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James 3:1-12

A. We have all heard (or used) the phrase, “Bite your tongue.” It means to stop yourself from speaking, even though you really want to say something. It means to prevent yourself from saying something, usually to another person, because you think saying it would negatively affect the situation.

B. Below are some details about the human tongue:

• The human tongue has a complex architecture that allows it to move and form into different shapes for its role in eating, speaking, and breathing.

• The tongue isn’t just one muscle: eight different muscles work together in a flexible matrix, with no bones or joints.

• The average tongue length for an adult is 3.3 inches. So it is quite small.  (

Isaiah 6:1-13

C. Three things happened in this passage that should, likewise, happen to us during this time:

(1) Isaiah saw the Lord (vs. 1-5).

A. Sometimes some things need to die in us before we see the Lord as He really is—high and lifted up.

Vs. 1 (NLT) “It was in the year King Uzziah died that I saw the Lord. He was sitting on a lofty throne, and the train of His robe filled the Temple.”

B. The seraphim—a type of angel—did not draw attention to themselves. Four wings were used to covered themselves and two were used to fly.

Vs. 2 (NLT) “Attending Him (the Lord) were mighty seraphim, each having six wings. With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew.”

C. Righteousness allows us to see ourselves in Christ. Holiness demands that we see ourselves in light of His standards. “Be holy for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:15, 16).

Vs. 3, 4 (NLT) “They were calling out to each other, ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Heaven’s Armies! The whole earth is filled with His glory!’ Their voices shook the Temple to its foundations, and the entire building was filled with smoke.”

D. I believe that this speaks of the Trinity. There is one holy for the Father, one holy for the Son and one holy for the Holy Spirit.

(2) Isaiah saw himself (vs. 5-7).

A. The closer we get to the light, the more our flaws become apparent. When we hold an object up to the light we see all its flaws and blemishes.

B. Notice that Isaiah began by confessing his own sins, not the sins of those around him. And the first thing he mentioned was his tongue. But he was forgiven.

Vs. 5-7 (NLT) “ Then I said, ‘It’s all over! I am doomed, for I am a sinful man.

I have filthy lips, and I live among a people with filthy lips. Yet I have seen the King, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.’ Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a burning coal he had taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. He touched my lips with it and said, ‘See, this coal has touched your lips. Now your guilt is removed, and your sins are forgiven.’”

C. Frank Bartleman said, “The depth of revival will be determined exactly by the depth of the spirit of repentance.” This holds true for all people, at all times.

(3) Isaiah saw the need (vs. 8).

A. In verse 8, we see the Trinity referred to. The Lord says, “Who will go for Us?”

Vs. 8, 9a (NLT) “Then I heard the Lord asking, ‘Whom should I send as a messenger to this people? Who will go for Us (plural)?’ I said, ‘Here I am. Send me.’ And He said, ‘Yes, go, and say to this people...’”

B. Go and tell is still God’s command.    


Isaiah 58:9 (NLT) “Remove the heavy yoke of oppression. Stop pointing your finger and speaking vicious rumors!”

A. This verse is part of what we call “the fasting chapter” (Isaiah 58). The passage on fasting talks about two different kinds of fasts:

         1. An unacceptable fast (vs. 1-5).   

         2. An acceptable fast or a fast that is well pleasing to the Lord (vs. 6-12).

Vs. 9c (NLT) “...Stop pointing your finger...” - This speaks of criticism.

Vs. 9d (NLT) “...and speaking vicious rumors!” - This speaks of gossip and strife.

B. Watching what we say should be part of what we focus on during this fast. When we point the finger at someone else we have four pointing back at us.


James 3:1-12 (NLT)

A. In this chapter James gives us six pictures of the tongue:

         1. The bit in a horse’s mouth (vs. 3).

         2. The rudder of a ship (vs. 4).

         3. A flame of fire (vs. 5, 6).

         4. A poisonous animal (vs. 7, 8).

         5. A fresh fountain (vs. 9-11).

         6. A fruit bearing tree (vs. 12).

B. These six pictures can be divided into three classifications:

(1) The power to DIRECT: the bit and the rudder (vs. 1-4).

A. Controlling your tongue is a sign of spiritual maturity. It takes self-discipline to control the tongue. Self-control is one of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:23).

Vs. 1, 2 (NLT) “Dear brothers and sisters, not many of you should become teachers in the church, for we who teach will be judged more strictly. Indeed, we all make many mistakes. For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way.”

