Steeping in James 3:1-12


It’s been a while since I’ve made a post in the Steeping in James series.  I’ve gotten over-busy and have let it slide.  Hopefully, I’m back on track now.

This week we’re looking at James 3:1-12 and the topic of taming the tongue.  The corresponding pages from Douglas Moo’s TNTC Commentary on James are 118-130.


  • 3:1 ought to make me tremble: “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.”
  • A perfect man (if it were possible to be one in this life) would not stumble in what he says.
    • He would have full reign of his tongue.
  • The tongue (i.e. our words) carries amazing power to destroy and tear down.
    • Think of the spreading blaze of gossip and the difficulty of extinguishing it.
  • Verses 9-10 touch on hypocrisy and state that it ought not be so.
  • Verses 11-12 challenge me on the state of my heart.
  • This passage reflects the words of Jesus in Matthew 12:33-37.
    • Especially 12:34, “You brood of vipers!  How can you speak good, when you are evil?  for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.”
  • As ‘works’ are an outward manifestation of the true, saving faith, so a controlled tongue is an outward manifestation of a Christian heart (or even faith itself).
    • Are our works perfect?  No.
    • Are our words perfect?  No.
    • But we are to be striving for perfection and relying solely for the perfecting grace of God to lead us in sanctification.
  • Moo puts it this way (p 129):
    • “Christians who have been transformed by the Spirit of God should manifest the wholeness and purity of the heart in consistency and purity of speech.”
    • “The tragedy of the tongue is precisely this inconsistency; its tendency to bless God one minute and yet curse men the next.”
  • In the same way that a fig tree cannot bear olives and a salt pond cannot yield fresh water, the unregenerated heart cannot produce a bridled, controlled tongue (it is fundamentally unable, without the transforming grace of God).  Likewise, a perfectly regenerated heart (on which path Christians are traveling by the sanctifying grace of God, yet will never fully, perfectly reach in this life) cannot but manifest a bridled and controlled tongue.
  • Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.


  1. Watch Desiring God’s short dramatic depiction of James 3 (it runs about 6 minutes but puts this passage into a more clear reality).
  2. What do your actions (specifically with respect to speech) reveal about the true state of your heart?

~ by toddbumgarner on November 5, 2008 5:48 am.

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