James 017 – Taming the Tongue, Pt. 2James 3:9-12 • Dr. Andy Woods • February 24, 2021 • James
James: Faith that Works
James 17 — Taming the Tongue Part 2 — James 3:9-12
Book of James 3:9, we weren’t here last week. To reorient us, the book of James is written by James, the half-brother of Christ from Jerusalem to his scattered flock. He is really writing to them, if you look at numbers 6,7,8 on the slide Answering Eleven Questions, about practical righteousness. How do we let our practice as Christians catch up with our position? So, it is really a book about living as a believer, and the first half of the book, which I think we will complete tonight, and perhaps even get into the second half, time permitting and Lord willing, is about walking by faith. It isn’t so much talking about faith to get saved; it is assumed that his readers already have that. It is about continuing to trust God through the trials of life.
During our prayer time a few moments ago, we went over, by way of prayer, a lot of Christians who we know that are having a hard time. So, if you’re a Christian and struggling, the issue is that you don’t have to become a Christian again; you already are one; the issue is that we have to learn how to trust God through life’s emergencies, and as we do that, we are beginning to manifest a practice that catches up with our position. He is dealing with that from James 1:1-3:12.
- Adopting God’s perspective in the midst of suffering James 1:2-18, which involves rejoicing under trials and not charging God foolishly in the midst of trials.
- It also involves not being only a hearer of God’s Word but a doer of God’s Word James 1:19-27. How do I become a doer of God’s Word rather than just a hearer as a Christian?
- We need to become slow to speech and anger 1:19-20
- We need to take in God’s Word and obey it 1:21-25
- We need to practice true spirituality which involves helping widows and orphans in their distress
- Keeping oneself unstained by the world
- Continuing on in James 2:1-13, he begins to talk about how to continue trust God through life? Don’t show favoritism in the assembly. Don’t elevate or show preference to people on the basis of some characteristic such as wealth because when we do, we are operating contrary to God’s character and purposes. God doesn’t work that way. So, why should we?
- We spent a lot of time, 4-5 weeks, on James 2:14-26, where we allow the faith that is inside of us to begin to manifest itself in good works. At that point our faith does not come into existence; it already exists, now it becomes useful to our fellow man. So, works always accompany a productive and useful faith. We spent a lot of time on that because that is misunderstood by a lot of people, and James gives five illustrations to prove his point.
The chapter division in the Bible is artificial; the Holy Spirit did not put it there. I think the chapter divisions are helpful, but sometimes, they unnaturally bifurcate information in our minds, and I guess what I would like for you to see is how the end of James 2 flows right into James 3.
At the end of James 2, James is dealing with a faith that manifests itself in good works and from that point, James says, ‘Here is the ultimate good work.’ What is the ultimate good work I can do as a Christian so that my faith is useful? The ultimate good work I can do is to control the 2×2 slab of mucous membrane between the gums called the tongue. If I can accomplish that good work, there isn’t any good work for God that we are unable to do because that is the ultimate good work. That is the good work that we have the most difficulty doing.
So, James 3:1-12, is a very convicting passage on taming the tongue, so we started looking at that last time, and made it through 3:8. We saw, first, the tongue’s influence, first, in relation to teaching. The tongue is interesting in that it is a small part of the body, yet it wields disproportionate influence, so we can use the tongue in teaching which involves directing the thoughts of people, which is a great privilege, but with the ability to direct the thoughts of people in the right direction, also involves the equal ability to misdirect the thoughts of people. That is why James, as he gets into the subject of the tongue, says, ‘Let few of you presume to be teachers knowing that the teacher will incur the stricter judgment.’ The gift of teaching is a wonderful thing, but it also goes with tremendous responsibility, as with the power to do good comes the ability to do great evil.
Then in 3:2, he says that if you can master the tongue, controlling everything else in your life is easy because that is the hardest thing for to master. Then he gives three illustrations to show the power of the tongue relative to its small size. He uses the bit in a horse’s mouth; the rutter of a ship, and a spark that can cause a fire. His whole analogies there are from the lesser to the greater, from the small to the great. So, in the same way, the tongue is a very small part of our total being, yet it wields a disproportionate influence, as do the other things he mentions in those illustrations.
