Taming the Tongue

(system) #1

In 1:26 James dropped a small bombshell against the unbridled tongue. Now in 3:1-12 he drops a large one, a blistering attack against the tongue. He does not really explain why this issue is so important to him, given his concern for social justice. Nor does he give us any direct help in controlling the tongue. But it is an urgent issue that deserves our attention.

Questions for Discussion:

1. Sticks, stones, and words. What would James say about our well-known nursery rhyme that tries to put a brave face on the damage done by the unbridled tongue: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” Is that true? Hardly. Some internet entries offer another version:

Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will hurt forever. Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can kill me.

2. Advice to teachers? Some have argued that all of James 3 is counsel to teachers. It starts out with a word for teachers. Does 3:13-18 also address teachers?

3. Medicine for the unbridled tongue? James tells us: “No one can tame the tongue – a restless evil, full of deadly poison” (3:8). He gives us no solution, no hope. Where can we turn to find help in taming the tongue? This would be a good place for a wide-ranging discussion in a Sabbath School class.

4. Do troubles tame or unleash the tongue? The intensity of James attack against the tongue is startling. If, in fact, suffering is the theme in James, it would be well to explore the question of whether people who have fallen into difficulties end up attacking each other more or helping each other more. Or can both patterns be found, with trouble sometimes bringing people together, sometimes driving them apart?

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/6412

(Thomas J Zwemer) #2

the tongue gets one in the greatest trouble when it attempts to tell the truth to power. No true, honest scholar can gat from Dan 8:14 to Oct 22:1844 for any event on earth or in heaven. Yet fear keeps them tongue tied. Imagine one dedicating their mind and tongue to evangelize to that none event. It rivals the vicar of Christ in blasphemy. Tom Z

(le vieux) #3

If there was a “down” arrow, you would get one, Thomas. Many students of the Bible have studied this and found that nothing else fits. Of course, you’ve already labeled anyone who disagrees with your position “false” and “dishonest.” That’s a logical fallacy, but I’ve forgotten the technical term.

It’s one thing to admit an honest disagreement on the interpretation, and to acknowledge that others have drawn different conclusions, but to say that “true”, “honest” scholars will march in lock step is unfair, and unrealistic. But denigrating one’s opponents when a substantive argument is unavailable is a common tactic. I just thought maybe you were above that sort of pettiness.

(le vieux) #4

While a Christian should avoid the kind of language that would hurt someone, there is the flip side of the coin. A Christian should also be able to rise above being offended by the slurs thrown at them by the world, or even their fellow church members. Jesus said, *In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. * John 16:33. He also said that the world would hate the true Christian. If anyone could have a legitimate reason to complain about being offended, it was Jesus. But we don’t read anywhere that He called any press conferences to announce that He was offended by this or that remark. He just continued to preach the truth and to practice the Golden Rule. I believe we are too easily offended because we are too stuck on ourselves and take ourselves too seriously. A little humility would go a long way toward smoothing life’s path.

(Thomas J Zwemer) #5

Bic. did you ever hear of Hanukkah ? Jesus kept it. TOM z

(Frankmer7) #6


Although I hear your point about the value of a thicker skin, I think just as prevalent a problem among committed Christians is buying into the idea that we shouldn’t be offended, and then swallowing, sitting on, and never confronting the offender or the offense when it happens…because “real Christians,” in the spirit of “humility,” aren’t supposed to get offended.

What does this lead to? Stored anger, passive aggressive behavior, avoidance, unsafe relationships, etc. Jesus makes allowance for the fact that we will be offended, and feel it…“if your brother offends you, go to him…” And, “if you’ve offended your brother, leave your gift at the altar…” Jesus doesn’t say anything about not feeling offended, or pretending not to because we should be so sanctified, or humble. He teaches us to acknowledge it, confront the offending party truthfully, and then to go our way, hopefully reconciled…but maybe not.

With that said, I agree, sometimes water off a ducks back is the best policy.



(Gerhard Dr Svrcek Seiler) #7

Tomorrow I will suggest that in my class everybody should - for himself - the “Schimpfwort” ( - “calling one names”) that comes in his mind. You need some mental training, manifesting an attitude, to have a rich repetoire all of a sudden in the “right time” - - so guide your mind and phantasy in the other direction and sanctify of your attitude ! Also check your attitude towards" thy neighbour" : A “Hmmm !” when his name is mentioned may kill him !

