Key Scripture Readings
James 3:3-3:12,  Psalm 34:11-13 Prov. 13:3, 15:28, Psalm 50:19; 34:12-14


Today, I want to give you some practical steps that will help you tame your tongue.
Your words can either bring life, or they can bring death to your spouse, your kids, your parents, your siblings, your relatives, your friends, your co-workers, and your neighbors. Our tongues can build others up, or they can tear them down

Our study will center on the Book of James.

This short book has only five chapters and is known for its practical wisdom and common sense sound bites for life.
Throughout the letter James is helping his readers learn to view their trials from God’s perspective and to resist temptation as they bridle their anger.


The church was tolerating evil, showing favoritism and participated in fighting, slander and lying about one another. They were using their tongues to destroy each other.

Someone has 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. I wonder if we’re a bit like that church today.

Read James 3:3-12

1. We’re quick to avoid murder, stealing, and drunkenness,
but we often assassinate fellow believers and leave destruction in our wake by the way we use our tongues.

Cases and issues of concern in the contemporary

2. Husbands have stabbed their wives with words that are as sharp as daggers and

3. wives have lashed out with tongues that cut and pierce.

4. Parents have devastated their kids by repeated blasts of venom.

5. Children have exploded at their parents with volleys that have leveled the family like a bomb.

6. And churches have been wiped out by wagging tongues that have sliced, diced, and chopped people to shreds.

James 1:19, 26:

“Everyone should be quick to listen,
slow to speak, and slow to become angry…
if anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight reign on his tongue,
he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.”

Let us notice how James connects sins of the tongue with sins of the body.
He does this because our words usually lead to deeds.
The hardest sins to control are the sins of the tongue

Proverbs 21:23 says “He who guards his mouth and his tongue keeps himself from calamity.”
The tongue remains hidden for the most part, but when it does make its presence known it has devastating power.

The Tongue as we may see can be:

express or repress;
release or restrain;
enlighten or obscure;
adore or abhor;
offend or befriend;
affirm or alienate;
build or belittle;
comfort or criticize;
delight or destroy;
be sincere or sinister.

In verses 3-12, James uses 6 different word pictures of the tongue to help us see how small,
yet powerful it is:

1  Bit. The first metaphor is the bit that is put into a horse’s mouth by a trainer. This relatively small piece of metal can control a very powerful animal, directing the horse to the right or left and telling him to stop. When the bit is pulled back by the rider, it presses against the horse’s tongue causing him to stop.

2  Rudder. James also compares the tongue to a rudder on a boat. Just as a small rudder can control the direction of a large liner or even an aircraft carrier, so too, the tongue can control our lives.

Both the bit and the rudder must overcome contrary forces. The bit controls the wild nature of a horse; the rudder must fight the winds and currents that would drive the ship off course.
Both the bit and the rudder must be under the control of a strong hand.

3  Fire. After talking about the power of a bit in the mouth of a horse, and the power of a small rudder to steer a large boat, James uses the image of fire in
3:5-6: “Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.

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.”

Just like a small spark can ignite an entire forest, so too words that flow out of tongues can corrupt lives and shipwreck families. Words that are unleashed without thought can significantly affect and alter lives. James is pretty strong here as he tells us that our tongues are set on fire by hell itself.

Parents, need to realize the potential their words have for destruction.
Your words can bring a form of death to your kids.
We might not even realize what our words do to our children.

When your child does something wrong, instead of saying something like,
“You’re naughty,” or
“You’re such a brat,”
why not say something like,
What you did was wrong and I don’t want you to do that again.

It’s really easy to say things to our kids that are not really true.
The tragedy is that they can very easily grow up thinking they are
naughty, or bratty, or chubby, or ugly.

Let’s try as much as to separate who they are from what they do.

How many people have we killed with our words?
Are your kids dying a slow death because of your lethal lexicon?
Is your tongue quickening to criticize?
Do your words build up or do they tear down?

