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Living Out Our Faith Skillfully - James 3:9-10

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We are right back into our study of James. Our text for this evening is James 3:9-10. I have prepared another handout. The handout shows the work that I did in preparing for our study. As I have done the past couple of weeks, I will simply highlight some key words. You can look through the rest of my work if you so desire later.
So let’s read the entire paragraph and then come back to verses 9 and 10.
James 3:1–12 KJV 1900
1 My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation. 2 For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body. 3 Behold, we put bits in the horses’ mouths, that they may obey us; and we turn about their whole body. 4 Behold also the ships, which though they be so great, and are driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small helm, whithersoever the governor listeth. 5 Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! 6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell. 7 For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind: 8 But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. 9 Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. 10 Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be. 11 Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter? 12 Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either a vine, figs? so can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh.
As you may have noted, we are almost done with this paragraph. We will finish up next week with verses 11-12. However, for this evening, let’s get into verse 9 and 10 which say:
James 3:9–10 KJV 1900
9 Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. 10 Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be.
So, as I was studying this past week, here are some words that I highlighted.


The word’s “bless (blessing)” and “curse (cursing)” are repeated twice in these two verses.
“Bless” means blessing, praise. Refers to speech that invokes blessing, or to the positive circumstances associated with blessing.
“Curse” means to curse, pronounce a curse upon. Refers to the act of pronouncing misfortune for someone else .
I think we all understand what both of those words mean. They are opposites. Cursing is the antonym of blessing. None of like to be cursed, however, we enjoy blessings. Unfortunately, we tend to allow cursing to flow much more than blessing.
“Similitude” is a word we don’t use often anymore. It simply means “likeness.” Thus, every person is made in the likeness of God.
The word “proceedeth” is an important word in our text. It carries the connotation of go out repeatedly. Thus, out of the same mouth blessing and cursing go out again and again.
Another important word for context is “brethren.” We know that word means a brother or near kinsman. The reference then is to all believers as part of God’s family. We are brothers and sisters. Therefore, the context is the Holy Spirit speaking to us as believers.
Now, let’s move right into the:


As always we begin with this question.

What is the Holy Spirit talking about?

Without a doubt, the Holy Spirit is talking about the tongue. His use of the tongue in our text reflects the overall topic of communication. Thus, the Holy Spirit is teaching us about Biblical communication. We use our tongue to communicate thoughts, plans, and actions to others. Our tongue is a crucial instrument in teaching others. For this reason, it is a powerful instrument as well.

What is the Holy Spirit saying about the tongue in verses 9 and 10?

There are several things the Holy Spirit teaches us in these verses. Here is what I learned as I was studying them. There are three points here.
The first is:

The Tongue is a Paradox

Note again verse 9.
James 3:9 KJV 1900
9 Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God.
The paradox is this. How could a person use their tongue to both bless and curse in almost the same breath? It just doesn’t seem right. Yet, God’s Word is true. So many times we come to church singing “O How I Love Jesus” and just a few minutes before walking in the door we were cursing the guy who pulled out in front of us.
Note a further paradox here.
We bless God who is our Father. We touched on that subject in this morning’s message. He is our Father. We love Him and He loves us. We wouldn’t think for a moment to curse Him. None of us would dare to do so. Yet, Scripture is quite clear that all of us are made in God’s image.
Genesis 1:27 KJV 1900
27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.
A fact that is stated again in our text James 3:9 “9, which are made after the similitude of God.”
One Bible commentator said this:
The point in the remark of the apostle is, the absurdity of employing the tongue in such contradictory uses as to bless one who has to us the relation of a father, and to curse any being, especially those who are made in his image...As we bless God, we ought with the same organ to bless those who are like him. There is an absurdity in cursing men who are thus made, like what there would be in both blessing and cursing the Creator himself. - Thomas Lea
There is a classic illustration from Scripture that demonstrates our problem in this area. Over in Mark we read:
Mark 14:27–31 KJV 1900
27 And Jesus saith unto them, All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered. 28 But after that I am risen, I will go before you into Galilee. 29 But Peter said unto him, Although all shall be offended, yet will not I. 30 And Jesus saith unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this day, even in this night, before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice. 31 But he spake the more vehemently, If I should die with thee, I will not deny thee in any wise. Likewise also said they all.
And then, in Scripture, a few verse later, we read:
Mark 14:66–72 KJV 1900
66 And as Peter was beneath in the palace, there cometh one of the maids of the high priest: 67 And when she saw Peter warming himself, she looked upon him, and said, And thou also wast with Jesus of Nazareth. 68 But he denied, saying, I know not, neither understand I what thou sayest. And he went out into the porch; and the cock crew. 69 And a maid saw him again, and began to say to them that stood by, This is one of them. 70 And he denied it again. And a little after, they that stood by said again to Peter, Surely thou art one of them: for thou art a Galilaean, and thy speech agreeth thereto. 71 But he began to curse and to swear, saying, I know not this man of whom ye speak. 72 And the second time the cock crew. And Peter called to mind the word that Jesus said unto him, Before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice. And when he thought thereon, he wept.
It didn’t take long for Peter to go from “I will not deny thee in anywise” to “I know not this man of whom ye speak” as he cursed. And, may we not be so quick to judge Peter, we all know we are capable of the same.
The tongue is a paradox. O, how the truth of God’s word reveals our sin. It is moment like this when Hebrews 4:12 echoes in our hearts and minds.
Hebrews 4:12 KJV 1900
12 For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
Not only is the tongue a PARADOX, the Holy Spirit reveals that is also one other thing.

