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Summary: The Bible makes the control & proper use of the tongue a matter of great importance. The tongue is far too prone to excess, perversion & pollution. But the Christian who gains control over the tongue can control his life as well.

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JAMES 3:1-6

TAMING THE TONGUE

[Matthew 12:37, Proverbs 13:3]

The children in a prominent family decided to create for their father’s birthday a book of the family’s history. They commissioned a professional biographer to do the work, carefully warning him of the family’s "black sheep" problem: Uncle George had been executed in the electric chair for murder. The biographer assured the children, "I can handle that situation so that there will be no embarrassment. I’ll merely say that Uncle George occupied a chair of applied electronics at an important government institution. He was attached to his position by the strongest of ties and his death came as a real shock."

James has been pronouncing judgment on the separation between faith and works. In no area is this more likely than in the area of human speech. While Christians profess one thing with their speech, they often practice something quite different. Nothing is opened more by mistake than the mouth. John Calvin said "there is nothing more slippery or loose than the tongue."

The Bible makes the control and proper use of the tongue a matter of great importance. The general thought in chapter three is that another way to measure spiritual maturity is the believer’s power over his tongue. So James moves from idle faith to idle speech. Just as disturbing as those who have "faith" and no works are those who substitute words for works. Though the tongue is small, it is powerful and far too prone to excess, perversion and pollution. But the Christian who gains control over the tongue can control his life as well (CIM).

I. STRICTER JUDGMENT, 1.

II. CONTROL PRIORITY, 2.

III. DIRECTING POWER, 3-5.

IV. DEFINING POWER, 6.

The passage begins with a statement of the Christian teacher’ responsibility in verse 1. "Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment."

Again with the address my brethren James begins a new topic. The Jewish culture that predominated these churches highly prized the office of teacher. The word rabbi actually means my great one. The position of teacher offered respect, prominence, prestige and power and many sought its high honor.

Mixed motives can propel people to aspire to teach. But not many should become teachers. The reason set forth is that teachers incur greater responsibility before God and thus will incur a more severe standard of judgment. Teaching is a great and high calling but those who teach must understand their greater responsibilities and accountability due to their greater influence (Lk 20:47; Mt 23:1-33). Teachers must be careful what they say with both their words and life. They must use their tongue to share God’s truth and refrain from sinning with their tongue. Furthermore teachers must practice what they teach otherwise they are hypocrites. A doctor who neglects his health, an accountant who doesn’t balance his checkbook or an attorney in trouble with the law contradict what they stand for. Likewise Bible teachers who do not use their tongue to develop or build up their students in the truth contradict their reason for being.


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