4.  A dangerous animal. As important as it is to not speak death words and to instead speak words of life, we have a problem.
In verses 7-8: “All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue.

It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.”
I can’t tame my tongue.
You can’t tame your tongue.

Every dangerous animal can eventually be tamed.
We have the ability to tame ferocious beasts but can’t get hold of our tongues.

Verses 9-10 hypocritical nature of our tongues:

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness.

Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. We bless God while we blast away at others! There’s something wrong with this picture.

5.  A spring. James now draws his fifth word picture to help us see that it should be impossible for us to both bless and blast out of the same mouth.

He asks a penetrating question in verse 11: “Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring?” The image here is of a fresh, flowing stream that has both bitter water and sweet water flowing through it.

Natural springs still remain in the Middle East today. Some produce fresh water, and some produce salt water. However, none produce both. It is not possible.

6.  Fruit. The final image is that of fruit in verse 12: “My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.” We expect a fig tree to have figs on it and a grapevine to have grapes. Nature reproduces after its kind.

James is calling us to be consistent. What comes out of our mouths is a reflection of what is in our hearts.

Action Steps
I would like to give a number of action steps that would help ease the tension about tongue.

It’s not enough to just hear about how powerful our tongues are, or even just to walk away understanding a bit more about this passage. If we want to have tamed tongues, then we must put into practice what we’ve heard.

1. Read Proverbs and James.
The Book of Proverbs has 31 chapters, one for each day of the month. Why not make a decision to read a chapter each day, along with a chapter from the Book of James? After a month, you will have read through the entire book of Proverbs once and James 6 times.
Almost every chapter in Proverbs has something about the tongue:

2. Think First.
I know of a young mother who asks her kids many questions when they begin to talk. This helps her children realize that they have a choice to make.

Using the acronym
THINK, try to ask these 5 questions before you speak.

Is it True? The more you talk, the more you lie
Is it Helpful? Will your words help bring about a solution to a problem?
Is it Inspiring? Will your words build up someone?
Is it Necessary? Do we have to say anything at all? Some talk because they have to talk.
Is it Kind? Are your words based on a desire to help?

3. Talk Less.
Your chances of blowing it with your words are directly proportional to the amount of time you spend with your mouth open.

Proverbs 10:19 “When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.”

I read this week about a woman who had a very serious throat condition.
And she was advised not to speak for 6 months……….as a prescription from her doctor
Psalm 39:1, “I will watch my ways and keep my tongue from sin; I will put a muzzle on my mouth.”

4. Build up others.
The Bible continuously reminds us to encourage one another with our words. Someone has said that we shouldn’t complain about our spouse’s faults because if it weren’t for those faults they could have married someone so much better. Are we speaking words of death or words of life? Words of life energize people.

Proverbs 12:25 says, “An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up.”

5. Have Heart Surgery.
Why is it so hard to say kind things with our tongues? It’s because the Bible says that in our strength we will never tame our tongues.

Where does all the garbage come from that come out of our mouths?
Jesus gives us some insight in Matthew 12:34 and 15:19:
“For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks…for out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, lies and slander.”

God doesn’t want you to try to tame your tongue totally in your own strength. It will take more than just willpower and determination.
In its natural state, the tongue is a “restless evil”. It’s like a ferocious beast that will not be subdued and like a serpent that’s full of deadly poison.


If you want to stop using death words, and begin speaking words of life, you need a different heart. The good news is that Jesus specializes in heart transplants.

If you’ve never allowed Jesus to change you from the inside out, then it’s time for some heart surgery.

If you keep your old heart, you’ll continue to launch verbal grenades and live like you’ve always lived.
But, if you ask Jesus for a new one by turning your life over to Him, you can have a fresh start, a new beginning.

Only God can give us the power we need to build others up instead of tearing them down.
If you want to be a dispenser of life words instead of death words, you need to be rightly related to God. And, we become rightly related to God through our words.