As we continue our study, there are three things we should remember if we are to tame our tongues.


#1) Our tongues are powerful.

Look again with me at James 3:5-6, “Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! 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 it is set on fire of hell.”


James describes the destructive power of our tongues by writing: Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! Here James compares our tongues to the potential danger of a small fire multiplying itself. On Sunday, October 8, 1871, a fire reportedly started in the O'Leary barn in Chicago when a cow kicked over a lantern. The fire began as a one-inch flame, but because it got out of control, it destroyed over 17,000 buildings, left thousands homeless, and cost more than 250 lives. Our tongues are like a fire that, when out of control, can set an entire community ablaze. Proverbs 10:19 says, “In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin: but he that refraineth his lips is wise.”


The damage that can be done by an untamed tongue is staggering. Hasty words spoken in anger can ruin a marriage. Careless words of criticism to a child, such as "Can't you ever do anything right?" or "You'll never amount to anything," can scar that child for life. Just a thoughtless statement during a Bible study or worship service can start a fire that can destroy the fellowship of a church. Careless words of criticism and gossip spread destruction and hurt like a fire out of control.


Our tongues are a potential world of iniquity because they can do all kinds of damage. In a few seconds our tongues can destroy relationships that took years to build. Our words are like a fire—the damage they do can't be reversed. James also writes: it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature. This means our tongues can defile or stain all the good we have done over a lifetime. We can do many good things, but our untamed tongues can defile them all.


James traces the inflammatory nature of our tongues back to its source and writes that our tongues are set on fire of hell. This means inflaming words come from the influence of the Devil. For example, a husband comes home from work tired and grumpy. He walks in and yells at his wife. The wife, who had been in a good mood, yells back. Then, they both get sharp with the kids, and the whole house is set on fire of hell. Has something like that ever happened in your home? If not, it will; and we must remember the source of such happenings.


To tame our tongues, we must remember our tongues are powerful and...

#2) Our tongues are hurtful.

James 3:7-8, “For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind: But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.”


Now, James shifts from the power of our tongues to the perversity of our tongues by writing: For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind. If you have ever been to a circus, you have seen lions, tigers, snakes, elephants, and bears that were trained to do all kinds of tricks. If you have been to Sea World, you have seen the largest creatures of the sea perform amazing feats. Humans are able to tame the largest and most dangerous animals on land and sea, but James writes: the tongue can no man tame. James doesn't say our tongues can't be tamed, but no man or woman can do it. We need God's help.


James continues by telling us our tongues are an unruly evil. The word translated unruly means unrestrainable and is like a wild animal that continually breaks out of its cage. Our tongues are also full of deadly poison. The word translated poison means "venom" and refers to the poison of a snake. Our words can be as dangerous and deadly as the venom of a king cobra. Like venom from a snake bite, our words can cause suffering and death long after the words are spoken. Like a poisonous snake with just a few drops of venom, a few words can poison and kill relationships and reputations. Our tongues are deadly weapons. When we see the word poison on a container, we put the container where it cannot be used carelessly or accidentally. In the same way, we should be very careful with our tongues.


We all tend to make excuses for hurtful, reckless words. We say things like: "Someone needs to tell him" or "I just had to get that off my chest" or "I just have a short fuse and can't help it." We live in a perverted culture that encourages us to speak in hurtful ways, giving no thought to the cruel, deadly impact of our words. However, a "faith that works" will only speak what is good to the use of edifying, to minister grace unto the hearers.


To tame our tongues, we must remember our tongues are powerful, hurtful, and...

#3) Our tongues are revealing.

James 3:9-12, “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. 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 both yield salt water and fresh.”


Our tongues reveal what is really in our hearts, what we are like on the inside. James writes that with our tongues bless we God, even the Father but also 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. The word translated bless, is the Greek word from which we get our English word "eulogy." It means "to speak well of." The word translated curse, does not mean profanity; it means to say things to cause harm to someone.


The ultimate use of our tongues is to bless God through singing praises or sharing His Word and His blessings. However, as soon as some people leave a worship service they begin to curse—gossiping and assassinating the character of others. If we can bless God on Sunday, and then on Monday lambast people who have been made in the image of God, we have a deep spiritual problem. Our tongues unveil our hypocrisy.


Taming our tongues is much more than restraining ourselves from vulgar talk, using God's name in vain, and lying. We must also stop saying bad things about people created in the image of God. Psalms 139:14, “I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.”


Picturing our inner being or heart as a spring, James writes: Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter? In other words, you can't get a bucket of fresh water from a saltwater well. Jesus said this in Luke 6:45, “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.”


James also writes: Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either a vine, figs? Trees and vines can only produce fruit consistent with their nature. An apple tree only produces apples, and an orange tree only produces oranges. In the same way, our tongues produce words consistent with our hearts. Nothing divulges the real condition of our hearts like the fruit of our tongues.


To tame our tongues, we must regularly ask the Lord to help us. If you have hard feelings toward someone, write down every hurt feeling and every grievance in a letter. Don't mail the letter, but before you burn or shred it, pray over it, asking God to give you a change of heart and attitude toward that person.  Colossians 3:13, “Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.”


To tame our tongues, we must remember our tongues are powerful, hurtful, and revealing.


Let’s pray.



Lesson 8  —>