Walk This Way
Week 6: James 3:1-18
God’s goal for our lives is maturity, completeness, and Christ-likeness. Today we will look at one of the most challenging aspects of this – learning to control our tongues. James notes that this is especially important for those with teaching responsibilities – parents, school teachers, small group leaders, pastors. With additional responsibility comes additional accountability. But surrendering our mouth to the Lord Jesus is something every growing believer needs to do if we want to walk God’s trail through life. Our words have the power to do great good or great harm. You can probably recall at least one time in your life when someone said something to you that made a significant impression. Too often, there is long lasting hurt associated with words we have endured or words we have spoken. The good news of the gospel is that Jesus has made it possible to live differently. You might feel powerless to change but the Holy Spirit in you can accomplish much when you yield to him. He goes to work on our hearts, conforming us to live by a wisdom from above that will overflow in what comes out of our mouths.
What is something significant that someone said to you long ago that made such an impression as to still stick with you to this day?
Getting into the Text:
1. (James 3:1-2) Why will teachers be judged more strictly? Why do you think James begins this section on the power of the tongue with a warning to teachers? The word ‘perfect’ in verse 2 carries the sense of completeness mentioned in James 1:4. Why do you think James says controlling the tongue leads to this kind of maturity or completeness in life?
2. (James 3:3-5) How do each of the metaphors here help to make the point James is making about the tongue? What do you think the horse, the ship, and the forest represent in real life?
3. (James 3:6-12) Is the description of the impact of our speech here mostly positive or negative? James uses some extreme language to sound this warning. Why do you think he is taking this subject so seriously? Do you consider this to be equally serious? Verse 9 offers a clue to at least one of the issues James was trying to address in the early church. What insight does it provide?
4. (James 3:13) How is this verse connected to the previous verses? How would you describe or define wisdom as it is used here? What does the key word ‘meekness’ mean when it comes to showing our good works? What are the alternatives to doing this in the meekness of wisdom?
5. (James 3:14-18) Describe the differences between earthly wisdom and the wisdom from above. How do the traits of each type of wisdom show up in our speech? How does this often manifest itself in the church?
1. Are you a teacher in some capacity? Do you have responsibility over others in your home, on the job, or in the church? James counsels those who have influence over others to pay especially close attention to the power and potential danger in their words. He also says that taming your own tongue can seem impossible. But the Holy Spirit can help us to bridle our tongues. Memorize Psalm 19:14 and Psalm 141:3 and bring them to mind throughout your day as you ask the Lord to guard your mouth and make your words aligned with his good purposes for them.
2. Do you struggle to control your speech? In James 1:19 we are directed to be quick to listen and slow to speak. Here are some questions you might ask yourself before speaking:
a. Is what I am about to say the truth?
b. Am I breaking confidentiality by what I am about to say?
c. Is what I am about to say necessary?
d. Will my words right now add value and build up those around me? (Ephesians 4:29)