James Lesson 8


Opening Discussion:  "I just speak my mind!"  Have you ever said, thought, or heard someone else say this or use similar words to explain why they have voiced their opinion on a subject?  Discuss whether it is better to speak your mind or to hold your comments until you have carefully considered what you should say.  What is the danger of speaking too soon, perhaps before you have all the facts?

1.  In this passage, James transitions from the visible evidence of true faith (faith expressed by their works) and moves into the arena of how speech is connected to our thought process.

2.  Teachers are bricklayers of the faith.  James begins his poignant remarks on speech with teachers, and the honorable, yet responsible, role they have in building and growing the church. 

a.  Early teachers were held in very high regard.  According to William Barkley, they were esteemed at the level of Paul and Barnabas, who were sent on the first missionary journey. (Acts 13:1)  While Paul and Barnabas traveled from area to area, teachers remained and built up individual congregations through teaching.  (Eph. 4:11-16; I Cor. 12:28)  They had the responsibility of teaching new converts the doctrine of the Christian faith.  They were to equip new Christians for the work of the ministry, and teach on matters of faith and obedience.

b.  Thus, it is easy to see the vital responsibility of speaking with integrity, truthfulness, and honesty, according to the precious faith handed down by the early church, and the pattern established by Jesus and the Apostles.  In many respects, these early teachers and pastors laid the foundation for the New Testament Church, and the Bible we now love and study.

Q1.  Ask group members to mention some early teachers in their church or in their school, who have played an essential role in their faith or their education.  What were the main attributes that characterized these teachers?  What made them so effective?

c.  There were also some early teachers who failed in their responsibilities and became false teachers.  They tried to reintroduce circumcision and obedience to the Law of Moses back into the early church.  (Acts 15:24)  They brought dishonor to the faith Jesus taught.  (Rom. 2:17-29)  Some teachers tried to teach before they were knowledgeable. (I Tim 1:6, 7; II Tim. 4:3)  Their idle talk did not accomplish anything spiritual or edifying to the believers and their false doctrine could easily have led to demonic deception.

d.  The warning against becoming a teacher, in James 3:1, is not meant to discourage true teachers, but to warn prospective teachers of the seriousness of the job.  Scripture promises a greater condemnation for those who desire the recognition, but don't teach the true Word of God.

Q2.  Ask the group to discuss the motivation and responsibilities for entering the teaching profession as a vocation.  Are today's teachers being sufficiently prepared, both in our churches and in our schools?

Q3.  Should teachers in the church today be viewed in similar honor, and held to a higher standard, as were teachers in the first century church?

3.  The tongue is a powerful force!  It has the power to speak sinfully, inappropriately, and hurtfully.  Much like works is an indication of our faith, care in the use of our tongue is another measure of our maturity.  James cautions us to exercise control of our speech.  Perhaps a good way to understand this principle is to remember that good deeds, and not so many words, should be our goal in life.

Q4.  Have you ever known someone who just couldn't stop talking?  How was this person viewed by others?  What is the danger of someone talking incessantly and without control over their speech?

a.  James uses three word pictures to drive home the point that the tongue has the power to control a person and influence everything in his life:

(i)   A bit in a horse's mouth, which is able to turn his whole body.

(ii)  A very small rudder, which is able to turn a large ship.

(iii) A small spark, which is able to kindle a forest fire.

The idea is to exercise Godly control, so that we might avoid things getting out of control.

Q5.  What is the purpose and value of exercising restraint in our speech?

4.  James then connects the tongue with the mind, and concludes that "no man can tame the tongue".

a.  In James 3:6-8, he calls the tongue perverse, a fire that can spread rapidly and defiles the whole body.  (Prov. 16:27; 26:18-22)  It affects everything in the person's sphere of influence.

b.  He goes on to state that wild beasts have been tamed, but no man can tame the tongue, which James says is "full of deadly poison".  Only God has the power to do this.  (Acts 2:1-4)  We honor God when we keep our tongues under control, through the power of the Holy Spirit.

c.  James closes this passage by teaching that a genuine person of faith will exercise control over their speech by consistently using wholesome words, and not allowing cursing to proceed from their mouth.  (James 3:9-12)

Q6.  After studying this lesson, do you believe that we can completely tame our tongues?  Does God expect it?  What power can we call upon for help in controlling our tongues? What should we say to those who say, "That's just the was I was raised", particularly those who have an explosive temper attached to their tongue?  (See Jonah, Lesson 5, Part 2, which deals with getting control of an anger problem.)





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