Taming the Tongue  -- Gil Rugh


Bible Study Notes
Tame the Tongue
James 3:7-12


The following text is taken from a sermon preached by Gil Rugh, Senior Pastor at Indian Hills Community Church in Lincoln, NE. The text has been edited and condensed by IHCC staff for use as a Bible Study aid.

Intro. -
James has spoken of the difficulty of controlling the tongue, emphasizing that it takes maturity in the life of a believer to prevent sinning with words (v. 2). If you bring your tongue under control, you have the ability to master your entire body.

James has also stressed the awesome potential for harm that is present in the tongue. The tongue is set on fire by hell and can start a blaze that burns beyond our control in many areas of life.

We must be careful not to allow Satan to use our tongue to start a fire - a fire that will bring devastation and destruction beyond what we can imagine.

James now proceeds to emphasize two more problems with the tongue: it is both untameable (3:7,8) and inconsistent (3:9-12).

3:7 -
For connects this verse with verses 5 and 6 to show that the tongue's potential for destruction is made even worse by the fact that it is untameable.

The word tamed means "to subdue," "curb," "subjugate." Man has the power to dominate the animal world and does so. This was God's plan in the Creation (cf. Gen. 1:26; Ps. 8:6-8).

3:8 -
In spite of his remarkable ability to control and subdue the animal world, man is unable to conquer and control his tongue.

But brings home the contrast between the control of the animals and the lack of control over the tongue.

no one - This indicates that this is not the problem of just a few. No one is able to bring his tongue under complete and continual control.

a restless evil (akatastaton) - This word was translated "unstable" in 1:8. The tongue cannot be trusted to stay submissively where it belongs. It is a caged animal looking for an opportunity to break forth.

full of deadly poison - This picture is drawn from the Old Testament (cf. Ps. 58:3,4; 140:3).

Again the devastating power of destruction present in the tongue is evident. It has power to destroy. James now turns to show the shocking inconsistency of the tongue.

3:9 -
bless (eulogeo) means "to speak well of" or "to praise."

To curse would involve speaking against someone, using abusive speech.

made in the likeness of God (cf. Gen. 1:26; Ps. 8:4-8) - Man is a personal being, created to have fellowship with God and to exercise authority over all creation. The Fall has marred this image but has not destroyed it. This is what gives every person significance and worth. Man is different and distinct from the animals. He reflects the person of God.

3:10 -
How inconsistent that we should use the same tongue to praise God, the Lord and Father, and curse man who is like his Creator. I must see every person as of infinite value and worth because he is made in the image of God.

My brethren indicates his love and concern for them.

3:11,12 -
Several illustrations from nature demonstrate that there must be consistency in what is produced. This again reflects Matthew 7:16-20.

It is clear that when James says "no one can tame the tongue" (3:8) he still expects the tongue to be brought under control so that it functions consistently with the character of the person.

To control the tongue we must begin with the heart (cf. Matt. 12:34; 15:18,19; Luke 6:45). Since the mouth speaks out of what fills the heart, we control the tongue by controlling what fills the heart.

Joseph Parker, a great preacher of the last century said, "It is vain to attempt to tame the tongue until the heart has been subdued."

We must begin with a new heart (cf. Jer. 17:9). God promised Israel if they would believe in Him, He would give them a new heart (cf. Ezek. 18:31; 36:26).

When a person comes to believe in Christ, he is made a new person (cf. 2 Cor. 5:17).

As new people we must be careful as to what fills our hearts and minds (cf. Phil, 4:8).

Note the contrast between the works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit (cf. Gal. 5:19-23).

The contrast between the tongue of the righteous and the tongue of the wicked is seen often in the Book of Proverbs (cf. Prov, 10:20; 12:18; 13:3; 15:1-4).

Two questions must be asked in regard to our words:

  1. What do your words say about your heart?
  2. Have you received a new heart through faith in Christ?
Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible, © Lockman Foundation 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977. All quotations used by permission.

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Permission was received from Indian Hills Community Church for the posting of this file on Bible Bulletin Board. Our gratitude to the Holy Spirit for leading Pastor Gil Rugh to preach/teach messages that are bold, and doctrinally sound—they are so needful to this generation.

Tony Capoccia
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