Ruling the Tongue

“If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man,
and able also to bridle the whole body.”
James 3:2





  1. James gives an excellent warning and most thorough description of the tongue (3:1-12).
  2. The nature of speech is such that excellent discipline here indicates a perfect man (3:2).
  3. Horses and ships are very large objects controlled precisely by very small parts (3:3-5).
    1. The tongue is a small part, but it is capable of having very great affects (3:5).
    2. Consider that a destructive forest fire begins with a single spark or flame (3:5).
  4. The tongue is like a fire in its small beginnings and very destructive nature (3:6).
    1. As a forest fire tends toward destruction and a world of iniquity toward temptation and destruction, so the tongue is capable of ruining the entire person.
    2. An uncontrolled tongue sets our flesh in action to run its natural, evil course.
    3. The source of the fire in our tongues is from hell itself in its evil nature.
  5. Every creature both great and small has been tamed by men, but not the tongue (3:7-8).
    1. No man can fully rule his tongue, because it is an unruly (without rule) evil.
    2. It is full of deadly poison – its affects on men are the issues of life and death.
  6. The hypocritical duplicity of our tongues is a most wicked and contrary evil (3:9-12).
    1. A tongue that curses and blesses is speaking from an evil heart (Matthew 12:34).
    2. And such duplicity in treating God’s saints does not show godliness (I John 4:20).
    3. True rule of our tongue will result in consistent and godly speech at all times.


  1. You can love your tongue for its power of either life or death (Pro 18:21; 13:2-3; 21:23).
    1. Trouble and destruction are in the power of the tongue (Pr 12:13; 17:20 18:6-7).
    2. Peace and prosperity are in the tongue’s power (Psalm 34:12-13; I Peter 3:10).
  2. Pretensions to religion are a vain show, if you do not bridle your tongue (James 1:26).
  3. Men imagine that their tongues are their own to be used as they choose (Psalm 12:1-4).
  4. The tongue is not easy to bridle – it burns like a fire to be used (Ps 39:1-3; Job 13:19).
  5. The chief element lacking in this and other vices is often temperance, not knowledge.


  1. When Isaiah saw the exalted Lord, he was foremost convicted of his speech (Is 6:1-8).
  2. Sarcastic ridicule, especially to children, is poison (Job 5:21; Pr 12:18; Ep 6:4; Col 3:21).
  3. Foolish talking and jesting is not convenient and a way of life today (Eph 5:4; Pr 26:19).
  4. Boasting of what we have, have done, or will do is evil (Ps 12:3; Pr 27:2; Jas 4:13-16).
  5. Whispering and slandering destroys men (Ps 101:5; Pro 11:13; 16:27-28; 25:9; 26:22,22).
  6. Cursing others is a sin (Proverbs 11:12; 20:20; James 3:9-10; Matthew 5:21-22).
  7. Flattery to secure your benefit is wrong (Ps 5:9; 12:3; Pr 6:24; 7:5,21-23; 26:28; 29:5).
    1. Praising for good is a godly kindness (I Co 11:2; Pr 31:28-31; Ro 16:1; Phil 2:20).
    2. But praising to secure favor or good from another person is flattery and sin.
    3. But praising to enhance your own image and reputation is flattery and sin.
    4. But praising to engage in flirting with the opposite sex is flattery and sin.
  8. Disrespect to those in authority is a great evil (Deut 27:16; II Kings 2:23-24; II Pet 2:10).
  9. Deceit is a major source of evil in speech (Psalm 10:7; 120:2; Prov 6:16-29; 12:22).
  10. Contention and debate are unacceptable (Prov 18:6; Rom 1:29; II Cor 12:20; Phil 2:14).
  11. Complaining and murmuring are sinful things (Psalm 106:24-25; I Cor 10:10; Phil 2:14).
  12. Filthy communication of sexual or other matters is sin (Colossians 3:8; Eph 4:29; 5:4).
  13. False witness in court or any other situation is vile (Deut 5:20; 19:16-21; Prov 6:16-19).
  14. Making vows but not keeping them is presumptuous sin (Ec 5:1-7; Ps 15:4; Mat 5:33-37).
  15. Sowing discord with talking or murmuring is sin God hates (Prov 6:16-19; 16:28; 22:10).


  1. The tongue has fantastic potential for good both to God and man when used righteously.
  2. The tongue is a glory if praising God (Ps 16:9 cp Ac 2:26; Ps 30:12; 108:1; Heb 13:15).
  3. The Lord keeps a book of remembrance of those who speak often about Him (Mal 3:16).
  4. Being a tree of life to others requires the wise use of your tongue (Prov 11:30 cp 15:4).
    1. The value of a wise tongue can be compared to precious stones (Pr 10:20; 20:15).
    2. Just men have tongues that speak acceptably and wisely (Ps 37:30; Pr 10:31-32).
    3. Our tongues are the means by which we can be a tree of life (Proverbs 15:2,4,7).
    4. A righteous man feeds many by his words (Prov 10:21). Are you known for this?
    5. Rebuke is better than flattery even to the object of correction (Prov 27:5; 28:23).
  5. Graciousness should mark our speech (Ps 45:2; Prov 16:13; 22:11; Eccl 10:12; Luk 4:22).
  6. Proper words for the occasion are a beautiful thing to observe (Prov 15:23; 24:26; 25:11).
  7. Persuasion lies in the ability to suffer long and speak softly (Proverbs 15:1; 25:15).


  1. The tongue is an unruly member, so any rule for controlling it must be received soberly.
  2. God knows and judges. Words are known (Psalm 139:4) and judged (Matt 12:36-37).
  3. Pray for discretion. Ask God to help you bridle your tongue (Psalm 17:3; 141:3).
  4. Be slow to speak. Haste in speech is foolish (James 1:19; Prov 15:28; 18:13; Eccl 5:2).
  5. Let your words be few. Many words mark a fool (Prov 10:19; 17:27-28; Ecc 5:3; 10:14).
  6. Cover salt with grace. Gracious lips mark wise men (Pro 22:11; 31:26; Ep 4:29; Col 4:6).