From there 3:6-12, he talks about the tongue’s potential for evil. The tongue in 3:6, can be used for God but also for satanic purposes. Just talk to Peter about that when you get to heaven, and he will tell you all about it. He says, in 3:7,8 that the tongue is basically untamable when you look at humanity. Humanity has this ability to tame anything right down to putting a man on the moon, so man has this incredible ability to do all of these great things, yet one thing the human race has never been able to do is to control the tongue. He says that it is a restless evil full of poison. Of course, poison kills. That is why the book of Proverbs says that there is life and death in the power of the tongue.
So that is what we studied up to last time, and we left off at 3:9,10, where James now begins to deal with the inconsistency of the tongue. Notice what he says in 3:9,10. He makes a point in 3:9,10, and then in 3:11,12, he gives three illustrations. What is his point in James 3, notice verses 9,10, “With it [the tongue, in other words] we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren [those are important words there; it is all important, but notice ‘My brethren’], these things ought not to be this way.” So, with the tongue, I have this ability to be in church and praise the Lord and to sing hymns, and I have the equal ability on the ride home from church to criticize everything and everyone in the church. I can move from one to the other within the span of only a few minutes. That is the tongue and its inconsistency.
You will notice here, this very important verse, that ‘With it, we curse men who have been made in God’s likeness.’ Notice that human beings are made in the image of God. We know that from Genesis 1:26,27. These verses you know really well, 26 ‘Then God said, “Let us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness;…27 God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female…’ Notice that men and women although they play different roles in the church and marriage, they’re equal in terms of their value because they both bear God’s image. So, it is a lot like the Trinity where God the Son submits to God the Father, but at the same time, God the Son shares in the full essence of deity as does God the Father. So, when the Son submits to the Father, it is a distinction in role, not a distinction in terms of value or worth. That is very important to understand because many people think that as Christians, many think that when it talks about different roles for men and women in the Church, the home, etc, that somehow, we are devaluing women. No, it is not a devaluation in terms of ontology or value or worth, it is simply a distinction in terms of role.
Notice there that men and women both have equal value before God because all of us both genders, bear God’s image. Not only are men and women created with the same value, they also will share in the exact same heaven. 1 Peter 3:7 explains that the wife is a joint heir of salvation along with the husband. Men and women are both of equal value as image bearers and they’re both equal in terms of redemption and salvation because they’re joint heirs of salvation. So, it is something special about human beings; this is never said of the animals, to my knowledge it is never even said of the angels. There is something special about humanity because we, male and female, bear God’s image.
A lot of people think that because of the fall in Genesis 3, that somehow, we don’t bear God’s image and the fact of the matter is that we do still bear God’s image after the follow. The image bearing status of humans, post-fall has been effaced but not erased. The vilest sinner on planet earth still has value before God because even in their fallen state, they still bear God’s image, and you see that in the New Testament after the fall happened long before. It says in James 3:9, ‘We curse men who are made in God’s likeness.’ So, the fall, obviously, did not take away from our image bearing status. In Genesis 9:6, this is post-fall, post-flood, notice that man is still an image bearer of God. That is why God gave the Noahic covenant, which is the institution of human government, that exists to curb and deter violence because if you don’t have this government, then humanity will roll back to what it was like prior to the flood where they committed all kinds of crimes with no threat of doing any time. The thing about human government is that if you don’t want to do the time, then don’t do the crime. Government has an ability to execute murderers, incarcerate criminals and that keeps man from committing violence. God wants our hands stayed or held back from violence because when we are committing violence, we are destroying fellow image bearers.
Genesis 9:6 (and we will catch all of this on a future Sunday as we go through the book of Genesis), but it says, “Whoever sheds man’s blood, By man his blood shall be shed, [why?] For in the image of God He made man.” It is very clear that post-fall, post-flood, the image bearing status in people continues male and female, and that becomes the logic for the institution of human government through the Noahic covenant that God gave to Noah.
