Saturday, February 24, 2018

Taming the Tongue—James 3:1–12

Tuesday, February 18, 2014, 23:54
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[Editor’s Note – Sabbath School Lessons writer the Rev. Dr. L. Robert LaMay joined the ranks of Christ’s good and faithful servants on 29 December 2013 when he passed from this world into the arms of his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Please pray for the Christian Observer as we, D.V., strive to provide the same quality of Reformed Sabbath School lessons as Dr. LaMay did so well for so many years.]


Taming the Tongue

February 23, 2014

Lesson: James 3:1–12

Key Verse: James 3:10


The Self-Righteous Tongue (James 3:1–2)

The self-righteous, judgmental person will be judged to the same degree and standard by God. “My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation. For in many things we sin all.” (James 3:1–2a) “Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven.” (Luke 6:37) “And forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors. (Matthew 6:12)

The person whose words are measured demonstrates spiritual maturity and sanctification. “If any man sin not in word, he is a perfect man, and able to bridle all the body.” (James 3:2b)


The Small, but Powerful, Tongue (James 3:3–5)

James, through examples, shows that “great matters may be brought to pass by the good moderation of the tongue.” [1599 Geneva Bible Comments] “Behold, we put bits into the horses’ mouths, that they should obey us, and we turn about all their body. Behold also the ships, which though they be so great, and are driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small rudder, whithersoever the governor listeth.” (James 3:3–4)

The tongue, though tiny, can precipitate great trouble. “Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth of great things: behold, how great a thing a little fire kindleth.” (James 3:5)


The Wicked Tongue (James 3:6–8)

“The tongue “is a material fitted for receiving, fostering, and increasing the fire of hell.” [Calvin] “And the tongue is fire, yea, a world of wickedness: so is the tongue set among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature, and it is set on fire of hell.” (James 3:6)

The wicked tongue cannot be restrained. “For the whole nature of beasts, and of birds, and of creeping things, and things of the sea is tamed, and hath been tamed of the nature of man. But the tongue can no man tame. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.” (James 3:7–8) [“Since then the tongue cannot be restrained, there must be some secret fire of hell hidden in it…the tongue is full of deadly poison…no part of man does more harm.” – Calvin]


The Duplicitous Tongue (James 3:9–12)

With the tongue, we both bless our Creator and curse what is made in God’s image. “Therewith bless we God even the Father, and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. Out of one mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing: my brethren, these things ought not so to be.” (James 3:9–10)

“God hath so arranged things which are contrary, that inanimate things ought to deter us from a chaotic mixture, such as is found in a double tongue.” [Calvin] “Doth a fountain send forth at one place sweet water and bitter? Can the fig tree, my brethren, bring forth olives, either a vine figs? So can no fountain make both salt water and sweet.” (James 3:11–12)

Jesus Christ condemned the double tongue, and said that the tongue reflects one’s heart. “O generations of vipers, how can you speak good things, when ye are evil? For of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.” (Matthew 12:34)

God, long before, defined the underlying problem: man’s total depravity. “The heart is deceitful and wicked above all things, who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)

[“He, then, who truly worships and honors God, will be afraid to speak slanderously of men.” – Calvin]



  • What are the dangers of an unbridled tongue that James warns us about?

  • What can we do, under the direction of the Holy Spirit, to further tame our tongues?


Lessons are based on the International Sunday School Lessons for Christian Teaching, copyright © 2014 by the Committee on the Uniform Series.

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