3:1-12 Lesson #5
CONTROLLING THE TONGUE
Q Is it important for Christians to control their tongues, why?
An = Let them answer and do not comment, just acknowledge their ideas.
Q Do you know of someone who does not come to this church because of someone who did not control their tongue?
An = Again let them answer. When they are through then let them know that James considers this an important agenda. We are going
to see how powerful James considers the tongue to be and how devastating it can be.
III. The Importance of Controlling the Tongue Is Stated: James 3:1-2.
>>>> Have someone read James 3:1.
Q Do you think it is fair that teachers will be judged more strictly?
An = Let them answer and then add from the New Bible Commentary: "There seemed to be an eagerness for many to speak in public
without realizing that the fundamental qualification for teaching is learning. Perhaps also, there was a tendency to mistake fluency of speech for
knowledge." I'm sure we do this today. Teachers should be certain they are presenting truth and not just `making a speech' to glorify themselves or to
`just hear themselves talk'. Teaching is an awesome responsibility.
Q Are we teachers when we speak to our children, our spouse, our friends or in meetings?
An = Absolutely. II Timothy 2:24 says, "And the Lord's servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach,
Note: So, we are all teachers one way or another. We also need to watch our attitude when speaking, our voice tone, and our body
language. All these are involved in messages that go out from us. We are responsible for those, too.
We need to be especially careful with children as we can set a child on a course that can affect his/her entire life. We read in the
newspapers every day the havoc that is created by misled, abused children. Positive encouragement can build, put-downs can destroy the spirit.
>>>> Have someone read James 3:2.
Q How is a perfect man described?
An = One who can control his tongue and therefore his whole body.
Q Do good Christians make mistakes, even Christian leaders?
An = Yes they do. No human, with the exception of Jesus, is presented as being perfect. We all need to work towards the goal of
controlling our tongue.
When we stumble, we need to make it right, and apologize, so that any potential lasting damage can be potentially undone or healed.
Speaking of Christian leaders or influential people...
Q Who has influenced us most with their words: your mother or your Sunday School teacher?
An = Let them answer and then add: this admonition is for teachers but it also for us as parents. Let us remember that we are very
powerful people. Words are very powerful! Very powerful and important people have to be careful how they talk. Everyone watches them. You are the
most important person in the world to your children or friends, whether you realize it or not.
IV. Bridling the Tongue: James 2:3-8.
>>>> Have someone read James 2:3-5.
Note: We have some examples given here to illustrate James' point in the preceding verses.
Q What are the three examples James uses?
An = Bits in the mouths of horses
The small rudder that guides a huge ship
The affect a small spark can have in igniting a forest fire
Q What do these three illustrations have in common?
An = Something small controls so much. James is saying that like these three illustrations, the tongue, though such a small part of
the body, can control and influence so much more than its small size would lead one to expect.
>>>> Have someone read James 2:6-8.
Q According to these verse is the tongue dangerous?
An = It is as dangerous as fire. Potentially releasing a world of evil among all parts of the body. It can corrupt the whole person and
set the whole course of one's life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.
James words are frightening, and he meant them to be frightening. Remember, James loves his audience, and he sees the potential danger
and destruction that our tongue and thus words can have.
Q Have any of you ever thought of what comes out of your mouth in this way?
An = After their answer share with them Ephesians 4:29. Perhaps let them turn to Ephesians and read it with you: "Do not let any
unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen."
Q Has someone's tongue poisoned you; or have you ever `poisoned' someone with your tongue?
An = Let them answer. (If no one answers, then I expect most of us as leaders have been on one end or the other during the course of
our lives. Give an example, and do not worry about your reputation, only God's matters.
Note: An example of what the tongue can do. When the Israelites were outside the Promised Land and heard that the Canaanites were
strong, they started to grumble and complain. All that negative talk changed the course of the work of God! They spent 40 years in the wilderness. On
the one hand, we can stop what God wants our church to be by our tongues: mumbling and grumbling amongst ourselves. On the other hand, we can look
for what God wants for us. Let's not have to spend extended time in the wilderness as a church, let's not lose out on His blessing by our uncontrolled
V. Our Two-faced Tongue: James 3:9-12.
>>>> Have someone read James 3:9-12.
Q What point is being made in these verses?
An = Our tongue has both positive and negative potential. Verse 10 says "out of the same mouth comes praise and cursing."
Q What does James want us to stop doing at the end of verse 10?
An = James wants us to stop this inconsistency. Remember, we talked last week about a specific, physical response, by faith, of
obedience to God? What if what we offered God this week is our tongue. Let us work, struggle, and pray to eliminate gossip from our mouths. If we
could physically stop our tongues and submit our actual words to Him, we could eliminate so much evil in our church.
Note: Jesus Christ Himself tells us in Matthew 15:11: "What goes into a man's mouth does not make him `unclean', but what comes out of
his mouth, that is what makes him `unclean'." We would never come to church or Dorcas Guild `dirty'. In our Lord's eyes, what could make us dirty is
what could come out of our mouths if we gossip or lie.
Q What is the purpose of the comparisons noted in verses 11 and 12?
An = We cannot be two different or two opposite things.
What comes out of our mouths reflects what is in our hearts. A fig tree cannot bear olives. We will not always say and do the right thing,
but our desire should be that our speech (and actions) should reflect our Christianity. We cannot act and speak like a non-believer and yet profess to be a
believer. Our lifestyle will reflect what we really are.
A good test is to see what comes out of our mouths when we are upset or angry. Often that shows where the heart really is. If we
repeatedly cannot control our tongues, we must examine our faith. Are we really believers? If we are not believers, real believers, then we need to ask
God to forgive us and convert us. He will.
If we know we are believers, then let's use our tongues to spread the love of God and talk about all the good we know of others (yes even
those we dislike have good points). The devil and his angels will spread the bad stuff, let's not work for them.