Vs. 2 (Williams) “If anyone never slips in speech, he is a man of maturity...” 

B. Both a horse’s bit and a ship’s rudder are very small but they have the power to direct large things. One small bit causes the whole horse to turn. Whenever the pilot steers the rudder, the whole ship will turn.

Vs. 3, 4 (NLT) “We can make a large horse go wherever we want by means of

a small bit in its mouth. And a small rudder makes a huge ship turn wherever the pilot chooses to go, even though the winds are strong.”

C. James is pointing out the importance of the tongue—the power of words.

James 1:26 “If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless.”

Vs. 26 “bridle” - (Vine’s: chalinagogeo) to lead by a bridle, to hold in check, to restrain

D. The word “bit” or “bridle” in James 3:3 are the same root word in the Greek.

(2) The power to DESTROY: the fire and the animal (vs. 5-8).

Example: One of the best hikes we ever took as a family was in the Smoky Mountains. It was a 4.5 mile round trip hike up Chimney Top Trail. In 2016, it caught on fire and eventually destroyed around 17,000 acres. It killed 14 people and hurt nearly 200 more. At least 14,000 area residents and tourists were evacuated and over 2000 buildings were damaged or destroyed. It was one of the deadliest fires in the eastern United States. The fire was evidently started by two teenagers dropping lit matches onto the ground along Chimney Tops Trail. A little fire can do a great amount of damage. So it is with the tongue. (See Wikipedia.)

Vs. 5-8 (NLT) “In the same way, the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches. But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire. And among all the parts of the body, the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself. People can tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish, but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison.”   

A. A fire out of control and a poisonous animal can do great damage and even destroy whatever is in their way. But when you tame an animal, you get a WORKER not a DESTROYER!

B. This passage is not an excuse to say, “I just can’t help myself. No one can tame the tongue.” No MAN or WOMAN can tame his own tongue. We all say and do foolish things at times. We can only control our tongues by the power of the Spirit.

Example: The apostle Peter was constantly putting his foot in his mouth during Jesus’ earthly ministry. But after he was filled with the Holy Spirit, he became a great spokesman for the Lord and seldom made unwise statements.

(3) The power to DELIGHT: the fountain and the tree (vs. 9-12).

A. A cool spring on a hot day and trees that bear fresh fruit bring great refreshing and nourishment.

Vs. 9-12 (NLT) “Sometimes it (the tongue) praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it (the tongue) curses those who have been made in the image of God. And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right! Does a spring of water bubble out with both fresh water and bitter water? Does a fig tree produce olives, or a grapevine produce figs? No, and you can’t draw fresh water from a salty spring.”

B. The following two verses should be our prayer during this season of prayer and fasting:

•                    Psalm 19:14 (NLT) “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to You, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.”

•                    Psalm 141:3 “Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips.”

C. Ask the Lord to reveal to you the things you are saying that are not pleasing to Him or beneficial to you. We don’t even realize what we are saying and how it is affecting us.

James 1:19 (NLT) “ quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.”

D. God gave us two ears and one mouth. Perhaps we are to spend twice as much time listening than talking.

E. Sometimes we need to learn “the vocabulary of silence.”F. We need to WALK in love but we need to TALK in love as well.


Matthew 12:34-37 “You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

A. Sometimes we say something that is out of line and then we reply, “I don’t know where that came from!?!” It usually came from our hearts but bypassed the filter of our minds before we realized what we were saying.

B. To change what comes out of our mouths, we must change what we are putting into our hearts and minds. Our tongues simply give expression to what is inside of us.

Vs. 34 (NLT) “...For whatever is in your heart determines what you say.”

C. Garbage in, garbage out. Good things in, good things out!

Vs. 36 (ESV) “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak...”

Vs. 36 “careless” - (Vine’s/SC 692: argos) unfruitful, barren, idle, thoughtless

D. In 2007, a study led by Dr. Matthias Mehl and published in the scientific journal Science, researched 396 people (210 women and 186 men). Their findings: women and men speak approximately 16,000 words per day. (

Matthew 12:37 (NLT) “The words you say will either ACQUIT you or CONDEMN you.”

E. People with sharp tongues often end up cutting their own throats. I want my words to acquit me, not condemn me.

F. Let’s use our tongues to build up others and blessed the Lord. MFM