We are now up to James chapter three in our series on James – faith and action. So far, we have covered some really good thoughts in the first four sermons covering two chapters. We have seen…
- James tells us that we should be joyful when struggles come our way because it a chance for growth.
- James tells us to ask God if we need wisdom – He will give it to us.
- James tells us that God will bless us if we endure through trials and temptations – we will grow and receive a crown of life.
- God is not the source of temptation
- We can overcome temptation with God’s help
- Remember you are His prized possession
- Be quick to listen and slow to speak.
- Be doers of the Word and not just hearers of the Word.
- Be someone who practices pure religion.
- We can’t discriminate or show favouritism based on appearance
- We need to love our neighbours as ourselves
- We need to show our faith is alive and well by our actions.
Today I am going to look at the whole of chapter three and as you can see it is titled, “Showing true wisdom in the way we live”.
Bible Reading – James 3:1-18
1 Dear brothers and sisters, not many of you should become teachers in the church, for we who teach will be judged more strictly. 2 Indeed, we all make many mistakes. For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way. 3 We can make a large horse go wherever we want by means of a small bit in its mouth. 4 And a small rudder makes a huge ship turn wherever the pilot chooses to go, even though the winds are strong. 5 In the same way, the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches. But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire. 6 And the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself. 7 People can tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish, 8 but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison. 9 Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. 10 And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right! 11 Does a spring of water bubble out with both fresh water and bitter water? 12 Does a fig tree produce olives, or a grapevine produce figs? No, and you can’t draw fresh water from a salty spring. 13 If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you are bitterly jealous and there is selfish ambition in your heart, don’t cover up the truth with boasting and lying. 15 For jealousy and selfishness are not God’s kind of wisdom. Such things are earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. 16 For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind. 17 But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. 18 And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.
The importance of controlling our tongues
Controlling the tongue is the next heading in James. It is found in verses 1-12. This is the second time James talks about controlling your tongue. The first time was in chapter one when he said we should be quick to listen and slow to speak. This time James breaks controlling our tongue into three areas.
a. Controlling our tongues and teaching
In verse 1 James warns that not all of us should become teachers. It says, “Dear brothers and sisters, not many of you should become teachers in the church, for we who teach will be judged more strictly”.
James’s first concern in this passage has to do with those who desired to be “teachers” in the new Jewish Christian congregations. It seems to have been a common practice for many of the readers to seek to become teachers. One Bible scholar tells us that there were many who were not qualified by natural ability or spiritual gift who were coveting the prestige of teaching. To be a Bible teacher was to be held in very high regard. James warned that teachers “will be judged more strictly.” It is apparent from the words “we who teach” that James includes himself as a teacher. The judgment of teachers will be especially strict because greater responsibility rests on them.
The reason for this is that the teacher’s essential instrument, the tongue, has such great influence. This is because teachers have the power to lead people astray or turn people from God if they are not teaching correctly.
This is why I take Bible teaching so seriously. I want to rightly handle the Word of Truth as it says in 2 Timothy 2:15. I want to point people to Christ. I want to build people who will go the distance for God’s Kingdom. I want to build wholehearted followers of Christ. That is why I work so hard in preparing messages, I write them out in full, and I record them. I want you to be able to share God’s truth here, and further via the internet. I also want be accountable for what I say that is why I write my sermons out in full. So we can all look back on them.
So teachers need to control their tongues, as they will be judged more harshly by God.
b. The power of the tongue
In verses 3-6 it gives us three examples of what the tongue is like – the bit in the horse’s mouth, the rudder on a large ship and the spark that starts a raging fire. The tongue has so much power to change and shape things.
Living in a farming communities like Merredin and Bruce Rock we know the power of the tongue. As we do we know rumors can start and spread very quickly. I have a friend who in passing asked the local real estate guy what his farm would be worth. The real estate guy said I will come out and have a look. Someone heard and told someone else he was getting a valuation done. That person jumped to the idea that he was selling up and told someone else. By the time he got home 30 minutes later he had three messages on his answering machine. One wanting to buy his tractor. One wanting to buy his house. And another asking why he was leaving town!
This is why James is so adamant that we need to control our tongues. As small as our tongues are compared to the size of our body, they can make a huge difference. Like a spark is to a raging fire, a bit is to a horse and a rudder to a huge ship, they can make a huge difference to those around us.
c. The tongue can be used two ways
One verse that jumped out at me today is verse 9. It says, “Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God”.
This reminds us that the tongue or the words we speak can go either way. It can be used well to praise God or used badly to curse others.
I know that over the years my tongue and words have improved, but it is still not perfect it is a work in progress. God is still not finished with me thankfully! Sometimes I say the wrong things or say them in the wrong way. Sometimes I speak too soon when I don’t know all the facts. This is why James warns us in chapter two to be quick to listen and slow to speak. I have learned that I need to use my words wisely. I need to consider them and take my time. I need to ask myself are they building up or tearing down.
Let us all purpose in our hearts today to use our words well today. Let us use words that build up and encourage and speak life and truth into others today. Whether we are teaching or just talking to others, our words have power.
2. God is the source of true wisdom
The next main section in James is James verses 13-18 and it is titled, “True wisdom comes from God”.
Verse 13 says, “If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom”.
In this verse James gives us another straight forward statement. If you understand things from God’s perspective, then prove it in the way you live.
He goes on to contrast the wisdom from God and the wisdom from the world in verses 14-17.
James 3:14-16 says, “But if you are bitterly jealous and there is selfish ambition in your heart, don’t cover up the truth with boasting and lying. 15 For jealousy and selfishness are not God’s kind of wisdom. Such things are earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. 16 For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind”.
Worldly wisdom has two main features – jealousy and selfish ambition. It sees what others has and wants it and the person wants these things only for themselves.
Compare this to wisdom from God and a person who understands God’s ways…
“But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere” (v17).
Those who live with Godly wisdom love purity and peace, are gentle, submissive, merciful, fruitful, sincere and do not show favouritism. They are not self-focused, but outward focused.
These things remind of Colossians 3:12. It says, “Since God chose you to be the holy people He loves, you must clothe yourselves with tender-hearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience”.
It also reminds me of Galatians 5:22-23, “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!”
So, our goal as Christians is to prove that we understand God’s ways by living an honorable life, with good works and humility. Our goal is to display the things James 3:17, Colossians 3:12 and Galatians 5:22-23 talks about.
So as we close today I want to remind us of these two very important ideas from James 3.
- The importance of controlling our tongues (v1-12)
- Controlling our tongue and teaching
- The power of the tongue
- The tongue can be used two ways
- God is the source of true wisdom (v13-18)