The Tongue is a Parrot

Look again at verse 10.
James 3:10 KJV 1900
10 Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be.
Psalm 34:13 (KJV 1900)
13 Keep thy tongue from evil, And thy lips from speaking guile.
Proverbs 13:3 (KJV 1900)
3 He that keepeth his mouth keepeth his life: But he that openeth wide his lips shall have destruction.
Proverbs 21:23 (KJV 1900)
23 Whoso keepeth his mouth and his tongue Keepeth his soul from troubles.
1 Peter 3:10 (KJV 1900)
10 For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile:
Remember the word “proceedeth” means to go out repeatedly. Thus, we are constantly parroting over and over again the same things. We bless, we curse. We bless, we curse. It is a constant drip of praise to God and pronouncing misfortune on others. It is a moral incongruity. Herein lies our dilemma. We cannot control it constant drip. Everything about the way we use our tongue is completely inappropriate. Yet, here we stand face to face with this reality. We know it. In our heart of hearts, we know that this is true. And, perhaps, there are many of us here this evening who wish it stop. We have no desire to do it. Yet, our flesh seems to take over and without hesitation we fall right back into this formidable trap.
The story is told that:
The heathen philosopher Xanthus, expecting some friends to dine with him, ordered his servant Æsop to provide the best things the market could supply. Tongues only were provided; and these the cook was ordered to serve up with different sauces. Course after course was supplied, each consisting of tongue. “Did I not order you,” said Xanthus in a violent passion, “to buy the best victuals the market afforded?”—“And have I not obeyed your orders?” said Æsop. “Is there any thing better than a tongue? Is not the tongue the bond of civil society, the organ of truth and reason, and the instrument of our praise and adoration of the gods?” Xanthus ordered him to go again to the market on the morrow, and buy the worst things he could find. Æsop went, and again he purchased tongues, which the cook was ordered to serve as before. “What! tongues again?” exclaimed Xanthus. “Most certainly,” rejoined Æsop, “the tongue is surely the worst thing in the world. It is the instrument of all strife and contention, the inventor of lawsuits, and the source of division and wars: it is the organ of error, of lies, calumny and blasphemies.”[1]
[1]Foster, Elon. “Tongue, Good and Evil of The.” New Cyclopaedia of Prose Illustrations. WORDsearch, 2020. Print.
Without doubt, the tongue can be used for good and evil. In our text, the Holy Spirit depicts the evilness of the tongue as a warning. The warning is for those seeking to teach others. There is nothing wrong with teaching others. However, we must know and understand that our tongues can lead us in trouble. Thus, we must be careful. If we know its capability and we know its control issues, then we can effectively through obedience to God guided by the Holy Spirit’s direction use it teach about Him and help others grow spiritually.
Now, here comes the last point of the evening. We know the tongue is a paradox. We know the tongue is a parrot. And, from our earlier study of proceeding verse, we know the tongue’s potential for destruction.
And the last is:

The Tongue must be Prohibited

The Holy Spirit emphatically says, James 3:10My brethren, these things ought not so to be.
In other words the tongue must be prohibited. We need to put a stop to its duplicity, its constant dripping, and its destructive power.
However, remember this.
James 3:8 KJV 1900
8 But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.
If the tongue is something no man can tame, then who can? The obvious answer is God the Holy Spirit.
How does one then allow the Holy Spirit to be in control?
Obedience to the God’s Word is the simple answer. A more extensive answer comes in the second half of this chapter as well as throughout the entire Word of God. However, my mind keeps taking me back to these passages.
James 4:7 KJV 1900
7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
James 4:10 KJV 1900
10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.
Ephesians 5:17–21 KJV 1900
17 Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is. 18 And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; 19 Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; 20 Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; 21 Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.
Submission is a key ingredient. We must humbly submit all of who we are to Him. A submission that includes our tongue. The passage in Ephesians is one that like a lot. Being filled with the Spirit is essentially being controlled by the Spirit. Note that we are to speak to ourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. We have spent a lot of time talking about our tongue in the sense of speaking outwardly to others. However, all outward actions begin inwardly. The battle of the mind is our greatest challenge. If we want to use our tongue properly and Biblically, then we must begin by focusing our mind on the things of God. There is no better way to do just that than by filling our minds with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Add to those a constant dose of Scripture verse memory and you have God’s formula for winning the battle of the mind. A heart stayed upon God is a person who will through outwards actions (words and deeds) demonstrate their love for God and others.


Here then is what we have learned tonight from these two verses.
Our tongue is a paradox. We use it to praise the Lord and, then, in almost the same breathe, we curse people. Out of the same mouth, comes blessing and cursing.
Also, our tongue is a parrot. We continually pour out (proceedeth) the same pattern of blessing and cursing again and again.
And, then, the last thing we learned is how vitally important we must prohibit such action from happening. As brothers and sisters in Christ, we must allow the Holy Spirit use us and our tongues in edifying each other. Thus, we must humbly submit to Him.
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