Summary: Having learned about having a wholly devoted mind and heart, we now address what it means to have a wholly devoted tongue.


A. If your tongue has ever gotten you into trouble, then please raise your hand.

1. Turn to your neighbor and say, “I’m not surprised!”

2. We are not surprised, because it happens to all of us.

3. All of us have had the experience of saying something, and then wishing we had not said it!

B. I remember arriving at church during my ministry in El Dorado, Arkansas many years ago.

1. I walked into the kitchen and saw my friend and brother in Christ standing there with an unusual expression on his face.

2. Not thinking…(that’s a key)…I said, “What’s with the funny expression on your face?”

3. He said, “I have Bells Palsy – half of my face is temporarily paralyzed.

4. I felt terrible for his condition and that he had to put up with an idiot like me!

C. I also remember a time when I was guest preaching at a church in California.

1. We arrived early and one of the first men I met was a super friendly man.

2. He said, “My name is Bob, but I spell it different from other Bobs.”

3. I don’t know what came over me or where this came from, but I quickly blurted out, “Do you spell your name with 2 ‘O’s?”

4. Dejectedly, he said, “No, I spell my name backwards” and he walked away.

5. When I think about it now, I feel terrible, but at the time I mostly felt proud of my quick wit – how foolish I can be!

D. Oh, how our tongues get us into trouble!

1. If my mother said it once, she said it a thousand times, “THINK BEFORE YOU SPEAK!”

2. Every day, you and I speak thousands of words.

3. That is a lot of opportunity for us to say the wrong thing, am I right about it?

4. Someone once wisely said, “A closed mouth gathers no foot.”

E. Today, we continue our sermon series “Wholly Devoted – Serving God with All We Are and Have.”

1. So far we have considered how to have a wholly devoted mind and heart, and now we turn our attention to having a wholly devoted tongue.

2. As you might expect, the Bible has a lot to say about the proper use of our tongue and our words.

3. The words “tongue, mouth and lips” appear hundreds of times in the Bible.

4. Some of the times those words are used they don’t have anything to do with our speech and the things we say, but most of the time they do.

5. Today, we want to explore why it’s important to have a wholly devoted tongue and how to bring our tongue under control so that it can be wholly devoted to God.

F. The two biblical books that talk a lot about the tongue are Proverbs and James. Here are some of my favorite verses from Proverbs about the tongue:

1. When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise. (Prov. 10:19)

2. He who guards his lips guards his life, but he who speaks rashly will come to ruin. (Prov. 13:3)

3. The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit. (Prov. 18:21)

4. Aren’t those great verses? They are full of so much truth.

5. Those verses emphasize the fact that the tongue has power to do great good or great evil.

6. Those who learn to hold their tongue are wise and are protected.

7. But those who speak too much or too rashly will come to ruin, and none of us want to experience that!

F. The book of James devotes almost all of chapter 3 to the tongue.

1. However, before we arrive at chapter 3, we notice that James addressed the tongue in chapter 1.

2. In James 1:19 he wrote, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry…” Quick/Slow/Slow – that is great advice!

3. Then a few verses later, he wrote, “If anyone considers himself to be religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.” (1:26)

4. Allow the force of those words to sink in…if we do not keep a tight rein on our tongues, then our religion is worthless.

5. James wants us to understand just how destructive and nullifying the tongue can be.

6. The negative influence of the tongue can override an otherwise godly life.

7. So, let’s see what points James makes in chapter three about the tongue, and then let’s work on some practical steps for taming the tongue and making it wholly devoted to God.

I. Truths About The Tongue

A. James makes three pronouncements about the tongue here in chapter three.

B. First, James says that the TONGUE IS SMALL, BUT POWERFUL.

1. He perfectly illustrates his point with three common realities.

2. First, he reminds us of the fact that very large horses are controlled by a very small bit.

a. As you know, horses are incredibly powerful, many of them weigh as much as 2000 pounds.

b. Yet, even a small child can control and direct a horse by the small bit that is placed in a horses mouth and is connected to the reigns.

c. The secret of the bit is the fact that it is placed in one of the horses most sensitive places.

d. Have you ever had a small child put a finger or two in your mouth and tug? It hurts!

e. That’s the principle of the bit.

