Summary: James teaches that when the tongue gets out of control it can do as much damage as a fire when it gets out of control.


1. Open your bibles to James 3:5-8.

2. James has had much to say about the tongue.

3. In comparison to the other members of our body the tongue is small. It is not near as large as our legs, our feet, our arms, our hands, our head and etc.

4. It is not near as large as these members of our body, but James warns us about an uncontrolled tongue doing tremendous damage.

5. James also emphasizes that the tongue is extremely difficult to tame.

6. In this lesson we will discuss the destructive and uncontrollable nature of the tongue.



1. Let’s read James 3:5a, “5 Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things”. See how great a forest a little fire kindles! 6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell.”

2. By “boasting” James refers to blowing a lot of things out of proportion. Exaggerating!

(1) An individual may blow things way out of proportion and cause others to think that they are rich, well educated, extremely qualified for a certain job, very religious; when in reality they do not near measure up to their bragging.

(2) This destructive misuse of the tongue is also, often found when gossiping is taking place.

(3) Something is being told about another person and the facts get blown all out of proportion and the reputation of an individual becomes ruined. Such is destructive.

3. Some years ago, Morgan Blake, a sportswriter for the Atlanta Journal, wrote the following satire:

I am more deadly than the screaming shell from the [short barreled pistol] howitzer. I win without killing. I tear down homes, break hearts, and wreck lives. I travel on the wings of the wind. No innocence is strong enough to intimidate me, no purity pure enough to keep me from saying the worst. I have no regard for truth, no respect for justice, no mercy for the defenseless. My victims are as numerous as the sands of the sea, and often as innocent. I never forget and seldom forgive. My name is Gossip. (Cited in George Sweeting, Faith That Works [Chicago: Moody, 1983], 76–77)

4. Turn to Psalm 57:4. This verse emphasizes how destructive an uncontrolled tongue can be.

In Psalm 57:4, David lamented, “My soul is among lions; I must lie among those who breathe forth fire, even the sons of men, whose teeth are spears and arrows and their tongue a sharp sword”.

Turn to Psalm 52:2-4. Here, David speaks of evil and boasting men. Let’s read Psalm 52:2-4, “Your tongue devises destruction, like a sharp razor, O worker of deceit. You love evil more than good, falsehood more than speaking what is right. You love all words that devour, O deceitful tongue”.

In Job 19:2, Job asked Bildad, his so-called comforter, “How long will you torment me and crush me with words?”


1. Let’s read the two statements in the latter part of verse five and the first part of verse six. “See how great a forest a little fire kindles! 6 And the tongue is a fire.”

2. Fire consumes and destroys as it spreads. The tongue does this as well.

3. For an illustration, for every word of Hitler, in his book: Mein Kampf, 125 lives were killed in World War II. Hitler’s word’s inflamed the nation of Germany to kill multiplied millions.

4. The smallest match or spark can grow out of control into a conflagration that destroys thousands of acres of forest, killing countless animals and often destroying human life and property.

5. On October 8, 1871, at about eight-thirty in the evening, a lantern in Mrs. O’Leary’s barn, presumably kicked over by her cow, ignited the great Chicago fire. Before it could be contained, 17,500 buildings were destroyed, 300 people died, and 125,000 others were left homeless.

6. In 1903, a pan of rice boiled over onto a fire, spreading coals across the room and starting a blaze that eventually consumed a square mile of a Korean city, burning some three thousand buildings to the ground.

7. Turn to Proverbs 15:28. The writer of Proverbs points out the destructive nature of the tongue. Proverbs 15:28 declares, “the heart of the righteous ponders how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things”.

Turn to Prov. 16:27. Again, the destructive nature of the tongue is emphasized. In Prov. 16:27 we read; that “a worthless man digs up evil, while his words are as a scorching fire”.

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