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Lesson 15: Real Faith Controls the Tongue - Part 2

James 3:6-8

We saw that James exhorted us about our tongues through the picture of the bridled horse and the ship’s rudder. He drove home that the tongue needs to be controlled and directed, as a bridle controls the horse and a rudder directs the ships path. And we realized both needed someone to control the reigns and steer the ship. In our spiritual life the person of the Holy Spirit is who we can yield to and rely on to accomplish this work in our lives.

Today I want to emphasize, using other scripture passage, the significance of the tongue setting the course of our life, as it is stated in James 3:6.

Let’s read James 3:6-8

We have briefly touched on the truth that our tongue is like a fire that can ignite a whole forest fire. Just as one spark from a fire if uncontained can be very costly, so can a spark from our tongue. An uncontrolled tongue can bring great destruction. James finishes verse 6 by saying that the corrupt tongue can set the whole course of our life on fire being itself set on fire by hell, corrupting not just our tongue, but the whole person. It is untrustworthy and destructive when uncontrolled by the fire of the Holy Spirit!

Who controls your tongue? The fire of hell or the fire of the Holy Spirit?

James goes on to state that man can tame all kinds of wild animals, but he cannot tame his own tongue. Have you got his point? We need somebody else to do it for us! In fact he keeps going on and says the tongue is just a restless evil, full of deadly poison! The natural man or human nature cannot bridle the tongue, yet he is calling us to bridle our tongue. This requires faith in a living God. So the one who bridles his tongue gives evidence that his faith is real!

Proverbs 18:21 states that the tongue has the power of life and death. 

A runaway horse or ship will wreak havoc. A fire will destroy. Poison will bring death. But a bridled horse, a steered ship, or a controlled fire, can bring life. The controlled tongue will bring life. The controlled tongue can direct the whole course of someone’s life or even the work of God. 

A judge’s words of guilty or not guilty can direct someone’s whole life. 

A mother’s gentle answer can turn away wrath. (Proverbs 15:1) 

Let’s just take a few minutes to look at some biblical evidences of this truth. The controlled tongue can direct the whole course of someone’s life or the work of God and see some principles of how we can use our tongue.

First at Life-giving words:


John 4:4-42 Think about the words of Jesus to the woman at the well…

a Samaritan woman who was considered unclean by the Jews. Jesus should never have spoken to her, but he drew her into conversation by asking for a drink of water and from there he told her about the living water. He told her he knew about her many husbands, essentially that she was living in sin now...and she acknowledged he was the Christ and told everybody else…John 4:39-42. Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’ testimony! Words that brought life to a single woman and then many others. Jesus didn’t cut her off our cut her our. He was open and caring and kind. What is the attitude and outcome of our conversations?

John 8: 11 Another time the words of Jesus brought life and not condemnation to woman caught in adultery. When by Jewish law she should have been stoned, Jesus could find no one who was sinless and could cast the first stone. He then turns to the woman and says "Go now and leave your life of sin." He did not condemn her, but offered her hope and forgiveness is she would turn from her sin. What are our words like – judgmental of others sin – condemning them or offering forgiveness and hope? What do we offer others by our words?

Acts 2 Look at Peter’s words at Pentecost in. Impulsive Peter preached a sermon when the Holy Spirit got a hold of him, setting him on fire with passion for the Lord. He explained who Jesus was and the people asked, "what should we do?" He called them to repentance. He warned them of the corrupt generation they lived in. And 3000 were added to the church that day! Peter offered words of explanation and truth. Do we?

My own life’s example: I was in a conversation with a friend about the boycott of Proctor and Gamble products because of their promotion of the gay agenda. Let me tell you I have used Crest toothpaste since I’ve been a kid. I like the taste. And I was communicating all of this, implying that I just couldn’t give up my Crest toothpaste! Rather than the friend condemning me for not doing it she said, "Oh, you can do it!!" Ever since then, I haven’t bought any Proctor and Gamble products. Those words of encouragement, rather than condemnation really motivated me! Do our words motivate others?

How about some examples of the use of people’s tongues bringing death and not life – death-bearing words.

Philippians 2:14 states that we should "do everything without complaining or arguing." And there is a reason. Verse 15-16 says "so that you may become blameless and pure children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life…" This echoes the reason in James for us to control our tongue– to become whole. Complaining can truly affect an individual’s life, but also the work of God. This is illustrated to us in the book of Numbers concerning the nation of Israel. In Numbers 13 the nation of Israel sent 12 spies into the Promise Land to explore the land. Ten of the spies came back afraid of what they saw and it ended up all the Israelites began complaining or grumbling (Numbers 14:2), saying God delivered us from Egypt to destroy us now. They even wanted to go back to Egypt! Joshua and Caleb spoke and said don’t rebel against the Lord, don’t be afraid, but they would have nothing to do with it. The Lord judged them and none who were 20 years or older except Joshua and Caleb would see the promise land. They would wander for forty years in the wilderness and die there. Talk about the consequences of complaining or grumbling directing the work of God! We must take time to look at the source of complaining. Is it fear like the Israelites? Or rebellion? Not getting what you want or your own way? So you complain?

What about gossip affecting an individual or the work of God? The meaning of the word gossip in the scripture is whisperer. So for me that means I need to check my conversation if I am being careful who is around when I am talking or turn my back so someone can’t hear what I say.

The dictionary defines it as idle talk or rumors, especially about the affairs of others. It could be identified as chit-chat or dirt.

Let’s look at just three verses in Proverbs that give us an understanding about gossip.

Proverbs 11:13 says a gossip betrays a confidence.

Proverbs 16:28 states that gossip separates close friends.

Proverbs 26:20 says without gossip a quarrel dies down. There is no fuel to the fire! Gossip just permeates the whole house, like the smoke of a fire.

The other picture I often hear used is that gossip is like shaking a feather pillow. The feathers go all over the place and you can never pick them all up and put them back in the pillow. Something is left behind. So it is with gossip. Something is left behind, even if there is an attempt to correct the sin. So it is better not to start! 

Proverbs 12:23 begins by saying a prudent man keeps his knowledge to himself.

The controlled tongue can direct the whole course of someone’s life or the work of God.

Colossians 4:6 exhorts us in this area of our tongue. It has been helpful to me. "Let you conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone." Through God’s grace we did not receive what we deserved which was condemnation for our sin. We received life through God’s grace given to us in Jesus. Our words can also bring life by being full of grace. Salt preserves and seasons. Our words can do the same thing. Are relationships being preserved by your conversations?

Titus 3: 5b says, "He (Jesus) saved us through the washing of the rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ or Savior." We have the outpouring of the Holy Spirit into our lives. There is forgiveness and empowerment through Jesus and the Holy Spirit to become mature in the control of our tongue, giving evidence to what we believe!