Step Towards Transformation

PART 8-James 3:1-12; How To Discipline The Tongue


James 3:1-12 New King James Version (NKJV)

1 My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment.

2 For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body.

3 Indeed, we put bits in horses’ mouths that they may obey us, and we turn their whole body.

4 Look also at ships: although they are so large and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires.

5 Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things.See how great a forest a little fire kindles!

6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell.

7 For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind.

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

9 With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God.

10 Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so.

11 Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening?

12 Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh.

So far, we have examined

  • How To Respond To Trials,
  • How To Seek Wisdom In Trials,
  • How To Have Proper Prospective In Life,
  • How To Understand & Defeat Temptation
  • How To Look In The Mirror Of The Word And Be Doers Of The Word.
  • How To Deal With The Sin Of Partiality
  • How To Prove Your Faith With Works

As we continue to move forward through this series, this week we will examine another issue that is a problem area in the lives of most Christian people: How To Discipline The Tongue

Just so you know the title of this sermon isn’t about how to discipline a 2 year old child. Even though it’s pretty hard to get a control on a 2 year old strong willed little boy , it’s even harder to get a control on something each of us possess that is much, much smaller than a two year old. It only weighs 60 to 70 gms and helps us taste, talk, and drink.

That’s right today we are going to talk about that tiny terror called the tongue, that little 70 gms muscle that we all possess can cause much more destruction than anything on earth. Words rolling off our tongue can wreak havoc on a person’s emotion and spiritual well-being and as Christians we need to do all we can to keep this tiny terror in check.

Proverbs 18:21  “The Tongue Has The Power Of Life And Death…” NIV

The stakes are high. Your words can either speak life, Or your words can speak death. Our tongues can build others up, or they can tear them down.

It has been said That Great Minds Discuss Ideas, Average Minds Discuss Events, And Small Minds Discuss People.

The church that James is writing to was full of small-minded people, who gossiped about each other and tore one another apart with their tongues. We are quick to avoid Murder, Stealing, And Drunkenness. But we often assassinate fellow believers and leave destruction by the way we use our tongues.

  • Husbands have stabbed their wives with words that are as sharp as daggers.
  • Wives have lashed out with tongues that cut and pierce.
  • Parents have devastated their children by repeated blasts of venom.
  • Children have exploded at their parents with hailstones that have demolished the family like a bomb.

James 1:19 …My beloved Let everyone be quick to listen, Slow to speak, slow to anger;

James 1:26… if any think they are religious, and do not bridle their tongues But deceive their hearts, their religion is worthless.

Remember the saying, “Sticks And Stones May Break My Bones, But Words Can Never Hurt Me?” I do not know who came up with that line But we all know that it is simply Not true. Words Can Break Our Hearts. Words Can Break Our Spirits.

Broken Bones Can Heal With Time, But A Broken Spirit Caused By Words Of Death, Is Not So Quickly Repaired.

If your tongue has ever gotten you into trouble, then please raise your hand. Now turn to the person next to you and say, “i’m not surprised!”  We are not surprised, because it happens to all of us. All of us have had the experience of saying something, and then wishing we had not said it!

Illustration: I heard the story of a man who worked at a produce department of a grocery store. A woman came up and asked if she could buy half of water melon. It had been one of those days, and before he could think he replied, “half of watermelon? Are you serious? God grows these in whole  and that’s how we sell them!” The lady responded, “you mean that after all the years i have shopped here, you won’t sell me half of watermelon?”  “look,” he said, “if you like i’ll ask the manager.” She indicated that would be appreciated. So, the man marched away to find the manager and when he found him said, “you won’t believe this, but there’s a lame-brained idiot of a lady back there who wants to know if she can buy half of watermelon.”

As he was saying that, he noticed that the manager was trying to subtly stop his outburst. The crazed worker turned around to see the same lady standing behind him. Un beknown to him, she had followed him as he searched for the manager. But without skipping a beat, the worker said to the manager, “and this nice lady was wondering if she could buy the other half of watermelon.”

Later in the day the manager cornered the young man and said, “that was the finest example of thinking on your feet i’ve ever seen! Where did you learn that skill?”  The worker replied, “i grew up in chennai, and if you know anything about chennai, you know that it’s known for two things: its great sambhars and its ugly women” But before the worker could proceed with his explanation the manager interrupted him, “my wife is from chennai!”

All of us have had the experience of saying something, and then wishing we had not said it!

As Christians we must discipline ourselves every day to become wise in our speech or we will come off as a hypocrite or a fool.   