The biblical position on government is not right wing or left wing. If you think about the political spectrum, as you move further and further to the right, what happens is that there is a philosophy of government that becomes lesser and lesser. You move into an almost libertarian philosophy on the extreme right wing. Libertarianism is essentially hands-off in economic matters as well as in abortion or pornography or prosecution of drugs or whatever. So, right wing is actually no government at all. Obviously, this is not the biblical position because God Himself gave the institution of government in the Noahic covenant.
When you go to the extreme left wing, they are talking about maximum government that essentially controls everything cradle to grave. As you start moving to the left, you move into socialism and then on the far left is communism. If you properly understand the political spectrum, the left is maximum government, the right is no government. When people call you as a Christian, ‘a radical right winger,’ they don’t really understand the political spectrum well. Basically, it goes back to Parliaments where socialists sat on either the right or the left, communists sat on either side, so they began identifying ‘right or left’ based on where they sat in Parliament. That isn’t a proper understanding of the political spectrum because the left is total government and right is no government.
The biblical position on government is basically that you are right in the middle. In other words, you are mainstream as much as they want to call you a radical right winger. Government has a function to restrain evil but there isn’t a lot in the Bible about how the government is supposed to be a safety net for those who can’t take of themselves. You would be hard-pressed to find any biblical passage that supports that. That is more the role of charity and the Church. We certainly aren’t on the far left because we don’t teach that the Bible promotes maximum government, and we certainly aren’t on the right either where there is no government at all. We believe that government was given by God to restrain evil. Basically, we are in the middle, neither right wing nor left wing.
The US constitution is basically in the middle. It has a role for government, clearly government powers are enumerated in the US Constitution, but at the same time, as you go through the US Constitution, you would be hard pressed to find anything that says that the role of government is socialism, a safety net, education, healthcare, social security, all these kinds of things the government has taken on today. So, the US Constitution is neither right nor left wing; it is in the middle. The biblical position is neither right nor left wing, it is in the middle, and your views on government, if you’re trying to pattern them biblically, is neither right nor left wing, but right there in the middle. That is important because when people use the terms right or left, they don’t fully understand how the political spectrum works, they’re going by the old model where socialists sat over here, and communists sat over here in Parliament, so there is a lot of confusion on that.
Why did I go into all of that? I have no idea, it was an ecstatic utterance, I guess, but what I do want you to see is that government came into existence with God’s covenant with Noah because God gave government a function to punish crime. If you don’t want to do the time, don’t do the crime and humans will be held back from crime from fear of punishment.
The scary thing is when there is a mob-type of situation or power failure; this happened in Los Angeles, I remember with the Rodney King riots where people figured out that they could do whatever they wanted and not be caught. The police couldn’t get into Los Angeles, and we know how that story ended with massive looting and people walked into stores taking whatever they wanted etc. That is what the world would be like with no government. That’s basically what it was like before the flood, and the problem with that is that you have people killing each other and blood spilled of image bearers, and God doesn’t want that because He values human beings, thus his ordinance of human government to protect His image bearer. This is all found in the Noahic covenant, so notice here that man still bears God’s image post-fall and post-flood.
Another verse on this is 1 Corinthians 11:7, some interesting things on head coverings which we won’t get into, but it says here, “For a man ought not to have his head covered, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man.” There it is a third time, Genesis 9:6, James 3:9, 1 Corinthians 11:7: human beings post-fall and post-flood, all the way into the New Testament world still bear God’s image. So,the fall has effaced our image bearing status, but it has not erased it.
