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Summary: One way to organize this passage is to divide it into three primary sections. First we see James deal with the pride of speech (vv. 1-2a). Second he deals with the power of speech (vv. 2b-5a). Lastly, he deals with the perversion of speech (vv. 5b-12).

How To Put Out the Fire of the Tongue (Part 1)

James 3:1-5a

Preached by Pastor Tony Miano

Pico Canyon Community Church

April 29, 2001

Introduction: My girls and I have begun a new hobby of sorts. We’re researching our family tree. I had an opportunity a couple of weeks ago—in fact, it was Easter Sunday—to go through some old papers I had in storage. Among the documents, school assignments and the like were my elementary school report cards.

As I looked at my first grade report card, I reflected on the fact that my Grandfather, my Father, and I all sat in the same first grade classroom—Room #2 of Lyndora Elementary School. I looked at the “Scholarship” section of the report card and showed my daughters that daddy got straight “A’s” for the last three reporting periods. Reading, writing, and mathematics were the only three grade categories. Boy, that was a long time ago. I gave them a short little speech on how important good grades are to their future. They smiled and listened intently. But they had this look on their face that said, “Oh-oh—Daddy’s getting revved-up. I think there’s a sermon coming.”

Then my eye caught the section of the report card entitled “Citizenship and Personality Development.” I had to laugh as I saw the check marks in the small boxes that represented areas of behavior where I needed work. Now my daughters were really interested. “What’s so funny, Dad?” They asked.

I opened up the report card so they could see and pointed to the section entitled “Social Attitudes.” I pointed to #7 on the list and showed them how many check marks I received in “listens attentively without interrupting.”

Each grading period had a check mark, accept the last one. Instead of a check mark, my teacher, Mrs. Martsoff, simply wrote these words along the side of the report card. “He’s working at it.” Even though I was only six years old, I think she resigned herself to the fact that being talkative would be a character trait that would stay with me for a long time. If Mrs. Martsoff could only see me now!

My speech has gotten me into trouble over the years and it has gotten me out of trouble as well. The tongue is a very influential, powerful, and dangerous tool in the hands of man. This morning, as we begin to study James 3:1-12, we’ll see what James has to say about this small but mighty weapon. In the process, let’s see if we can’t come up with some ways to put out the fire of the tongue. Follow along as I read James 3:1-12.

This passage of Scripture has been divided and subdivided in several different ways. For our study this morning, probably the most manageable way to organize this passage is to divide it into three primary sections. First we see James deal with the pride of speech (vv. 1-2a). Second he deals with the power of speech (vv. 2b-5a). Lastly, he deals with the perversion of speech (vv. 5b-12).

I had originally planned to study these first twelve verses in James 3, in one message, but there is just too much meat. The topic is too important for us to just peruse the passage. For those of you who have been worshiping with us for a while, I hope you’ve realized that we believe our time in the Word is precious.

The success of our time in the Word cannot be gauged by how much material we cover, but how well we understand, truly understand, the Scripture we study—not acquiring knowledge for knowledge’s sake, but so we can apply it to our lives and be equipped to live by faith, to be like Christ, and to glorify God in all things. With that said, we’ll begin our study of this passage by looking at verses 1-5a this morning, and finish the passage next week.

The Pride of Speech

Let’s start by taking a look at the pride of speech. How many of you have seen the modern-day Christmas classic, “A Christmas Story?” It’s a great movie about one family’s Christmas season and a little boy’s mission to receive the Cadillac of BB guns as a present. The Miano family watches this movie every year. Whenever I see the scene of Ralphie being forced to try on the bunny pajamas, I think of the purple turtleneck sweaters my grandmother would get me every year. I hated those sweaters—and I had to wear them whenever grandma came over.

The movie is filled with scenes that will take you back to the nostalgia of your childhood. Another such scene is one in which the tongue plays a prominent role. The scene involves Ralphie, whose adult counterpart narrates the entire movie, and Ralphie’s friends, Flick and Schwartz.

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