James 3: Taming the Tongue

*These notes comes from a four week bible study at First Presbyterian Church San Angelo, Texas. Link to the wrest of the study here

Some who desire to teach the word should refrain if their motives tend toward gaining authority or attention.
Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.
We all stumble in many ways.
We all make mistakes, but teachers of the word are held to an even higher standard

Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check.When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.
Bit steers a horse, as rudder steers a ship, as tongue steers a person.
Though a small thing, how we speak affects others and can cause serious damage.

All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. 11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 12 My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.

13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15 Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.
Impure and unwise reasoning in desire for leadership: authority & importance. It is possible to do the right thing in the wrong spirit. We tend toward disorder and wickedness because of sin.

17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18 Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.


The human condition does not change, which is why we need a savior. This was written 2,000 years ago to a specific church and it applies to us all today.

James is not calling for more will-power/determination, but rather for a new heart by trusting in God. Our tongue/actions reveal our heart. We are never going to get this 100% because we are human, but with Christ we can become better and where we do fail it has been covered by the grace of Jesus. A focus on Christ will manifest what comes out of our mouth.

We cannot become better on our own. We must seek/ask God. We are called in this chapter to develop humility.

Proverbs on the tongue: (restraint) 12:23, 17:27, 18:2, 21:23, 29:20
It is wise to be slow to speak; to think before you speak; to be reluctant to speak


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