Part 6: The Study of James — James 3:1–12
CHOOSE YOUR WORDS WISELY.
James was the half brother of Jesus. James became the leader of the Jerusalem church after Peter’s arrest and departure from Jerusalem.
In verse 1, James is writing to Christ-followers that have been scattered abroad according to James 1:1. He is writing out of personal experience due to the amount of men wanting to teach in the Jerusalem Church that are not qualified to do so.
In verse 2, James is relating to the churches by saying we are all prone to sin. There is no such thing as a perfect pastor or person.
In verse 2, perfect does not mean sinlessly perfect, but rather mature. We can never achieve sinless perfection in this life, but we can grow to spiritual maturity. One important gauge of that is our speech.
“As you go through life you are going to have many opportunities to keep your mouth shut. Take advantage of all of them.” — Author Unknown
Psalm 141:3 says, “Take control of what I say, O lord, and guard my lips.”
Matthew 12:36–37 says, “And I tell you this, you must give an account on judgment day for every idle word you speak. 37 The words you say will either acquit you or condemn you.”
Words are extremely important.
Proverbs 18:21 says, “The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences.”
1. We must choose our words wisely because they can give life.
Proverbs 15:4 says, “Gentle words are a tree of life; a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit.”
In verses 3–4, James uses two analogies the bit and the rudder to explain how a small tool can control massive things.
Proverbs 16:24 says, “Kind words are like honey — sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.”
Think before you speak:
T — Is it true?
H — Is it helpful?
I — Is it inspiring?
N — Is it necessary?
K — Is it kind?
Proverbs 12:18 says, “Some people make cutting remarks, but the words of the wise bring healing.”
Words either hurt or heal.
2. We must choose our words wisely because they can cause death.
Romans 3:13–14 says, “Their talk is foul, like the stench from an open grave. Their tongues are filled with lies.” “Snake venom drips from their lips.” 14 “Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.”
Should a follower of Jesus be filled with lies, speech is foul, and mouths are full of cursing and bitterness?
In verse 6, Hell translates the greek gehenna which is the transliteration of two Hebrew words meaning, “Valley of Hinnom.” The valley, just outside the walls of Jerusalem, was where the Jewish worshippers of Molech burned their children as sacrifices to appease this pagan idol (Jeremiah 32:35). It later became a place to burn trash. The only other New Testament use by Jesus to refer to the place of eternal torment. James means the an evil tongue is set on fire by Satan himself.
In verse 7, James uses several animals as examples of how the tongue can be tamed. Watch the following video if you are a visual learner.
In verse 8, James does not say that the tongue is untamable. He says that no one can tame it. It is humanly untamable. Only God can tame it.
Ultimately, an evil tongue is the tool of an evil heart.
3. If our words are causing death, we must ask the Lord to examine our heart so that we might speak life.
Matthew 12:34 says, “You brood of snakes! How could evil men like you speak what is good and right? For whatever is in your heart determines what you say.”
Matthew 15:18 says, “But the words you speak come from the heart — that’s what defiles you.”
Proverbs 4:23–24 says, “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life. 24 Avoid all perverse talk; stay away from corrupt speech.”
Jon Bloom says, “A critical heart produces a critical tongue. A self-righteous heart produces a judgmental tongue. A bitter heart produces an acerbic tongue. An ungrateful heart produces a grumbling tongue. But a loving heart produces a gracious tongue. A faithful heart produces a truthful tongue. A peaceful heart produces a reconciling tongue. A trusting heart produces an encouraging tongue.”
Luke 6:45 says “A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart.”
In verse 12, James describes several comparisons.
Is your heart filled with salt water or fresh water? No one wants to drink salt water. People are longing for free water. There is death all around us. May the Church speak life.
How Do I Speak Life?
1. Work daily at taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.
2 Corinthians 10:5 says, “We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ.”
2. Walk daily under the control of the Holy Spirit.
Galatians 5:25 says “Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.”
3. Renew your mind by memorizing Scripture.
Romans 12:2 says, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”
4. Memorize Scripture.
Psalm 119:11 says, “I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.”
Memorize James 1:19–20 — Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. 20 Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires. .
Memorize Ephesians 4:29 — Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.
by Tim O'Carroll