We are the ‘salt of the earth’, and what we say should add a good flavor to any conversation. Some people instead, however, in place of adding salt they add too much of their own bitter lemons, or too many chili peppers and then that everyone leaves with a bad taste in their mouth!

If you are a person that likes to pride fully show off, offend or humiliate, argue or be smart-mouthed then you need a serious repentance. Speech reveals the heart, and a Christian lacking in having a holy pure heart needs to ask God to break them and remake them, otherwise you are harming God’s work by making others stumble!

In James 3:1.. James doesn’t say this to discourage those who want to teach, he simply wants all of us to take this responsibility seriously. The reason is simple. Our words have power and if you are in charge of a class in a place of leadership you have the capacity to shape lives. If you plan to teach you must be spiritually qualified. Teachers must practice what they teach. Teachers must be careful what they say with both their words and life.

Illustration; If a doctor neglects his own health; if an accountant can’t balance his bank account; if an lawyer violates the law, then it contradicts what they stand for. Likewise if a bible teacher uses their words to tear down their students it contradicts what they stand for.

In James 3:2..James continues to speak to the teacher but now he enlarges his audience as he says we all stumble in many ways. Notice here in verse two that James uses the word “we.” In other words, he too makes mistakes with his words. All of us do.

At the same time we show our maturity when we control our tongue. The text here teaches that if a person disciplines his tongue he can control his whole body as well. If we can bring the tongue under control we will be able to keep other areas of life in check as well. In other words the tongue is our biggest problem.

Illustration: Let me give you a few examples of an untamed tongue. One that is out of control.

  • When we gossip about someone
  • When we are critical
  • When we are bragging about ourselves
  • When we are manipulating others
  • When we are teaching false
  • When we are complaining
  • When we are flattering someone
  • When we are lying
  • When we are spreading false words/rumors

James Perfectly Illustrates His Point With Three Common Realities.

  1. In James 3:3 first, he reminds us of the fact that very large horses are controlled by a very small bit. As you know, horses are incredibly powerful; many of them weigh about 900 kgs. Yet, even a small child can control and direct a horse by the small bit that is placed in a horses mouth and is connected to the reigns. The secret of the bit is the fact that it is placed in one of the horses most sensitive places. Have you ever had a small child put a finger or two in your mouth and tug? It hurts! That’s the principle of the bit.
  2. In James 3:4 the second word picture that illustrates his point is that a large ship is steered by a small rudder. Some of you seen naval ships or cruise ships. Some of these boats are floating cities, hundreds of feet long, thousands of tons, yet they are steered by a small rudder in comparison to their size.
  3. In James 3:5 the 3rd picture he knows we will understand is that fact that a small spark can start a large fire.

How often have you thought about  the great ability of little?

Illustration: Mrs.O’leary was little lady that lived in a little area of Chicago. Mrs.O’leary had a little house and a little barn. She had one little cow she milked every morning and every evening. She drank some of the milk, but she sold a little for barter money. Mrs.O’leary got up and lit a little kerosene lamp and went to the little barn. The little cow stepped up to eat a little corn and she started milking. The little cow kicked over the little lamp and a fire started in a little hay. The little fire when it was finished left 100,000 people homeless, 17,500 buildings burned to the ground, 300 people dead, Rs. 240 Crore of damage… All when a bunch of little got together.

Illustration in hindi: छोटे का बड़ा प्रभाव होता है।

 श्रीमती गीता एक छोटी सी महिला थी जो एक छोटे से इलाके में रहती थी।

श्रीमती गीता का एक छोटा सा घर था और एक छोटा सा गौशाला था।

हर सुबह और हर शाम को एक छोटी सी गाय से छोटे से बर्तन मे दूध निकालती थी।

वह छोटे से बर्तन मे से छोटा सा दूध का हिस्सा पीती थी, लेकिन कुछ दूध छोटे से आमदनी के लिए बेच दिया करती थी।

सुबह होने से पहले गीता उठ गई और एक छोटी सी केरोसीन का दिया जलाकर उसके छोटे से गौशाला मे उस छोटी सी गाय का छोटे से बर्तन मे फिर दूध निकालने गयी।

उस छोटी गाय ने छोटा सा मकई खाने के लिए ऊपर कदम रखा और गलती से उसका पैर उस छोटे से दिए पर गिरा।

फिर दिए के गिरने से एक छोटे से घास के हिस्से मे छोटी सी आग लग गयी ।

यह छोटी सी आग बढ़ने के बाद जब बुझा दी गयी तब आसपास के 100,000 लोग बेघर हुए, 17,500 इमारते जल गयी, 300 लोग मारे गए, रु 240 करोड़ का नुकसान हुआ…