3. The second word picture that illustrates his point is that a large ship that is steered by a small rudder.

a. Those who have been in the Navy know all about naval ships.

b. Some of you have been on cruise ships.

c. These boats are floating cities, hundreds of feet long, thousands of tons, yet they are steered by a small rudder in comparison to their size.

4. The third picture he wants to come to our minds is that fact that a small spark can start a large fire.

a. Fortunately, our climate is wet enough that we don’t experience too many forest fires.

b. This year was an especially dry year and so there were there were many forest fires out West.

c. Year to date, there have been over 46,000 fires that have consumed over 8 million acres.

d. Often these fires start by one careless cigarette tossed out the window of a passing car, or one campfire left unattended, or by one strike of lightening.

e. Just like the old devotional song…it only takes a spark to get a fire going!

5. So, what is James’ point? The tongue is only a small part of the body, but it causes all kinds of trouble!

6. Pound for pound, the tongue is very small, but it is oh so powerful.


1. Back to the illustration of fire…It only takes a small spark, but once a fire gets going it is almost impossible to stop – fires are unpredictable and uncontrollable.

2. James then mentions the fact that we have tamed many kinds of wild animals, and we all enjoy seeing them at the circus. Whether it is the tigers, or the elephants.

3. He said, we can tame them, but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

4. With that, I picture a poisonous snake on the loose.

5. The tongue is uncontrollably dangerous, it can set the whole course of a person’s life on fire.

6. It can and does destroy – reputations, families, and futures.

D. The third pronouncement that James makes about the tongue is the TONGUE IS TERRIBLY INCONSISTENT.

1. He says, “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be.” (3:9-10)

2. How tragic it is that we can be using our tongue to praise God in worship, and then 10 minutes later we can be using our tongue to demoralize our child in the car, or we can be criticizing or gossiping about someone in the congregation.

3. Our tongues are terribly inconsistent, and James declares “My brothers, this should not be!”

4. Then he asks a couple of rhetorical questions – “Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? Can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs?” (3:11-12)

5. Well what’s the answer to the questions? Everyone say, “Of course not, silly!”

6. If the spring yields salt water, it will always yield salt water.

7. Apple trees don’t bear oranges, and visa versa.

8. James’ challenge for us is to be more consistent with our tongues.

9. If we are going to be God’s wholly devoted people then the use of our tongues must consistently be godly and good.

E. So these are the truths about the tongue that James brought to our attention, and I think that we would all agree that our experience is consistent with his assessment.

1. The tongue is small, but powerful. The tongue is uncontrollably dangerous. And it is terribly inconsistent.

2. How should we respond to this reality? Should we give up and give in to the negative power of the tongue? Of course not.

3. God wants us to learn to have a wholly devoted tongue, and with his help we can.

4. Why else would he give us so many commands in other parts of the Bible about proper speech if there is not the possibility that we can learn to control our tongues?

5. But we can only do it with God’s help.

II. God’s Description of a Wholly Devoted Tongue

A. We could spend a lot of time in this lesson dwelling on all the bad things we have said and how we have hurt others with our words, but that would be unprofitable.

1. What we need to do is to focus on how we can do better in the future.

2. So, let’s spend a few minutes thinking about the proper and improper uses of the tongue.

B. First, let’s talk about the Improper Use of the Tongue

1. Paul taught in Eph. 4:29, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs.”

2. So, what kinds of things should we avoid?

3. First, We should avoid profanity and vulgar speech.

a. This is one area where we can really stand out in contrast with the world around us.

b. Everyday speech has become so filthy and people’s vocabulary so limited.

c. I like what “Peanuts” cartoonist Charles Shultz said on this point, “I have a strong dislike for vulgar phrases and find that terms like “good grief” and “rats” will cover virtually anything that happens.”

4. Second, We should avoid complaining and arguing.

a. This is one of those things that God really detests.

b. Listening to some people you would think that complaining and arguing are sports that you can letter in. You know what I mean?

c. Paul wrote, “Do everything without complaining or arguing, 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…” (Phil. 2:14-15)

d. Again, we see that we can stand out by the proper use of the tongue.

