James letter is going to talk about how we use words. First in regards to the teaching of God’s Word. Then in regard to how our ‘tongues’, when not controlled, can poison Christ’s Body and make all of life, a ‘burning hell’. Lastly James is going to address how the redeemed body of Christ, those who ‘bless God’, can have no part in the cursing of anyone who is made in the likeness of God; that is every human.

God is speaking to HIS church in this passage, it is in agreement with and to clarify, the teaching we see throughout the Bible regarding the power of words… for good and evil…

This is an US / WE message as to the Body of Christ and in particular THIS body!

I believe we are building a healthy culture of ‘graceful scrutiny’ of what myself and all who lead in discipleship capacities teach / communicate.

There is nothing more important we do as a church: Teach Biblical Doctrine!

We are all challenged with saying the wrong thing, there is no one who can say they have their tongue under control. We are here to understand God. Part of Biblical Salvation is an understanding of God. It takes wrong thinking about God to invoke a curse because only HE can enact a curse… What we think about the Triune God of Scripture is critical.

James 3:1-12

1 Don’t aim at adding to the number of teachers, my brothers and sisters, I beg you! Remember that we who are teachers will be judged by a much higher standard.

  • The process by which God raises up teachers happens in HIS due time
  • It’s not about quantity of teachers, it’s about the quality of the teaching (Biblical)
  • Those who undertake the teaching of God’s Word will receive more scrutiny
  • Because what is taught about Scripture is our # 1 priority…
  • Those who teach it will be the recipients of more criticism
  • The term denotes there is more quantity of judging…they will be judged more
  • James knows how teaching God’s Word makes you a target
  • The same principals are used (Biblical Standards) to judge teachers as anyone
  • There is more at stake, so the application of those standards is done more

2 We all make mistakes in all kinds of ways, but the one who can claim that they never say the wrong thing can consider themself perfect, for if they can control their tongue they can control every other part of their personality!

  • We are all in the same boat and we all fall short, so judge teachers with Grace
  • If you claim to never say anything wrong, you be able to be totally perfect
  • None of us can make that claim…but that is the goal…that is Christ’s example!
  • This is not saying we can’t have disagreements or even arguments

3 We control the movements of a large animal like the horse with a tiny bit placed in its mouth. 4 Ships too, for all their size and the momentum they have with a strong wind behind them, are controlled by a very small rudder according to the course chosen by the helm.

  • The examples James uses from their regular life are familiar to them not us…
  • We control planes with laptop computers or run our entire life from a phone
  • We see that the size of something is not always indicative of it’s power

5 The human tongue is physically small, but what tremendous effects it can boast of! A whole forest can be set ablaze by a tiny spark of fire, and the tongue is as dangerous as any fire, with vast potentialities for evil. 6 It can poison the whole body, it can make the whole of life a blazing hell.

  • We have much bigger body parts than our ‘Tongues’ / ‘Mouth’
  • Small thing, big effect
  • It is an intense picture painted here, it is dramatic for a reason…
  • Poison, Contaminate, Spoil, Defile = It effects all ‘Members’ of The Body
  • ‘Fire from Hell’ = Destruction because of Evil
  • We can often consider some things that are said to be inconsequential
  • One chance spark can cause a tremendous ripple of effect
  • We must not underestimate the potential damage our speech can do

7 Beasts, birds, reptiles and all kinds of sea-creatures can be, and in fact are, tamed by humans, but no one can tame the human tongue. 8 It is an evil always liable to break out, and the poison it spreads is deadly.

  • This issue needs to be addressed because it is such an ‘untamed’ force’
  • Reality: This is an ‘US’ deal, it was a problem then amongst believers, like now
  • Humans have dominion over animals and can ‘suppress’ / control them
  • Yet humanity has not found a way to tame dangerous speech…

9 We use the tongue to bless our Father, God, and we use the same tongue to curse other humans, who are all created in God’s likeness. 10 Blessing and curses come out of the same mouth—surely, among us, this is the sort of thing that never ought to happen!

  • Remember the context: this is to church bodies / surrendered communities
  • We’ve been given the grace & privilege to use our speech to truly bless God
  • Even those not redeemed by Christ still bear his image (distorted by sin)
  • Why would we of all people use that same speech to curse HIS creation?
  • With God’s authority James says: WE, Christ’s Body, does NOT Do this.

In modern usage, curse is generally considered synonymous with swear.ing / inappropriate words But that is not how the term was used throughout the Old Test ament and also in the new testament. In both the Hebrew Scriptures and in the New Testament, ‘curse’ has a different meanings than we are used to. These are specific statements, such as to invoke misfortune, to afflict, to make an oath against, and to call on God to do bad things to someone

Curse: Genesis 3:17

And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;

Blessing: Numbers 6:24-26

May The Lord bless you and keep you, may The Lord make His face shine on you and show you His favor. May The Lord lift up His face toward you and give you peace.

Bless and Keep = Face Face = Favor Face + Peace

11 Have you ever known a spring to give sweet and bitter water simultaneously? 12 Have you ever seen a fig-tree with a crop of olives, or seen figs growing on a vine? It is just as impossible for a spring to give fresh and saltwater at the same time.

  • The answer to the question is NO, it have never been heard of
  • Certain plants only yield certain crops, it’s not possible for them to do otherwise


We are not to artificially elevate people into the place of teaching God’s Word. The goal is not to have more teachers, it is to have teaching that is more biblical.

Those who do teach / preach God’s Word will be subject to more scrutiny in what they teach but grace is always prominent in that judgment. (Ch. 2 verse 13)

We all are guilty of saying wrong things, because we are all naturally sinners. Controlling what we say is a discipleship goal.

We are to grow in awareness of our speech and the effects it has on others. God wants us to be warned about the potential for evil our words can have.

WE must be careful not to underestimate the poisonous effect that OUR inconsiderate words can have on THIS Body of Christ. (V. 6 & V. 8)

The cursing of another ‘Image Bearer’ by one who has been redeemed by the ‘Image’ / Jesus Christ, is not to happen. James presents evidence that it is impossible, based on God’s natural order.


Biblical Application: Finding the right intentions, AND acting on those intentions

What is YOUR role in a healthy culture of gracefully scrutinizing the teaching of God’s Word here at Midtown?

In what situations and relationships do you need to be more careful about your speech? How are you going to do that?

If you desire God to be your instrument of punishment visiting evil on any person, you may not have fully responded to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Respond to The Gospel