When we let loose our tongue on another human being through gossip or slander, malicious talk, defamatory-type statements or antagonism, James wants us to understand that we are attacking someone who bears God’s image. That becomes the basis for controlling the tongue. When I vent verbally against someone, I am attacking somebody even if they deserve it in my mind, I am attacking someone who bears God’s image. Of course, that becomes the basis for controlling the tongue. Obviously, the theory of evolution has demolished this because according to evolutionary thought, we went for the goo to you by way of the zoo over billions of years, and if you believe that, as this is what is taught around the clock to our youth in the public school system, then what is lost is the dignity of humanity. People are nothing more than naked apes and animals, so if I slander them, so what? That isn’t the way for a Christian to think. A Christian looks at people, even those who aren’t saved and who don’t know Jesus, as image bearers of God, so when I understand that, I should think, ‘Wow, maybe I should rein in my speech as I’m attacking someone who bears God’s image.’
It reminds me of 1 John 4:20, “…for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.” How in the world can I say I love God when I’m attacking verbally his children? How can I say I love God who I can’t see when I can’t even treat with respect, his child that I can see? That is the point James is making with the inconsistency of the tongue. We have this ability to praise the Lord, and then in the next breath, or over lunch, we will have roast church. ‘I didn’t like the content of the sermon, so we are going to have roast preacher for lunch,’ and criticize repeatedly. That was the same tongue that a few hours earlier was singing hymns, so James is pointing out this inconsistency, and when he says, ‘My brethren,’ he is obviously dealing with middle tense salvation.
So, the lost can’t control their tongues, they don’t have the Holy Spirit inside of them, but the Christian, who does have the Holy Spirit, and who is growing in the grace and knowledge of the Lord, must understand, at some point, that God has given us this powerful vehicle called speech that needs to be controlled under God’s resources because of its inconsistent nature.
To get across the point of the inconsistent nature of the tongue, James gives three illustrations in James 3:11,12; all these illustrations are interesting because they come from nature (see slide on UNIQUE CHARACTERISTICS). I don’t know what it was about James, but he was a nature guy. In fact, remember when we introduced this book back in the fall of 2020, I gave you some unique characteristics of the book of James, and one of the things I mentioned was the third one down on the left (on above referenced slide), illustrations from nature & daily living. That is James; he likes nature; he says, ‘What is your life, it is like mist that appears for a little while and then it is gone.’ Here he gives three illustrations from nature.
In the back of your mind, you should have Matthew 16:13-23, because there, the apostle Peter is a textbook example of someone who was inconsistent in the use of his tongue. I think we talked about this last time, but Peter was taken by the Lord up to a place Caesarea Philippi, which is the far north of the nation of Israel, I have been there myself, and Jesus says, ‘Who do men say that I am?’ And Peter coughs up the right answer in Matthew 16:16, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God,” 17 He said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.” Peter had an experience with the Lord where he opened his mouth, and the Lord used his mouth to identify Jesus properly.
The paragraph does not end there though. Then at that point, Jesus begins to talk about His death and His journey to Jerusalem where He would be mistreated by the Gentiles, and you know the rest of the story. Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him. You are rebuking the same ‘Guy’ that you just acknowledged as God! ‘Come here, God, I need to have a word with You.’ And he starts to rebuke Jesus because he doesn’t like the idea of a suffering Messiah; Peter liked the idea of a reigning Messiah in a Kingdom. Then you know how that ended, it says, ‘But He [Jesus] turned and said to Peter, (Matthew 16:23), “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.” Now that is the exact same guy who had that great revelation in Matthew 16:17 where the Lord had disclosed to him the proper identity of Christ and Peter verbalized it. Just a few verses later, he doesn’t have his mind on the things of God but on the things of man. He opens his mouth a second time, giving satan a platform.
That is what we are like as fallen human beings; even as Christians walking out the middle tense of our salvation. The sin nature is still inside of us; it will be inside of us until we are out of this body, so we have, at any moment, the capacity to yield to the sin nature or to yield to the new nature. That is why sometimes things that come out of our mouths are very glorifying to the Lord while others are basically devilish, demonic and even satanic. In fact, James will use later, towards the end of this chapter, demonic. In James 3:6 he says that the tongue can be set on fire by the powers of hell, and even satan himself.
