James 3:1-12-Words that Reveal Faith-or Not-July 31, 2013
James in chapter 3 is addressing a church community about two sins of the teacher: intemperate speech (vv.1-12) and arrogance (vv. 13-18). James also considers and counts himself among this group. In tonight’s study we will be addressing the former. Many think that speech is all about what we say, but more importantly what we do not say is just as significant as well. Proper speech is not just saying the right thing and the right time but also controlling the urge to say what we shouldn’t or would be destructive. It is easier to lash out at another person that it would be to ask God to heal our hurts and give up our “rights” to ourselves for the sake of the Lord. I personally know no other more destructive thing members of a congregation can do.
Those who are willing to teach bring on themselves a stricter judgment. It is because of the power their position and their words have over the body of believers. There is also here I think a double warning be careful if you are not a teacher how you use your speech as well. Everyone will stumble at some point in this but it is God who knows the thoughts and intentions of the heart, and how are you not just as guilty if you belittle or try to harm your teacher through your speaking about them rather than to them.
There are many examples of improper speech and these are just a few: gossiping, putting others down, bragging, manipulating, false teaching, exaggerating, complaining, flattering, and lying. It is things such as this that are hard to control. Much like a ship’s rudder the tongue is small but has a great impact on the direction of the future. The tongue, the source of speech and thus of words and teaching, is very small but powerful. James’s illustrations highlight the great consequences of even the smallest bit of wrong teaching.
The tongue is presented as instrument capable of sinful expressions. Uncontrolled speech can spread like a wildfire, and a few short words spoken in anger can destroy a relationship that took years to build. Before you speak, remember that words are life fire-you can neither control nor reverse the damage they do. James goes on to say that man has been able to tame all created species, but yet cannot tame the tongue. If this is true, then why try? Even though we are not perfect in controlling the tongue it is better to try to fight fires instead of setting new ones. It is better to, as much as possible, limit the damage of the tongue.
The damage that the tongue can bring can be very destructive both personally and to the unity of the body of believers. The most difficult thing to deal with is the duality that seems to come from this kind of speech. In one breath we bless the Lord and Father, and in the next curse those who are made in the likeness of our Father.
The tongue can do both good and harm. It is this type of speech that creates confusion and disunity in the church. The danger of speech is beyond what the words themselves express but also what they expose. The spoken words are not the source but rather the heart and mind of the person speaking them. In this way they are revealing about the character and nature of a person.
The mouth reveals its source, the heart and contents of the heart, whether evil or good. James uses examples of sources that only yield only product: a spring, a fig tree, and a vine can produce only its specific fruit. Believers likewise are single-hearted and yield good fruit (mature), never a mixture of good and evil.
In a way, all believers are teachers. We teach those around us, in both our actions and our words. Thus we must be aware of the power of our words. With our words we can build up people or we can break down people. We can strengthen our witness for Christ with our words, or we can weaken our witness for the Lord with our words. We can increase the unity of the church with our speech, or we can divide the church with our speech. We were made in God’s image, but we have also fallen into sin. God wants to change us from the inside out, so that our hearts and minds would make our speech pleasing to God. In what way do your words reveal the reality of the faith in your heart today?
The Letters of James and John: Real Faith; BaptistWay Adult Bible Study Guide; 2010