यह सब विनाश उन छोटे से छोटे का एक दूसरे से मिलने पर हुआ

Illustration; There was a 10 year old girl. Her dad was a game warden at a wild life Resort in africa. They lived in a beautiful home in the middle of the resort. The young Girl loved helping her dad.One day while on a trip the dad found a dead tiger. There was a small baby tiger Trying to feed from the corpse of the mother. The baby was only a few kgs. The game Warden brought the bay tiger home until he could make arrangements for the baby. His beautiful daughter begged her dad, please, please let me keep this baby Tiger, i promise to take care and do what ever it takes. So the dad agreed to allow his only child to keep the baby tiger for a few days. The girl bottle fed the baby. She mixed the liquids and cleaned the bottles. The baby tiger Slept in her room. Several times a night the young girl warmed the formula and fed the Tiger. It was beautiful to watch the tiger and the girl play together. They grew up together.

Soon the baby was 10 kgs, 20 kgs, and the tiger got stronger and stronger. The dad warned the the 10 year old, we have to return the baby to the wild. The girl would whine and cry and beg the dad, please dad Let the tiger stay. The dad would cave in and allow the girl to keep it longer. Soon the tiger was totally on meat. The girl was now a teen-ager and the tiger weighed 75 kgs. They would play and play. The tiger would run and jump and knock the girl down. The tiger was rough in playing.The girl loved the tiger and the tiger knew nothing but the girl was it’s mother.

Another game warden came by their house and saw the adult tiger and the girl playing and was alarmed. The other warden warned the girl and the father about the wild tiger… That night dad gave a clear warning to his beautiful daughter, you are 16 now. You have had this baby 6 years and now the tiger weighs over 150 kgs, we are going to release the tiger.

The girl cried and cried. The girl would not eat and spent more and more time with the adult tiger. They really loved each other. The girl would drive to school and come home and play with the tiger. The tiger was very rough playing with the girl. One day the tiger scratched the girl. The girl hid the cut from her dad.

One day the dad came home from a long day at work. As the dad walked around the house there was blood everywhere. The tiger had knocked the girl down and playfully scratched the girl. The wild tiger smelled the blood and hit her with the razor sharp nails. The girl was bleeding massively and the pet tiger went wild…He started eating and licking the blood. Now the girl’s body was twisted and torn and her Limb, lifeless body was there. The dad ran to his only child and realized she was dead. The dad knew better. The neighbors had warned them. The other game wardens warned him. He knew better! His daughter’s love over rode his plan and now, she was Dead. Could you really blame the 200 kgs adult tiger?

Small or little has big effects

According to James 3:6 “the tongue is also a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.”

Again, James returns to the illustration of fire. It only takes a small spark, but once a fire gets going it is almost impossible to stop. .

Illustration: One fire I read about in northern California burned over 14,000 acres and took 1350 firefighters to put out the blaze.

This is exactly the issue with our words. One moment things are fine and the next moment like a fire, we are dealing with a major problem.

James uses fire to describe the uncontrollable nature of our words once they are spoken. Once words are spoken they can’t be taken back, no more than a raging fire can bring back everything that it burned up in the first place. When harmful words are sparked, they often spread like wildfire.

In James 3:7-8 James not only compares our tongues to a fire but also to a wild animal.

In verse 7 James mentions four different classes of animals… Those that walk, those that fly, those that crawl and those that swim. Elephants can be tamed, snakes can be charmed, we can go to sea world and see animals such as a whale, a porpoise, dolphins and see them being tamed yet we cannot tame our own tongues. He says the tongue is a restless evil, always busy causing problems. James mentions the fact that we have tamed many kinds of wild animals, and we all enjoy seeing them at the circus.

Whether it is the tigers, or the elephants, He said, we can tame them, but no man can tame the tongue. Our tongues are as fierce and uncontrollable as a wild Horse.

  • And this is why James tells us that we must get a bridle on that wild horse, because if you don’t it will run away and throw you!
  • James also likens our tongue to a helm of a ship. The helm is a very small part of the ship just like the tongue is a very small part of the body, and if we can correctly steer our tongue we can direct the whole body. The tongue is a 70 gms piece of flesh caged behind our teeth and when set loose it can either do a great deal of good (blessing, encouraging, praising, edifying) or it can do a great deal of harm (cursing, gossiping, discouraging, lying, impugning).

One the most prominent sins of church members lies in the use of the tongue. The longer people know each other in one church, they may find it easier to judge, criticize, and condemn one another.