To communicate this inconsistent use of the tongue that we apparently have as Christians, he gives three illustrations from nature. The first is when we use our tongue inconsistently it is like fresh and bitter water coming from the same source which is unnatural when you think about it. Why would you go to a source and get bitter water from it one second and fresh water from it the next? It is unnatural. That is what we are like — in this unnatural state. Notice James 2:11, “Does a fountain send out from the same opening both fresh and bitter water?” Illustration #1 concerning the inconsistency of the tongue is fresh and bitter water simultaneously coming from the same source.
Some of these truths need to be communicated to Christians today because your average Christian thinks that when they join a church that they’re joining this sanctified community, and they get very distraught when they see hypocrisy in the Church. As I like to say, to people who say, ‘I can’t join your church, there are too many hypocrites,’ we always like to respond, ‘Well, we always have room for one more hypocrite.’ All of us are like this; we are hypocritical; it isn’t a good thing; it is just the way we are. Just because you join a church, or because you are hanging around with Christians doesn’t mean that somehow the sin nature just disappeared.
Now we have resources to deal with the sin nature that we didn’t have as non-Christians, but the sin nature is there to return to, so when your favorite teacher or pastor or elder or brother or sister in Christ lets you down, don’t use that as an excuse to divorce yourself from Christianity. Just use that to say, ‘Well, there is another illustration of what James is speaking of here, which is why we need to follow the exhortations that James mentions.’
The first illustration is fresh and bitter water — James 3:11
The second illustration from nature is olives coming from a fig tree — James 3:12a, and in the first part of 3:12, “Can a fig tree, my brethren, produce olives,….? Now, is that how it works? Can a fig tree produce olives? No, because the book of Genesis says, ‘Each produced after its own kind.’ That is the natural order of things. So, when a Christian is using foul speech or has no control over his tongue, it is like an olive coming from a fig tree. Something contrary to nature, and the reason is because it isn’t coming from our new nature but from our old nature. That is why the book of James 1:8 tells us about our new nature and spiritual birth. In says, “In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures.”
So, I have this brand-new nature and when something wrong, sarcastic, hurtful, or derogatory is coming out of my mouth, it is just like an olive coming from a fig tree because it isn’t coming from my new nature. If it was coming from my new nature, it would be good speech because things produce after their own kind. It is coming from my old nature. In other words, it is a freak of nature is what James is saying. A born-again Christian without control of their tongue is like a freak of nature; they should be speaking out of their new nature, but they keep dialing back into their old nature.
There it is again, ‘My brothers,’ does it not say that in 3:12, ‘Can a fig tree, my brethren, produce olives…” So, again, this is middle tense salvation that Christians wrestle with. If this was addressed to unbelievers, they would be fulfilling their job description. Of course, unbelievers will say perverse things because that is their nature. A Christian ought to be different as we should speak out of our new nature rather than the old nature.
His third illustration, 3:12, second half of the verse, is like salt water from fresh water. So look at 3:12b, “Can a fig tree, my brethren, produce olives, or a vine produce figs? Nor can salt water produce fresh.” I go to a freshwater hole and salt water comes from it, or I go to a salt body of water and fresh water comes from it; it is a freak of nature because things produce after their own kind going back to Genesis 1. This is what we are like when we say things that are wicked; we aren’t bringing forth things that come from the new nature; we are dialing back to the old nature.
Let me show you something; hold your place in James 3 and slip over to Matthew 12 because a lot of people, when they get into this kind of teaching, say, ‘Okay, Lord give me tongue control; help me to control my tongue.’ When the fact of the matter is that this isn’t the issue. God wants us to use our tongue but to use it in the right way. The issue is not sitting around with a piece of duct tape over our mouths not saying anything. ‘Lord give me tongue control,’ isn’t the issue. The book of Proverbs 4:23 says, ‘Guard your heart with all diligence for out of it [the heart] spring the issues of life.’ The tongue is nothing more than a window to the heart, so if I have a tongue problem, chances are that I have a heart problem. If, on the other hand, wonderful things come out of my mouth, that means wonderful things are taking place in my heart. The issue here is controlling the heart, not so much the speech because if your heart is under control, then your speech will automatically be under control. Conversely, if your heart is out of control, then your speech will be out of control.
