Ten Commandments for the Tongue from the Book of James
A Sermon by Dr. Neil Chadwick
A. Like the bit in the horse's mouth, without control of the tongue, religion is vain
B. A definition of "maturity" must include the controlling of the tongue (3:2)
C. The tongue is so small, yet powerful; it is likened to the rudder of a boat, and
compared to fire (3:3-6)
D. The task of controlling the tongue is a large one - the tongue seems unable to be
Commandment # 1. - Thou shalt not blame God when you are tempted. (1:13)
A. We are living in what we might call, "The Age of Irresponsibility"; many people
seem to want to place the blame elsewhere. Here are examples of what we hear:
"It's in my genes" - biological determinism
"My parents did it to me" - environmental determinism
"He's merely a product of the society, he couldn't help it" - sociological
"The devil made me do it" - fatalism
"God is in control, He allowed it to happen, so it is really His fault."
B. This seems to have been the counsel of Job's wife, "Curse God and die!"
C. No, let's not speak against God, but place the blame for temptation where it
belongs - our own selfish desires. (1:14,15) This is not a "self put down", but a
statement of reality
Commandment # 2. Thou shalt not be eager to talk. (1:19)
A. How well I remember transporting a car-load of young people to a Youth Rally, all
of them were trying to talk at the same time! Of course we can excuse youthful,
incessant talking, but it seems some don't outgrow it!
B. A friend once told me that, "With some people, getting a word in edgewise is like
threading the sewing machine with the motor running."
C. James says, "be swift to hear" - there is a tremendous need for good listeners. As
Steven Covey says, "Seek first to understand, then to be understood."
Commandment #3. Thou shalt not give vent to anger. (1:19)
A. Some operate from the principle, "I always just speak what's on my mind." That's
not always a good idea if you're angry.
B. A young boy had been taught to count to ten before taking out his anger on anyone.
One day his mother saw him in the yard sitting on Johnny, the neighbor boy. When she
reminded him that he should count to ten first, he said, "I am counting. I just wanted to
make sure Johnny's still here when I finish counting."
C. There's wisdom in waiting it out, talk about the problem when your anger is over.
D. At a 50th Wedding anniversary party, the emcee asked the gentleman how at his age
he could be in such good shape. "When my wife and I were married 50 years ago, we
decided that whenever we would have an argument, the one who started it should leave
the house and walk around the block. Well, 50 years of out door exercise does a person
a lot of good."
E. Notice the antidote given by James, "humbly accept the word". (1:21)
Commandment # 4. Thou shalt not make empty pronouncements. (2:16)
A. We've all heard the saying "Talk is cheap". It takes little effort to speak the words,
but it's not always so easy to back them up.
B. For example, it's easy to talk about the solutions to world hunger, but talking about
it doesn't cost anything.
C. We should be willing to "put our money where our mouth is."
Commandment # 5. Thou shalt not be eager to tell others their faults. (3:1)
A. Why? Because you will then expose yourself to the harsher judgment.
B. Jesus said "First cast out the beam in your own eye"
C. Let's not forget the wisdom of this simple statement, "Whenever you point a finger
at others, three are pointing back at you."
Commandment # 6. Thou shalt not lie to cover up your faults. (3:14)
A. Self-awareness, honesty and confession are requirements of maturity.
How often we have heard, "I'm only human". This is not a confession, but rather an
attempt at excusing ourselves. ("To err is human, to really mess things up you need a
B. Deception is not the private domain of alcoholics - all of us are prone to attempt to
whitewash our own faults, and thereby lose a God-given opportunity for correction.
Commandment # 7. Thou shalt not speak evil of another. (4:11)
A. Remember, this was spoken to Christians, "brothers".
B. Here's a good rule of thumb, "If you can't say anything good, don't say anything at
C. How easy it is to get caught up in an exchange of accusations - those who feel they
are slandered slander the slanderer.
D. Evil talk and gossip has driven more people from the church than any other sin, but
those who are most critical also often leave.
E. The person who criticizes another puts himself or herself up as judge as though he or
she has wisdom, but the wisdom from above is "peaceable". (3:17)
Commandment # 8. Thou shalt not make boasts about personal plans. (4:13)
A. There's the story about the farmer who declared to his neighbor that he was going to
town to buy a cow. The neighbor tried to correct him, "You ought to say, 'The Lord
willing, I'm going to town to buy a cow.'" The farmer replied, "Listen, I have the
money, they have the cow, I'm going to town to buy a cow." On the way he was beaten
up by robbers, and all his cash stolen. Wounded and disheveled, he stopped at his
neighbor's on his way home. After listening to the story, the neighbor asked, "Now
what are you going to do?" "Lord willing, I'm going home."
B. However, at times this too has been abused: "The Lord willing I'll be in church
Commandment # 9. Thou shalt not complain. (5:9)
A. Here's the chorus to "The Grumbler's Song" "Oh they grumble on Monday,
Tuesday, Wednesday, grumble on Thursday too, They grumble on Friday, Saturday,
Sunday, grumble the whole week through."
B. This particularly has to do with grumbling against others, not the weather, the
economy or politics which are all impersonal grumbling.
C. According to the Scripture, it's better to endure patiently than to grumble. (5:10)
Commandment # 10. Thou shalt not swear. (5:12)
A. We often hear such expressions as:
"honest to God";
"how much you wanna bet?";
"If you don't believe me, ask _________";
"Cross my heart and hope to die".
B. Let it be discovered that you are simply believable. Avoid acquiring the
reputation of passing on semi-truths or falsehoods.
These negative exhortations need to be balanced with the correct use of the tongue
1. When in trouble, use your tongue to pray;
2. When happy, use your tongue to sing songs of praise;
3. When in need, use your tongue to call for help (it seems that in our day this has been
reversed, the expectation is that the Pastor (elders) should take the initiative, even
4. Use your tongue to pray for each other - like one of the verses in the song "I've Been
"You can talk about me,
As much as you please;
I'll talk about you;
Down on my knees."
5. Use your tongue to confess your sins to one another (which is very different from
using your tongue to accuse);
6. Use your tongue to rescue wayward souls, i.e., "Evangelize."