The General Epistle of James (Part 15)

vs. 3-12. A. James continues his discourse on the government of the tongue by rich illustrations of observable things and phenomena. 1. The controlled tongue means a controlled body. JAM 3:2. 2. The uncontrolled tongue defiles the whole body. v. 6 c/w ECC 5:6; MAT 15:17-20. a. Sinful passions of the heart when vented by the tongue can empower bodily sins. b. (1CO 15:33) Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners. 3. What is said here about the tongue's influence upon man's natural body to a limited extent would also apply to the spiritual body of the church. a. Consider how spoken heresies can cause schism in the church. 1CO 11:18-19. b. Consider the damage that whispering, backbiting, talebearing, etc. can do to the fellowship of the church. PRO 16:28 c/w PRO 6:19. B. James sets forth three examples of little things that affect great things. 1. The entire body of the horse is turned by a small bit in its mouth. v. 3. a. David said, “...I will take heed to my ways, that I sin not with my tongue: I will keep my mouth with a bridle, while the wicked is before me” (PSA 39:1). b. Remember that the unbridled tongue “vanitizes” one's religion. JAM 1:26. 2. A great ship is turned by a very small helm. v. 4. a. Mind that the helm can still turn the ship in spite of being driven with fierce winds. b. Similarly, the controlled tongue can steer our bodies in spite of the powerful forces James 8-24-14 Page 35 that try to overwhelm them. 3. A little fire can kindle a great matter. v. 5. a. Fire is a good servant in the hearth, but a terrible master when loose in the rest of the house. b. So is the tongue: a blessing when controlled, but a curse when not. c. Unlike the bit and the helm which are inherently benign instruments, fire is an ever destructive potential. It is fire that James uses to describe the tongue. v. 6. (1) The tongue is a fire capable of destroying ourselves and others. PRO 16:27. (2) It is “...a world of iniquity.” Here is a limited, particular world. [a] A world of iniquity sprang from Satan's lie. GEN 3:4-6. [b] Balaam's counsel corrupted Israel. NUM 31:16. [c] Absalom stole the hearts of Israel with his words. 2SAM 15:2-6. [d] Men are enticed to sin with words. DEU 13:6; PRO 1:10-14; 7:21. [e] Men divide churches with their tongues. ROM 16:17-18. [f] Men defy God with their tongues. JUDE 1:14-16. (3) It “...setteth on fire the course of nature...” [a] It ignites the passions of the natural man. EPH 2:2-3. [b] Who has not had their wrath or lust kindled by ungodly words? (4) It “ set on fire of hell.” [a] Hell is put here for Satan as heaven is put for God in MAT 21:25. [b] Satan is the father of lies (JOH 8:44) and of all sinful speech. [c] Because the tongue has such destructive power, it is appropriately said to be set on fire of hell, a place of destruction (MAT 10:28) ruled by Apollyon (the Destroyer). REV 9:11. (5) We do well to not provide fuel for the fire. PRO 26:20-21; 25:23. 4. “For who hath despised the day of small things?...” (ZEC 4:10). C. James describes the tongue as being untamable. vs. 7-8. 1. This speaks of natural taming, not miraculous taming (as when the angel shut the lions' mouths). DAN 6:22. 2. The tongue defies human government more than a lion or a serpent. It is by nature not amenable to rule or discipline. 3. It is FULL of deadly poison, a potential weapon of mass destruction. It is a deadly weapon that man cannot control. 4. It takes the power of God to bring it under control. a. What no man can tame, Christ can tame. MAR 5:4. b. Faith claims His power for victory. PHIL 4:13; 1JO 5:4. D. James condemns contradictory use of the tongue by contrasting examples in nature. At issue is the difference between blessing and cursing. vs. 9-12. 1. bless: To hold or call holy; to extol as holy, divine, gracious. 2. curse: To utter against (persons or things) words which consign, or are intended or supposed to consign, them to evil spiritual or temporal. 3. With the same tongue we bless God and curse men “...which are made after the similitude of God” (v. 9). a. Man was originally made in God's image. GEN 1:26. b. After sin entered, Adam “...begat a son in his own likeness, after his image...” (GEN 5:3). c. Man yet retains some of the image of God. GEN 9:6; 1CO 11:7. d. Becoming more Christ-like is putting on Him Who is the “ image of James 8-24-14 Page 36 [God's] person...” (HEB 1:3). COL 3:10. e. We are to bless them who curse us (ROM 12:14), and it is therefore especially inconsistent to curse brethren in Christ! c/w MAT 5:22. 4. Such inconsistency is not found in the products of plants and fountains. vs. 11-12 c/w MAT 7:16. 5. Even the blessings and cursing of the Law were hurled from different mountains. DEU 27:12-13. 6. Recall that the tongue is a gauge of the heart. MAT 12:34. a. So we ought to place the bridling of the tongue high on our list of priorities since this implies a purifying of the heart from where all sin issues spring. JAM 4:8 c/w MAT 15:17-20. b. Mastery of one's spirit makes one great. PRO 16:32. 7. The rest of this chapter addresses issues of arrogance, envy and strife which are contrary to cohesion and peace in the church. How often is the peace of the church disrupted by corrupt speech among its members! a. Let our speech be with salt, which retards corruption. COL 4:6; MAR 9:50. b. (EPH 4:29) Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. E. Here are other considerations in the government of the tongue. 1. There is a time to be silent. ECC 3:7. 2. Don't be hasty to speak. JAM 1:19; PRO 18:13; ECC 5:2-3. 3. Think before you speak. PSA 39:2-3. 4. Limit speech. PRO 10:19; 29:11 ct/w 17:28. 5. Think scripturally; speak scripturally. 1PE 4:11. 6. Don't be too rigid in judging others for errors in their speech. ECC 7:21-22; ISA 29:20-21. 7. Good words and fair speeches can be corrupt speech also. ROM 16:18; 2PE 2:18. F. The ultimate model of excellent speech and a governed tongue is the Lord Jesus Christ. PSA 45:2 c/w LUK 4:22; 1PE 2:22. G. Consider David's resolve and prayers: 1. (PSA 17:3) Thou hast proved mine heart; thou hast visited me in the night; thou hast tried me, and shalt find nothing; I am purposed that my mouth shall not transgress. 2. (PSA 141:3) Set a watch, O LORD, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips. 3. (PSA 19:14) Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.
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