So, I know that when I am joyful, wanting to praise the Lord, and that’s what’s happening in my heart, then those things flow naturally out of my mouth. I know that when I am bitter or angry or worried or anxiety-ridden, and I am not walking moment-by-moment in fellowship with the Lord, then what will come out of my mouth is bitterness, anger, fear, anxiety. The fact of the matter is that you can tell a lot about someone by listening to them talk because the tongue, or the mouth is a window to the heart. What kind of person, character or you dealing with here; what’s going in in that person’s heart? Those are the things that naturally come out of their mouth.
The late Adrian Rodgers had the best statement on it, ‘What comes up in the bucket was down in the well.’ I throw the bucket in the well and a bunch of mud comes up, that is what was in the well. If I throw the bucket into the well and a lot of water comes up, that is what was in the well, so it is interesting that Adrian Rodgers didn’t originate that; Jesus originated it, that’s why I had you open your Bibles to Matthew 12:34, He is talking to the Pharisees, “You brood of vipers,… [no wonder they wanted Jesus dead saying things like that them. They’re the religious leaders of the nation, by the way] … how can you, being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart.”
So, Jesus says that you’re speaking evil things because that is your nature. Your tongue is fulfilling the job description of your nature. He is saying that the ultimate problem with the Pharisees isn’t what is coming out of their mouths as the mouth is just a window to the heart; the problem is the heart. You are dealing with unregenerate, unsaved people. Then Jesus says this in Matthew 12:36, “But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment.” I read that and say, ‘Lord, thank You that I won’t be in this judgment;’ I won’t be in this Great White Throne Judgment that He is speaking of here because I have the alien righteousness of Christ. But for those in that particular judgment, every careless word they speak, they’ll give an accounting for. That is how highly of a premium God places on the tongue or speech or mouth because that is the window to the heart. This is very important in Matthew 12:36, “I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting…” What does that mean, a careless word? Why is it called a careless word? Why are people judged in the final judgment for a careless word? What is a careless word? It is an unscripted word; a word that people speak that is not planned or choreographed. Do not evaluate people by their planned speeches. You should not evaluate my character by my planned sermons that I give you because they aren’t careless words; they are careful words. They are designed words; words that are carefully thought out. In fact, they are so carefully thought out that I could speak them in a way that is inconsistent with what is happening in my heart. See that? The careless word is the unscripted word; the word that comes out of a person’s mouth in an impromptu moment. That word is a revelation of their heart because the mouth is the window to the heart.
I remember the European politician, Gordon Brown, being outside of his limousine talking to some elderly lady, and he was telling her all these things, being very nice to her while she was somewhat critical of him. Then he got into his limousine and forgot to turn off his microphone. More political careers have been destroyed by that, by the way. If you are going to run for office, turn the microphone off when off script. He kept running his mouth and it was picked up by the media, and he lost, if I remember correctly, his political position in the next election because of it. So, inside the limousine, driving off, he starts railing against this lady, calling her intolerant, a bigot, etc, what a terrible woman she was; his constituency who he is supposed to be serving — so, how do you evaluate Gordon Brown? You don’t evaluate him by the things he was saying outside of the limousine while he was on-script, on camera, choreographing his statements. You evaluate him by his impromptu statements, that in this case, happened to get picked up by the media, when he didn’t have a chance to choreograph his remarks. That is the careless word that Jesus is dealing with here.
So, people, on the day of judgment, won’t be evaluated by their script or their screenplay or their sermons, but by things that come out of their mouths unscripted because that is the revelation into their hearts more than a choreographed speech.
