Survey of the New Testament Summer Semester 2010 Bible Summary Paper James 3:1-12 Controlling the Tongue James 3:1-12 Between 40 and 49 A. D. Jesus’ brother James wrote the book of James which is believed to be one of the first if not the very first book in the New Testament to be written. James wrote the book to address the twelve scattered Jewish tribes and “to encourage them to continue to grow in the new Christian faith (got questions. org)”. There is a particular form or genre to this book it is called “encyclical or circular letter” (Just).
The book of James is written with a very specific theme in mind and that is “not merely faith and works, but faith that works” (Nelson, p. 1936). Having faith in God is great but believing that with faith come miraculous things is just amazing. The book of James is broken down into several lessons one of which is controlling the tongue which we find in James 3:1-12. There are two very important words in the first twelve verses of the third chapter of James; one of which is the word tongue. This word can bring up several different ideas in a person’s mind depending on the context in which it is used.
Webster’s dictionary defines tongue as a “muscular organ attached to the floor of the mouth, used in tasting, chewing, and speaking” and according to Definitions. Net it is a human written or spoken language used by a community; a manner of speaking. In the Bible it is referred to as a much more powerful object than just a muscle or dialect. In Proverbs 18:21it says “death and life are in the power of the tongue” and then in Proverbs 31:26 it says that “she openeth her mouth with wisdom: and in her tongue is the law of kindness”.
The word tongue appears over twenty times in the Bible and is compared to a flame and a sword, these comparisons show that although it may be a small muscle it could possible be the strongest. The other word that shows great importance in this passage is fire. Fore also can have many different visualizations depending on how it is used. According to Webster’s dictionary Fire is “the chemical reaction of burning” and while Dictionary. Com gives several definitions such as “severe trial, brilliance, the discharge of firearms, and burning passion”.
Each of these definitions brings up a different thought or feeling but the Bible gives us even more descriptions of this simple word. In Mathew 3:11-12 the word fire is used to describe judgment day or hell with the phrase “unquenchable fire” it gives a visual or feeling of a fire that is so large and out of control that it can never be contained. Then there is this verse Acts 2:3 in which the Bible says “and there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them” in this verse the fire is a sign of the Holy Spirit filling God’s people with the Holy Ghost in the upper room.
The word fire appears over sixty times in the teachings of the Bible and has great meaning in this passage. “My brethren be not many masters (teachers) knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation 2. for in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body” (James 3:1-2) In these first verse of chapter 3, James is telling the tribes that not everyone should become a teacher because the words in which they teach they will be held accountable.
As today if a preacher does not teach his congregation the true word of God he will have to answer for that on the Day of Judgment. Then in verse two he begins to tell the people that we all stumble at some point in our lives and walk with God, the man who doesn’t is perfect. This perfect person can not only keep his tongue in check but also his entire body which includes the mind. In today’s world it would be impossible for a person to live an everyday life and never stumble. “Behold, we put bits in the horses’ mouths, that they may obey us; and we turn about their whole body. 4.
Behold also the ships, which though they be so great, and are driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with very small helm, whithersoever the governor listeth” (James 3:3-4) In these two verses James explains how large and powerful objects can be steered using very small objects in comparison to what they are controlling. It is also very appropriate that he used to bit in the horses mouth as an example since this passage is about controlling the tongue. In verse five we see his first reference to the tongue. “Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things.
Behold, how great a little fire kindleth! ” (James 3:5) He is comparing the tongue to the rudder for use in controlling the body, and then to a spark of fire that is capable of starting a large fire that could destroy a forest. “And the tongue is a fire, a word of iniguity: so the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell” (James 3:6) This is a powerful statement that James uses to show his audience that the tongue is a very powerful force.
Although the tongue is a very small member of our body it is like a fire that if not bridled can burn out of control. The tongue can fill the whole of a person with evil; words are more powerful than actions in some cases. Lies, deceit, vulgar words, name calling, disgust… all of these fly from a persons mouth like a flame burning those who are standing in the path. “For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind: 8.
But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison” (James 3:7-8) In these two verses James uses the greatest beasts of God’s creation and compares them to a small muscle in the human body to show the great power a tongue or word can hold. Today we put the most powerful creatures in cages so that everyone can see them up close and personal but the tongue is more out of control than ever. We have politicians that lie to us everyday. One of the evils of the tongue is when a preacher or teacher of the gospel do not tell the congregation all of the facts and teachings of Jesus to keep them happy.
Sometimes the things that go unsaid are more harmful than the things that are. “Therewith bless we God, even the Father: and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. 10. Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be” (James 3:9-10) In these versus James is saying that although you praise God with your mouth you turn right around and curse your neighbor who God created in the likeness of Jesus. Today there is a phrase that says “man you kiss your mother with that mouth? I think that this is the same message James was trying to send to the tribes. “Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter? 12. Can the fig tree, my bretheren, bear olive berries? either a vine, figs? So can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh. ” (James 3:11-12) James compares many things that have no way of happening to the double actions of the human tongue. If none of these can happen then the double speak should never cross the lips of a Christian. Some praise God with the same mouth that you spew out evil, and this should not be the way that it is.
Today cursing is widely used throughout the world, more than ever before and yet a lot of these people go to church on Sunday and praise God using the same tongue. James begins by telling us that all men stumble and that those in charge or called to teach should be very careful. The teachers should live by example and not be a stumbling block for others. The next lesson he teaches in this passage is how very powerful the tongue is and why it is important to practice control upon this very small member of the body.
These teaching were not only relevant to the Jewish Tribes of James’s day but to the people of the church today as well. I don’t know about others but my tongue is my weakness. If I could bridle my tongue better I could be a much better servant of God. There are times when I have to ask for forgiveness for my mouth before I feel that I can praise him freely. Thank God for the wisdom and teachings of James to help not only the tribes but today’s Christians to live a more holy and pleasing life for God.
Works Cited Definitions. net. Stands4 LLC. , 2001-2010. Web 7-12-10 1:22 pm Dictionary. com. Dictionary. com. LLC. , 2010. Web. 7-12-10 1:51 pm “Fire” Def. n. Webster’s Dictionary&Thesaurus. 1997. Print. Gotquestins. org. Got Questions Ministries, 2002-2010 Web. 7-8-10 2:50 pm Just, Felix, S. J. PHD, Catolic-resources. org. N. p. , Feb. 4 2009. Web. 7-12-10 12:28 pm Nelson, Thomas. The King James Study Bible. Thomas Nelson, Inc. , 1988. “Tongue” Def. n. Webster’s Dictionary&Thesaurus. 1997. Print.