Illustration: Many people resemble the snail. The snail is a very interesting creature, it may have taken a week to reach Noah’s ark, but it ate well on the way. Naturalists tell us that the snail has teeth on its tongue. One scientist examining a snail’s tongue under a microscope counted 30,000 teeth on the organ. The snail keeps its tongue rolled up like a ribbon until it is needed and then it thrusts out this sharp attachment and saws through the toughest leaves and stems with comparative ease.

8a 8c

Though our teeth form an ivory gate that protects our tongues, you would think that, like the snail, some people’s teeth are embedded in their tongues ready to slice and criticize other people. James says that the tongue is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.

David said in Psalm 39, “I Will Guard My Ways, That I May Not Sin With My Tongue. I Will Guard My Mouth As With A Muzzle.”

In James 3:9-10 James says, “blessing and curses come from the same mouth”. We praise God on Sunday and lie and gossip on Monday.

Illustration: A lady at a church was very gossiper. Several members were unappreciative of her activities, but feared her enough to maintain their silence. She made a mistake, however, when she accused George, a new member, of being an alcoholic after she saw his pickup truck parked all afternoon in front of the town’s only bar. She commented to George and others that everyone seeing it there would know that he was an alcoholic. George, a man of few words, stared at her for a moment and then just walked away. He said nothing. Later that evening, George quietly parked his pickup in front of the lady’s house and left it there all night…

Some people even disguise gossip as a prayer request.

Illustration; There were two married couples sitting at a table, Tom & Mary And Fred & Wilma. Tom, Mary And Fred knew that a former youth pastor of their church had fallen into terrible sin. Of course, all sin is terrible but this sin had a grievous stigma attached to it. The only one who didn’t know was Wilma.

They were sitting together and all of a sudden you could see Mary’s eyes light up and start into conversation, “did you hear about …” when Fred stopped her in her tracks and told her that she did not need to tell what she was about to say. Mary protested saying that she was only telling so that we could all pray for him.

Fred’s reasoning was that Wilma didn’t need to know about the sin in particular. The man had moved far away so there was no danger to the congregation. There was no danger to the reputation of the church.

We know that God does forgive sin and forgets the sins we have confessed. We don’t have that same ability to forget. It sticks with us.

Was Mary really sending out a prayer request or was she “delighting in evil” for the sake of gossip. Suppose that man turned away from his sin and came back to the Lord and moved back to the area.

  • Would he be welcomed back into the church with the stigma associated with that sin if everyone knew because it had been passed around as a “prayer request”?
  • Would it be helpful that everyone had known about and prayed for his specific sin or would it be enough just to know that he was in spiritual trouble?

Never believe anything bad about anybody unless you positively know it to be true; never tell even that unless you feel that it is absolutely necessary – and that God is listening while you tell it.

So, when a person gossips they need to ask, “Who’s got my tongue?”

In James 3:11 James is calling us …. To be consistent. What comes out of our mouths is a reflection Of what is in our hearts.

We need to see that the bitter fountain is not a tongue problem; it’s a heart problem. If you have a tongue trouble, your heart is not right with God.

Illustration: In an outburst of emotion, a man shocked everyone with heated words. I was in that meeting where the fountain became bitter. A week later I received a letter that read, “Melwyn, please forgive me for my angry outburst. I should not have said what I did. I have also asked God to forgive me.”

Have you asked people you have hurt to forgive you for the malicious use of your tongue? And, have you asked God to forgive you?


In James 3:12 – “My Brothers, Can A Fig Tree Bear Olives, Or A Grapevine Bear Figs? Neither Can A Salt Spring Produce Fresh Water.”

  • I am not called to do your work for you, and you are not called to do my work for me, and together we are not called to do someone else’s work for them.
  • We don’t have trees that produce bananas, oranges, apples, pears, and strawberries – no tree produces all kinds of fruit.

It’s the same way with the church; all true believers are members of one body of Christ, but all the members don’t have the same office. The best thing for the body to do is let the eyes do the seeing, and the ears do the hearing, and the mouth do the talking, and the feet do the walking, and the hands do the giving and working and do not seize any office that belongs to another.

Illustration: A drunk man tries to walk on both sides of the street at the same time, nearly getting himself ran over. And whenever I see a man trying to serve God and to serve the devil too, I know that he is just as intoxicated, thinking that he can serve God and serve the devil at the same time- otherwise if he were in his right mind he would never imagine doing such a thing!