James is very close t our everyday life and the trivial pursuits of it

(le vieux) #8

So what? Proves nothing. Has nothing to do with Dan. 8:14. A real stretch to use Hanukkah to dismantle the Sanctuary doctrine. Been tried, and failed. True believers will hang on to it, just like conspiracy theorists hang on to the idea that the moon landings were faked or that the US government engineered the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

(le vieux) #9

That’s the whole point. I Cor. 13, addresses this. It says that agape suffers long and is not easily provoked. So, if I have the fruit of the Spirit (which includes peace and longsuffering), I will not be easily worked up by verbal assaults.

I remember one time when we had a “lynch mob,” which was out to get the pastor. They walked around with church manuals under their arms every Sabbath. When the nominating committee was being chosen, my wife, who was church clerk, along with our church treasurer, was asked to count the votes. The names chosen were upsetting to the lynch mob, so they immediately accused my wife and the treasurer of cheating. It was so ridiculous that my wife got a good laugh out of it. She rolled her eyes and moved on. When we know we are in the right, we do not need to get offended. Filled with the Spirit, we won’t get offended. I realize that we are not all there, yet. Some are still working through these things. But that is the goal. But it’s hard to achieve that goal when the culture around us seems to thrive on being offended and castigating their alleged offenders.

(Thomas J Zwemer) #10

Name one place other than Glacier View were it failed. please leave out Battle Creek and Tacoma Park and all they pray over.

Even cursory reading of the Gospels makes it clear that Christ is the Sanctuary. he claimed to be the Lamb, the Water of life, the bread of life, the light of the World, His Prayers to the Father is our incense, He fulfilled the commandments and expanded their meaning, He provided the seat of mercy. His ascension to heaven was to enter within the veil. The book of Revelation makes it clear that Satan’s focus is upon Christ as God’s sanctuary. The idea that upon a date certain Christ left one apartment to a much holier one is pure nonsense. a nonsense that has destroyed the faith of thousands. Wherever Christ is is the most Holy Place. to give voice to such misuse of Scripture is to make of none effect the Word of God… Christ even said, destroy this temple and in three days, I will build it again. Tom Z

(Elaine Nelson) #11

This recalls my dad’s remarks that there are two kinds of Christians: "Rake Christians"and “Pitchfork Christians.”

Rake Christians take the message back to themselves; pitchfork Christians pitch it to all those behind and around them.

(le vieux) #12

Really? That’s quite a stretch, I think. How could the idea that Christ is interceding in the heavenly sanctuary (as stated by Paul) “destroy the faith of thousands?” The hatred of this doctrine causes some strange reactions. Everything in the sanctuary service pointed forward to something Christ would do in the plan of salvation. Passover=the cross; wave sheaf=the resurrection; Pentecost=the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. It follows that the Day of Atonement would also have a fulfillment. To date, no one has come up with a better fulfillment than the IJ. The Jews understood the Day of Atonement to be a day of judgement. You don’t have to believe it if you don’t want to, but I continue to be surprised by how much animosity there is toward the doctrine.

(Thomas J Zwemer) #13
Birder To coin a phase--It is vain to extenuated the matter. at the words It is Finished,  veil was torn between the Holy Place and the Most Holy.  The writer to the Hebrews  makes that perfectly clear that Christ on His arrival in a heaven entered within the veil.   thus we have priesthood of all believers  with Christ as our High Priest and Advocate with the Father. please read Phil 2:5-11.  Every place that Jesus is is the most Boly Place, even a burning bush.  Tom Z

(Frankmer7) #14

When we know we are in the right, we do not need to get offended.


What you’re saying makes sense if you’re talking about a black and white issue. But, issues between people who have closer relationships, such as spouses, relatives, good friends, etc., are often much more grey. It’s not always, or even often, that one party is 100% in the right, and the other party equally in the wrong when dealing with intimate, relational matters. That’s when offenses can happen that really hurt. To say that someone who is Spirit filled will not, or should not, feel offended in such situations, and from such encounters, sounds more like a spiritualized denial than a healthy spirituality, to me.

