The Tongue

James  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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A concern for spiritual maturity

spiritual maturity develops through our response to our suffering
spiritual maturity develops through our response to God’s word
spiritual maturity develops through a controlled use of our tongues
Question: What is the connection through our spiritual maturity and how we speak?
James 3:13–18 ESV
Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

Healthy Scrutiny (13-18)

Those who claim to be wise and understanding
Display this through good conduct and works of meekness of wisdom (13)
Are not driven by selfish ambition (14)
Are not disingenuous about a commitment to the truth (14-16)
Seeks divine wisdom (17)
Sows peace (18)
One clear way to discern if divine wisdom is possessed is through speech.
James 3:1–12 ESV
Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.

Taming the Tongue is Difficult (1-2)

Question: Why does James begin his teaching on the tongue by focusing on teachers?
Teachers need to be conscious of the weight of their influence
Question: Why are teachers “judged with greater strictness”?
The double dimension of our role in our sanctification is putting off & putting on. In the case of our speech, there is talking and silence.
Question: We know that James is not suggesting that anyone can attain perfection, so what is he getting at when he talks about mastering our tongues in v. 2
The discipline of taming our tongues is something that requires our constant attention, but the labor pay immeasurable dividends.

The Unexpected Power of the Tongue (3-5)

Disproportionate power
[the tongue] is long enough to cut his own throat (Bruce Waltke, The Book of Proverbs).
Question: What is the point underlying that quote?
Our words reflect our hearts
Matthew 12:34 ESV
You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.
Matthew 15:18–19 ESV
But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.
Question: Describe the progression from the heart to the mouth as referenced in these 2 passages.
our affections, desires, motivations, delights etc. drive our thoughts and our thoughts lead to speech.

The Destructive Images of the Tongue (5-8)

Fire (6)
no matter how small, it has the potential for massive destruction
the source of this fire is hell
Question: The background of the word “hell” in v. 6 (geena) is the Valley of Hinnom which is on the southern outskirts of Jerusalem. It served as the city dump, and was most likely almost always on fire to burn up the city’s garbage. How does this background shape our understanding of the imagery James uses in v. 6?
World (6)
The tongue can be understood as a potential world of unrighteousness.
The tongue reflects the world that exists in a person’s heart (see Mark 7:14-23).
Stain (6)
Our speech has the potential to dominate the rest of who we are.
Question: A person wearing a blue shirt, kaki pants, brown shoes and has a black eye. Which feature would be most helpful in identifying that person to someone else?
Restless evil (8)
ceaseless motion that is lacking in stability
deadly poison
words can kill
Matthew 5:21–22 ESV
“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.

The Hypocritical Nature of the Tongue (8-12)

Speaking with a forked tongue
Question: What is meant by the phrase “forked tongue”
deliberately say one thing but mean another, duplicitous.
Blessing God and cursing people made in God’s image with our speech (9-10)
Question: What about this duplicitous use of speech is so offensive? Why is it being described with such seriousness?
Duplicitous speech is devastating (10-12)
Question: Why is it so devastating to hear unbecoming speech from someone for whom we have respect and admiration?

James’ Advice for Taming the Tongue

Ask God for wisdom and do so with a single mind (1:5-8)
James 1:5–8 ESV
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
2. Boast only in our exaltation in Christ or in our humiliation in the world (1:9-10)
James 1:9–10 ESV
Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away.
3. Take responsibility for the temptations with which we contend (1:13)
James 1:13 ESV
Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.
4. Be quick to hear and slow to speak (1:19)
James 1:19 ESV
Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;
5. Possess a gospel-centered perspective other people (2:1-4)
James 2:1–4 ESV
My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?
6. Speak and act in way that reflects eternity (2:12)
James 2:12 ESV
So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty.
7. Be compassionate (2:15-16)
James 2:15–16 ESV
If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?
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