Illustration; A certain man was near a fig tree and he wanted everyone to think that it was an olive tree – so he simply took several tabs of paper and wrote the word “olive” on it and decorated the fig tree like we would adorn a Christmas tree with ornaments.

How often do hypocrites adorn their lives with the label of Christian fruit and yet they still keep bearing the same old fruit of sin in their lives. Putting a Christian label on it will never change that.

Just calling a person a child of God will never make that person a child of God.

The big question is this: is the problem with the words themselves?  No. The problem is with the source. The problem with sour water, isn’t the water itself, its the source because the source is what is making the water sour.

Illustration; When you go to your doctor, one of the first things they tell you to do is stick out your tongue. Because the tongue can tell them a lot about your physical condition.

The tongue can also tell us a lot about our spiritual condition as well. It tells us what someone is like on the inside. Jesus said out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.

The Chinese Have A Proverb That Says, “What’s Down In The Well Comes Up In The Bucket”.

We may say something and we think where in the world did that come from?

  • It came from right from your heart.
  • It came from something hurtful someone said to you….years ago perhaps or
  • It came from something you read or you heard- something from television or a

Whatever you fill yourself up with, that is what is going to come out.

Conclusion: So Working Toward Having A Transformed Tongue Or Disciplining The Tongue Must Be A Top Priority For All Of Us Who Want To Please God. But The Problem Is..

  1. Unfortunately, Many Of Us, Have Become Insensitive To The Problem Of Destructive Speech.

Illustration; Once the frog fell in a vessel of the hot water. The Water was still on a gas stove. The frog still did not try to jump out of the vessel, instead just stayed in it. As the temperature of the water started to rise, the frog managed to adjust its body temperature accordingly. As the water started to reach the boiling point, the frog was no longer able to keep up and manage its body temperature according to the water temperature. The frog tried to jump out of the vessel but with water temperature reaching its boiling point, the frog was not able to bear it and couldn’t make it.

What was the reason that a frog couldn’t make it? Will you blame the hot water for it? His nerve endings became desensitized in the heated water.. Like the frog, we too can numb our spiritual nerve endings.

  1. By Making Careless And Sinful Communication An Acceptable Part Of Our Lives, We Assume That A Carnal Tongue Is Par For The Spiritual Course.

T-h-i-n-k. Think before you speak.

  • T – is it true?
  • H – is it helpful?
  • I – is it inspiring?
  • N – is it necessary?
  • K – is it kind?

Beloved Think! …..Speak Life. Proverbs 12:18 says,”Speak Without Thinking, And Your Words Can Cut Like A Knife.” – 

It is time to be mature men and women Of the cross.

“Maturity Is Knowing When To Speak Your Mind And When To Mind Your Speech.”

  • To be open to the transforming power of the holy spirit.
  • To be conformed to the image of Christ
  • It is time ….to think
  • It is time…. To speak life!!

Illustration; I read about a woman who had a serious throat condition and the doctor said she had to rest her vocal cords for six months. For six months she was forbidden to utter a single word. So for six months all her communication had to be on paper. When asked what it was like to communicate only in writing, she said this: “You’d Be Surprised How Many Notes I Crumpled Up And Threw Into The Trash Before I Gave Them To Anyone. Seeing My Words Before Anyone Heard Them  Had An Effect That I Do Not Think I Can Ever Forget.”

While we might not be able to stop speaking for six months,we can learn to talk less by putting a break on the muscle In our mouths.

The Tongue Has The Power Of Life And Death.

Illustration: Charles Swindoll tells the story of a man with whom he went to seminary. The man had a bright red birthmark that covered half of his face.  After Charles got to know him, he finally had the courage to ask him about his face, and how it was for him to go through life with that birthmark in such a prominent place. His friend explained, “When I Was Very Young, My Father Told Me That My Birthmark Was The Place An Angel Had Kissed My Face So That The Angel Could Always Pick Me Out Of A Crowd.” Then his friend said, “you know, I grew up feeling sorry for those who didn’t have a birthmark.”

That man’s father had spoken words of life and those words had transformed his life.  The tongue has the power of life and death…I want to speak life, don’t you?


  • What is the greatest slip of the tongue that you have experienced? What about from someone else (without naming names)? How did you feel?
  • How important is communication in your life? What happens when we communicate wrong or badly?
  • Is there a sin in my life for which confession and repentance is needed?
  • What can I model and teach? What does God want me to share with someone?

Next James Bible Study Part 9: James 3:13-18;How To Have Good Conduct With Godly Wisdom

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This entry was posted on April 22, 2020 by in JAMES BIBLE STUDY and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .
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