Summary: This message shows the power of discipline in a believer's life.

James 3:3 KJV Behold, we put bits in the horses' mouths, that they may obey us; and we turn about their whole body.


A. General on the Tongue

One of the old Puritan divines of London had a woman to once tell him that the sleeves on the coat he preached in were too long. In fact, she told him that it annoyed her and with his permission would like to cut them shorter. Confident that he would allow her to do so, she had brought her shears from home to do the job.

The minister gave in and handed her his coat and she shortened them to her taste and returned the coat back to her. As he was putting on the jacket, he thanked her and said, “Now my good woman there is something about you that is altogether too long and which has annoyed me for a good long time and since one good turn deserves another, I would like permission to shorten it.”

“Certainly,” said the woman, “you have permission to do so and here are the shears.” The pastor then said to her, “Very well, madam, put out your tongue!”

-Your tongue can get you in trouble!

None was better at insults than Winston Churchill, who had no love affair with Lady Astor. Actually, the feeling was mutual. On one occasion she found the great statesman rather obviously inebriated in a hotel elevator. With cutting disgust, she snipped, “Sir Winston, you are drunk!” to which he replied, “M’lady, you are ugly. Tomorrow I will be sober.” That is the classic example of how not to handle an insult.

On another occasion, Winston Churchill and Lady Astor engaged in a verbal sparring when she told him, “If I were your wife, I’d put arsenic in your tea.” He responded, “If I were your husband, I’d drink it.”

-Those two examples are obviously what NOT to say in these kinds of situations.

-The full context of the third chapter of James has to do with the tongue.

B. Quotes on the Tongue

Quarles—Give not thy tongue too great liberty, lest it take thee prisoner. A word unspoken is like a sword in the scabbard, it is thine. If vented, thy sword is in another’s hand. If thou desire to be wise, be so wise as to hold thy tongue.

Justin—By examining the tongue, physicians find out diseases of the body; and philosophers, the diseases of the heart and mind.

C. Biblical References on the Tongue

Proverbs 15:2 KJV The tongue of the wise useth knowledge aright: but the mouth of fools poureth out foolishness.

Proverbs 15:4 KJV A wholesome tongue is a tree of life: but perverseness therein is a breach in the spirit.

Proverbs 21:23 KJV Whoso keepeth his mouth and his tongue keepeth his soul from troubles.

Proverbs 25:23 KJV The north wind driveth away rain: so doth an angry countenance a backbiting tongue.

Isaiah 3:8 KJV For Jerusalem is ruined, and Judah is fallen: because their tongue and their doings are against the LORD, to provoke the eyes of his glory.


-But there is a further principle that the apostle interjects for all of us here today and that is this—there are wild horses within that we have to deal with. The wild, untamed impulses of human nature have to find it submitted to the hand of God before it will ever be useful for anything.

-The apostle apparently knew that there are problems imbedded in the human heart and apparently he knew something of the fact that sometimes desire can create turbulence in the mind. He even knew of the conflicts of the soul. I gather this from reading in James 4.

James 4:1-3 KJV From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? [2] Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. [3] Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.

-From Moffatt’s translation, it reads like this:

James 4:1-3 Moffatt NT Where do conflicts, where do wrangles come from, in your midst? Is it not from these passions of yours that war among your members? [2] You crave, and miss what you want: you envy and covet, but you cannot acquire: you wrangle and fight — you miss what you want because you do not ask God for it; [3] you do ask and you do not get it, because you ask with the wicked intention of spending it on your pleasures.

-The Message by Eugene Peterson gives it like this:

James 4:1-3 MSG Where do you think all these appalling wars and quarrels come from? Do you think they just happen? Think again. They come about because you want your own way, and fight for it deep inside yourselves. [2] You lust for what you don't have and are willing to kill to get it. You want what isn't yours and will risk violence to get your hands on it. You wouldn't think of just asking God for it, would you? [3] And why not? Because you know you'd be asking for what you have no right to. You're spoiled children, each wanting your own way.

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