5. Third, We should avoid gossip and slander.

a. Prov. 29:19 says, “A gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid a man who talks too much.”

b. So much damage is done in the church when people talk about others.

c. I think this is one of Satan’s most effective tools to destroy the church.

d. Before we say anything about anyone we should stop and ask ourselves, “why am I about to talk about this person?”

6. Fourth, We should avoid lying.

a. I don’t think I need to say much about that – we all know that lying is wrong.

b. But we do need to watch for the subtle forms of lying – like giving false impressions and half truths.

7. Fifth, We should avoid negative speech that criticizes and tears people down.

a. There is a time for correction and constructive criticism, but it must be approached wisely and with a lot of love and gentleness.

C. So, now with the things to avoid in mind, what are the proper uses of the wholly devoted tongue?

1. First, We should use our tongue for praise, prayer, confession and thanksgiving.

2. Second, We should use our tongue for teaching others the love of God and Word of God.

3. Third, We should use our tongue to encourage and build others up according to their needs.

a. Solomon said in Prov. 25:11, “A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.” (you talk about something beautiful, valuable and helpful!)

b. Proverbs 12:25 says, “An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up.”

III. Helpful Strategies for a Wholly Devoted Tongue

A. You might be thinking, “Okay, David, I know the wrong and right uses of the tongue, but the problem is I can’t control my tongue. Can you give me some help about the ‘How To’ of controlling my tongue?”

1. Let me start by pointing out that you actually can control your tongue.

2. When you know that you should watch what you say, you in fact do hold your tongue.

a. If you are terribly frustrated and angry with your boss, you are very careful about what you say and how you say it. Right?

b. If you are pulled over by a police officer and are very upset about it, you are very careful about what you say and how you say it.

c. There are things that you will say to someone at home or in the car that you would never say in front of others at the store or at church.

d. So you do control your tongue – some times.

3. Unfortunately, what happens is we get into a habit of not guarding our speech in certain settings and with certain individuals.

4. We get into the habit of exploding with angry and cruel words, with awful expressions and horrendous tones and then we say that we can’t control it.

5. The truth of the matter is we choose not to control it and it becomes a hard habit to break.

B. Let me offer some things that I find helpful.

1. First, Ask God for Help. Throughout the day, pray for the ability to control the tongue.

2. Second, Be Slow to Speak. We need to delay our response. Give ourselves a few seconds to weigh our words.

a. Here is an acrostic I came across: T-H-I-N-K. Think before you speak. Think about:

T – is it True?

H – Is it Helpful?

I – Is it Inspiring?

N – Is it Necessary?

K – Is it Kind?

b. I read about one person who was not allowed to talk for 6 months, and so all communication had to be on paper. The person reported that so much was left

un-communicated because having to put it on paper caused them to see how unimportant or hurtful it was.

c. Solomon says, “He who holds his tongue is wise.” (Prov. 10:19)

d. Someone said, “There is nothing wrong with having nothing to say; unless you say it!”

3. Third, Have Heart Surgery if Necessary.

a. Jesus taught, “For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Mt. 12:34; 15:19)

b. If we don’t want awful stuff coming out of our mouths, then we need God’s help to get the awful stuff out of our hearts.

c. The good news is that Jesus specializes in heart transplants – that’s what we talked about last week.

4. Finally, Remember We Will Meet Our Words in the Judgment.

a. Jesus said, “But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Mt. 12:36-37)

b. That is sobering and is a safeguard.

C. Perhaps as we end this lesson you need to do something positive with your tongue.

1. Maybe you need to ask God for help.

2. Maybe you need to make a confession and ask God or others for forgiveness.

3. Maybe you need to express thanksgiving to the Lord for something.

4. Maybe you need to confess your faith in Jesus and be baptized into Him.

D. May God help each one of us to have a wholly devoted tongue.

1. The tongue has the power of life and death, may we use it only to bring life and bring glory to God!

2. Let’s commit ourselves to only speaking life.