It’s one thing to roll one’s eyes and move on over the shenanigans of what sounds like disgruntled, and crack pot, church members. It’s quite another if a person you love, and who knows your weaknesses inside out, wounds you with their words or their inconsiderate behavior. Words can and do hurt…even the Spirit filled. This is when what Jesus counseled needs to be put into action. The offense needs to be confronted truthfully and with care for the health and safety of the relationship.

Outside of flying off the handle or having a hair trigger temper, which is what I believe Paul is identifying in 1 Cor. 13, I don’t see how someone who progresses along the path of sanctification ever outgrows this because they have become immune to offense. Instead, they become better at identifying it, honestly owning their end, admitting and not denying or stuffing their emotions, and working towards reconciliation.

Jesus told us to pray to God, “Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.” Being forgiven by God can happen in an instant, but forgiving others for us is a process that involves everything that I just shared, and more. When do we outgrow the Lord’s prayer?



(le vieux) #15

But you did not address my points. Therefore I conclude that you don’t really have an answer, but would rather repeat the talking points of those who despise the pillars of our faith.

I suppose there’s really no point in debating this, since it’s been batted about many times here, and no minds are changed. Those who don’t wish to believe the doctrine are free to do so, but I continue to wonder why so many of them maintain their membership in the SDA Church when it maintains doctrines which they find embarrassing.

(le vieux) #16

You make some good points. And there are unique situations which require various approaches. But let’s not forget that one of Jesus’ closest companions turned him over to the Romans, and one of His inner circle pretended not to know Him. Yet Jesus freely forgave him, showing no signs of having taken offense. He is our example.

(Margaret Ernst) #17

Thanks for the great questions, Dr. Thompson. I’m tackling #3.

I love the formulation “speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15). Some of us have trouble with “the truth,” some of us have trouble with the “in love” part, and some of us have trouble “speaking” up or “speaking” out to begin with. Different Bible authors emphasize different parts of this formulation.

Jesus seems to have had no trouble with speaking the truth, but some of His speeches would sound less than loving if someone else voiced them (Matt. 23). Ezekiel and Jeremiah heap blame on those who speak gently and reassuringly (“Peace, peace”) at the expense of truth. My guess is that James was responding to a situation where a lot of speaking the truth was going on, and people needed to cultivate the “in love” part.

I’m with Frank on the idea that some people focus so hard on perfecting the “love” part of the formulation (impersonating more mature Christians?) that they feel that it would be unchristian to speak their own truth in the situation. I think temperament plays into it, too–I have admired friends who seem to speak their minds directly and freely, and at least one has said that she wished she had more of a filter (could reflect long enough to check whether she was being loving enough).

We all fall short in many ways. But as long as our lives are hid with Christ in God, it must be OK that we are not completely perfect yet–some of us learning how to be brave enough to speak our truth (or even speak up at all) and others of us learning how to slow down and not let 'er rip until we’ve done a “love” check.

(Mercy triumphs over judgment. James 2:13) #18

Would it be possible for the author & date to display here along w/ the posts? That info disappears in the transfer to Conversation.

(Patrik Aeschbacher) #19

A hard topic for tomorrow’s class. Because we will have to use exactly the instrument James is criticizing, our tongue, to discuss the matter. Who will feel free then to ‘throw a first stone’ into the round?

I read Bilam’s story again. Not that I understand it well. But…, wasn’t he the man of God who had a problem with his tongue? And doesn’t Numeri 22, 27-29 address the lack of impulse control that James is focusing on? There are these typical donkey-moments in life where instead of reaching our goals we find ourselves heading in the wrong direction (1), getting hurt (2) and completely stuck (3) that finally drive us nuts, don’t they?! Bilam admits that merely the absence of an appropriate device kept him from killing his donkey in the heat of the moment. Only the angel of God may let our life’s donkey, that we quickly blame and curse, speak to us to help us understand: wrong way for godly people! And Numeri 23, 8 addresses the problem of the source that can not bring forth clean and unclean words at the same time.

A James of today would probably not only mention the tongue but also our fingers. Be it the ten fingers we need to type a mail or blog comment or the thumb to type an SMS on our smart phones. All means of communication with an easy to press send button are potentially poisonous. The horse, the boat on waves and the fire have in common that they are highly unstable systems. Even when they seem to be under our control a loss of stability with consequent disaster may happen easily to the unexperienced rider/captain/child - or typer.

May God help us to be true olive trees.

(Yoyo7th) #20

King David had a problem too…PS 141:3