So, what comes up in the bucket is down in the well. If we are having a problem with sarcastic, critical, unedifying speech that tears down, anxiety-ridden words, then it is time to go to the Lord, and ask Him, ‘What is going on in my heart? Can you help me with my heart?’ What did David pray? ‘Create in me a clean heart, O God.’ That is what we need. We need our hearts fixed, and if we are struggling with attitudinal type of sins then we should ask the Lord to help us in the area of the heart. It isn’t a matter of, ‘Oh, Lord, I’m not going to say anything else. Me and my big mouth, I just won’t say anything else.’ That won’t fix the problem either because the problem is ultimately rooted in the heart, and the heart is a vehicle for the mouth to speak. I think that is why James speaks about sources a lot. What comes out of a source of water, a vine, of our mouths is connected to the heart.
So, this then becomes an incredible twelve verses on practical righteousness. It strategically follows works accompanying useful faith, and then James with no paragraph break here. I am back in James 3 now, says, no verse division, ‘Here is the ultimate good work you can do.” ‘Lord, what good work should I do to be practically righteous? ‘ Here is the greatest one. As a matter of fact, if you can get this one down under God’s power, anything else is easy, and that is control of the tongue. It isn’t a membrane issue, it is a heart issue because the gnostics taught that the physical world was evil; the tongue is evil, so I will just cut out my tongue or bite it, a famous saying as it goes. Don’t do that too much, it will hurt. ‘Give me tongue control, and I just won’t talk.’ The problem isn’t the tongue because we aren’t gnostics; we don’t believe the physical world is evil by itself. There isn’t anything inherently evil about the tongue. The problem is that the tongue is an, expression of the heart or the soul, with which I can go right or wrong directions. The tongue is merely a manifestation of that.
The tongue’s influence per James 3:1-5, in teaching in all of life with three illustrations, and then 3:6-12, the tongue’s potential for evil; its satanic potential in 3:6; its un-tamable nature in 3:7,8, and its basic inconsistency in 3:9-12. It is the most inconsistent part of who we are, and that’s why it needs to be reined in according to God’s power.
Now, what happens is we move away from faith trusting God as Christians through life into wisdom. He starts a discussion of wisdom in 3:13 all the way to the end of the book of James. The first thing he does, in 3:13-18, is to define wisdom. What is wisdom? After he defines wisdom, he will apply it to every area of life:
-Spirituality James 4:1-12:
-Commerce or business or finance 4:13-17. You mean the Bible has something to say about the business I’m trying to run, or my working for someone else? Yes, that is part of wisdom; wisdom is applied not just within the four walls of a church but to your whole life, including your financial life.
Use of wealth 5:1-6
Then he will apply wisdom, properly defined, to waiting for the Lord’s return 5:7-12
Then he will apply wisdom to prayer 5:13-18
Then, what do you do when one of your Christian friends is in sin and they need restoration? That will require some wisdom, won’t it? Jesus said that’s like taking a splinter out of someone’s eye. Have you ever tried to take a splinter out of someone’s eye? That is a tough job. Taking a splinter out of someone’s eye requires moving in with tremendous skill and delicacy. That is what it is like when restoring an erring brother or sister. Or maybe one of your kids has wandered off the path and is into sin. James 5:19-20 is for that purpose, too.
So, notice that wisdom is defined in 3:13-18, and then is applied to the various areas above.
Wisdom is demonstrated by her actions 3:13, but the good old King James version says in 1 Timothy 6:20, ‘there is science falsely called or knowledge called;’ not all knowledge is knowledge from God. Did you know that? There is knowledge from the earth, so he will explain what earthly wisdom is like, and it isn’t good, 3:14-16. But then in contrast to that, he will explain heavenly wisdom, not wisdom from the earth but wisdom from above.
So, you get a definition of wisdom here where wisdom will be demonstrated by her actions (3:13), and how to tell, if at any moment in your walk with the Lord, you are dialing from earthly wisdom or heavenly wisdom, because we want the latter.
After he straightens us out on that, he then says, ‘Okay, let’s take this out for a test drive; let’s apply it to every area of life.’ Spirituality, commerce, wealth, waiting for the Lord’s return, prayer, and restoring the erring brother — that is the direction that we are moving into next week.
We will stop here…