In Verse 3:1, who was James warning about becoming a teacher? And why?
Teaching was a highly valued and respected profession in Jewish culture and many Jews who embraced Christianity wanted to become teachers. James warned that although it is good to aspire to teach, the teachers' responsibility is great because their words and example affects others' spiritual lives.
Does James' observation about judging teachers more strictly apply today? (Luke 12:48)
Yes. Those who wish to teach others ought be judged more strictly than those following other professions. Of those who have much, much is required.
Would a similar warning apply to becoming a substance abuse counselor or a sponsor?
Yes. Most definitely.
Jas 3:2 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.
In Verse 3:2, James says, "if anyone makes no mistakes in what he says, he is a perfect man." Is anyone a perfect man?
No, Jesus was the only perfect man. However, what James seems to be saying is that since the tongue is so difficult to control, anyone who controls it perfectly gains control of himself in other ares of life as well.
Why is James emphasizing being perfect in Verse 3:2 and also back in Verse 1:4 ("be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing")?
We know that we are incomplete and imperfect now, but this is not where we are going to remain. God is taking us to perfection that is full and complete. His clear purpose is that we become his fully mature children, fully able to participate in a relationship of love with Him, where we will have a deep sense of satisfaction in all of our life. A perfect relationship with God overflows into perfection in our relationships with one another and with ourselves. Trusting in God for our life and our identity frees us from trusting those who have power or wealth. We are freed to care for others and receive from others, to bless others and allow ourselves to be blessed by those that God brings into our lives.
How can we move closer to perfection?
To participate in our own perfection that God wants for us, we must turn from those things that encumber us and turn from false idols and must trust in God and hand more of our life over to Him. And one way God intends to transform us is in what we say.
In Verse 2, is James talking about what we say or what we don't say?
Both. Proper speech is not only saying the right words at the right time, but it is also controlling your desire to say what you shouldn't.
Jas 3:3 Behold, we put bits in the horses' mouths, that they may obey us; and we turn about their whole body. Jas 3:4 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.
James gives four examples of a small thing controlling or overpowering a large one. What are they?
Bit controls a horse. Rudder controls a ship. Spark sets a forest on fire. Tongue corrupts whole person.
Jas 3:5 Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! Jas 3:6 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.
Why does he emphasize the negative example of the fire so much more than the positive examples of the horse's bit or ship's rudder? (Matthew 15:11, 18-19)
The bit and rudder have a positive influence and one's tongue can also have such an influence. If a horseman or sailor is careless, he can get into trouble by being thrown off the horse or running the ship aground. But James seems to feel that the tongue's wickedness has its source in hell itself. Satan uses the tongue to divide people and pit them against each other, Hateful words are damaging because they spread destruction quickly (like a fire) and no one can stop the results once they are spoken. We dare not be careless with what we say because even if we apologize later, the scars remain (as with a forest fire). A few words spoken in anger can destroy a relationship that took years to build. Secondly, he feels that like a fire, the tongue is extremely difficult if not impossible to control (Verses 7-8).
What are some examples of an untamed tongue? (Proverbs 12:18-19, 13:3, 16:27, 17:7, 18:8, 25:18, Matt 7:15, Eph 4:25, Philippians 2:14
Gossip. Putting others down. Bragging. Manipulating. False teaching. Exaggerating. Complaining. Flattering. Lying. Boasting. Ridicule. Sarcasm. Praising evil deeds.
There's an old saying, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me." Is it true?
NO. Example: untold numbers of children commit suicide every year because of ruthless cruelty, taunting, and bullying by other children. The elderly become unresponsive, and sullen, and also commit suicide because of cruelty and abuse.
If no human being can control the tongue (Verse 8), why bother trying? (Psalm 140:1-3)
Jas 3:7 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: Jas 3:8 But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.
As we've seen, your tongue guides your whole person. First you lash out at someone in anger. You complain about him. Then you tell someone else about this creep, spread a little gossip. Then you start exaggerating the story and boasting about it. And maybe it makes you feel like you have some power. And you like the feeling of power, so you start boasting and manipulating things to get some more. Don't forget, Satan is helping you every step of the way. And before long, this becomes a way of life. Putting other people down. Power. Evil.
So why bother trying to control your tongue. Just because it IS guiding your whole person. Even if we can't achieve perfect control, we can still learn enough control to reduce the damage that our words do. It is better to fight a fire than to go around setting new ones. And remember, you're not fighting the fire alone. The Holy Spirit will give you increasing power to monitor and control what you say. So when you are offended by someone, the Holy Spirit will remind you of God's love so you won't respond in a hateful manner. Or when you are criticized, the Holy Spirit will heal the hurt so you don't have to lash out. Remember what we studied earlier, God is taking us to perfection and this is one of the steps.
Have you ever said contradictory things as in Verses 9-10? Which speech pattern represents your true identity?
Jas 3:9 Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. Jas 3:10 Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be. Jas 3:11 Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter? Jas 3:12 Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either a vine, figs? so can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh.
Actually, the tongue gives us a picture of our basic human nature. We were made in God's image but we've fallen into sin. God wants to help us and has given each of us the gift of the Holy Spirit. When you open your heart to the Holy Spirit, you'll have the self-control so you'll speak the words that are pleasing to God.
How is the power of words used by the Holy Spirit within a person of faith?
Real faith uses the Spirit's power in words to build others up, to speak the truth in love, to compliment, forgive, and comfort. And, as James wrote earlier, "Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry, for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires" (1:19,20). Real faith knows when to hold its tongue.
To think about: Do your words more often help than hurt? Do they reveal your true self, or do they conceal you from others? Do they hide God, or do they praise him? Do you say the same words when someone is present as when he's absent? Are you more likely to wield your tongue as a weapon of your flesh, or employ it as an instrument of the Spirit?
2009 teaching for Teen Challenge