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Read James 3

Taming the Tongue

Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check.

When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. 11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 12 My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.

Two Kinds of Wisdom

13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15 Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.

17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18 Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.

Go Deeper

In this chapter, James begins by giving several analogies to convey the power of the tongue. From a bit in the mouth of a horse (verse 3) to the rudder of a great ship (verse 4), we get the picture of two small things that have great power and are extremely important in guiding the direction of their vessels. Then James tells us in verse 5 “So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.”

James goes on to explain that the tongue can be used for both good and evil. It has the potential to be both a blessing and a curse. Proverbs 18:21 says “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.” How do we make sure that our tongues are being used for good, blessing, and life? How do we steer clear of allowing things to come out of our mouths that are evil, curses, and lead to death?

Romans 6:13 says “Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness.” The Bible commands us to give every single part of our bodies to God to be used as instruments of righteousness! The way that we use our tongues to speak life is by giving the control of it to the Holy Spirit. Keep in mind that both the bridle of the horse and the rudder of the ship can do tremendous good when they are properly controlled.

James 3:8 says “but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil full of deadly poison.” Scripture explicitly tells us here that it is not within our human capacity to tame the tongue. As believers in Jesus, we should constantly ask ourselves: Who or what is directing the reins of our tongues? Who or what is controlling the rudder? A tongue controlled by the Holy Spirit will consistently speak words filled with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control (Galatians 5:22-23). If our words are more consistently categorized as criticism, gossip, slander, cruelty, anger, or insincere than we need to heed James’ warning from this passage and hand over the reins.


  1. Does your mouth consistently speak words filled with the fruits of the Spirit?
  2. Based on your answer above, who or what is directing the reins of your tongue?
  3. Psalm 141:3 says “Set a guard over my mouth, LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips.” Spend some time praying this as a prayer and asking the Lord to take control of your tongue!

Keep Digging

James also compares the tongue to a fire in this passage. For more insight on this metaphor, read this article from

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9 thoughts on “James 3”

  1. Your thought life. What do you think about? You think about what you hear from parents at the beginning. Teachers when you get into school, pastors/teacher at church (if you went), TV and all the bombardments from commercials and shows. Music which always tells a story makes and impact. Now what do you think about? This is why it is so important to be careful what you watch, listen to, see, and who is in your circle because they all have a role in your life and what you speak with that tiny member your tongue. You speak what you think, what you have been taught at some point in one of the minutes of your life. God’s word taught to our babies, positive affirmation of how beautiful and wonderful God made you, how you can do things in this life with God through Christ at your side. I realize we cannot control the outside world and what we have to hear or see sometimes but it is also a choice. God truly gives us freedom to choose how our life goes so from today be careful and thoughtful of the things we let into our world.

    God thank You for when I do stumble ways that I can know and immediately ask for forgiveness, Thank You for Your Holy Spirit guiding me to see and know when my tongue is wagging. Thank You for my tongue which is a small part of my body, but it makes great boasts that I can listen and heed Your Holy Spirit to listen and not speak so that it is not a restless evil, full of deadly poison but something I praise You, my Lord and Father with. God I want to be wise, I thank You that it can show through a good life, by deeds done with humility that comes from wisdom from You God. Thank You that wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness, thank You for guiding me in taming my tongue. in Jesus name amen

  2. I’ll admit I’ve struggled with my words and how I use them. Partly because I’ve let the world influence my past and partly because I wasn’t rooted in God’s word. James 3 is the exact reminder I needed. Each day I need to start by asking how I’m speaking (am I speaking with the fruits of Galatians 5 or am I allowing rotted seedlings to be planted?). Sometimes I think the world still impacts how I speak, but I decide to break that hold daily.

  3. The deeper dig got questions just emphasized more and more of this dangerous tongue and i have such a hard bitter heart i keep coming back to habitually that so reveals itself in my words. This is such a good message to me and all of your comments too helped me realize that i do need to be very careful with words i am allowing in with what i watch and listen to. I can clearly see how this is within self control and depending on The Fruits of the Spirit. But i also clearly see how then I become an unbridled tongue – yuck. Thank you Lord for your kindness that leads me to repentance

  4. The word I’m impressed to lean into in 2024 is transformation. This chapter highlights the tongue and how we either speak out of a heart motivated by godly wisdom or by one controlled by Satan. James instructs that the fruit of a spirit-controlled tongue will reveal purity and peace, be considerate, show submission, mercy, sincerity, impartiality and goodness. That’s a tall order for our sinful natures and can only be accomplished by a purified heart as the mouth both exposes and reveals the condition of our hearts. It’s an area that must be transformed by renewing of our minds. I’m reminded again of the THINK acronym posted in my classroom:
    T-is it true?
    H-is it helpful?
    I-is it inspiring?
    N-is it necessary?
    K-is it kind?

  5. This passage reminds me of the tremendous power we have to do good and speak life and encouragement with our tongues.
    One of my habits I am working to increase in my life is praying scripture and meditating on it.
    I am praying this verse today:
    ”Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.“
    ‭‭Psalm‬ ‭19‬:‭14‬ ‭ESV‬‬

  6. Diane Frances Rogers

    This is my desire in building an intimate relationship with God:
    *Seek God through prayer. Be so close to Him that I understand His will for me.
    *Search Scripture. Be so familiar with His Word that I can reflect God’s will.
    *Listen to the Holy Spirit. Asking for His guidance and discipline of my thoughts, words and deeds.
    Teach me to do Your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground. Psalms 143:10

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