Living Out Loud: James Chapter 3
How is your tongue? Do you release life or destruction over yourself and others around you? Let’s continue in our Living Out Loud series in James as we gain a deeper understanding of how we can use our tongues to glorify God and walk in His wisdom.
The Power of Your Tongue (James 3:1-12)
Your tongue could most likely be considered the most powerful muscle in your body. It holds the influence of life or death, encouragement or discouragement, and healing or destruction. Solet’s look at how God intends us to use this mighty muscle.
Using Your Tongue to Instruct (vs. 1-2)
We all hold knowledge of some capacity; however, not everyone can give instruction. And with that, I would warn you not to be so anxious to be a teacher. Why? God’s word is very clear that those who instruct will be held accountable for what they teach. How tragic it would be if you taught something to somebody that was not true and ended up costing them something in their life, such as eternity, a destroyed family, or unnecessary pain. Similarly, we should also be careful about who we listen to as a teacher in our lives. I encourage you to consider their experience and knowledge wheelhouse before taking to heart what they are offering.
Illustrations of the Power of the Tongue (vs. 3-8)
I am not a horse person, but I have been around friends who own horses. To control the horse, a small bit must be used. You see, it is through this tiny bit that you can maneuver this large animal. James 3:3 speaks to our words, comparing them to a bit. You can control your life by the words you speak. Sadly, some of us are living defeated lives because we keep speaking loss, destruction, and failure over our lives and the lives of others. Verse 4 highlights another example; the course of large ships can be corrected with a small rudder and can move wherever the captain desires. Something so small, a bit, a rudder, and our tongues, can change the course of our trajectory, resulting in significant guidance in your life!
Psalms 4:23, NKJV says, “Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life.”
Simply put, what comes out of your mouth is in your heart. If your heart goes south, so will your language! James 3:5-6 goes on to share just how much of an influence this little muscle has. A little spark can be ignited and cause a whole forest to burn down by fire! So likewise, your speech can create an entire fire of hell in your life. One conversation can light your flesh ablaze. And even more so, it can lead you down the road of trouble in your relationships and environments. When I was a young boy, I remember standing within our apartment complex. A young lady passed by, and I said something to her that I shouldn’t have. Little did I know, my father was watching from our apartment window, which resulted in him whooping my behind. Needless to say, I never said those words again. Be encouraged; a man of spiritual maturity knows what to say and not to say and when to speak and not to speak. When you learn to control your mouth, you hold victory and power.
Verses 7-8 are great reminders that we cannot change our hearts and tongues in our own strength. Instead, we need the power of the Holy Spirit to enter into our domains and shut it down! Recently, I saw a story on the news about a young lady who had just won the Miss America pageant. However, a short time after, she took her own life by jumping from a high-rise apartment building, all over what someone had said. I challenge you to stand firm in not listening to the harmful speech from somebody else’s mouth. I also encourage you not to allow people to talk to you in any kind of way. Instead, decide who you will allow to speak into your life and place boundaries for those who are harmful. As the man thinks, so is he. Therefore, speak God’s word, hope, and pray over your circumstances!
The Tongue Can Be a Blessing or a Problem (vs. 9-12)
What you say can be a blessing or a problem, and God gives us the opportunity to recognize it! Verse 9 reminds us that we cannot bless God and curse someone with the same tongue. Mankind somehow figures out a way to operate in ways other than God intended. And if you try to operate in both, you really are on the wrong side of the table; you just have a foul mouth. What an encouragement and challenge this passage is to watch our conversations. Be a person who controls his tongue by the power of the Holy Spirit! All you have to do is ask, and He will help you.
Walking With Godly Wisdom (James 3:13-18)
What is wisdom? It’s seeing life from God’s perspective. Some of you are looking at life through the lens of what’s in front of you. I encourage you to look at it from God’s perspective, at 30,000 feet! Trust me; if you look down, it will look different! Furthermore, as you consider your circumstances, look broader. Peer into the past and the road ahead of you. God has something in store for you, and even if you don’t understand the details, He is a faithful God!
Show Wisdom (vs. 13)
Things may not look too promising right now, but know that God is in control, and He is constantly moving things on the chess board.
“For I know that thoughts that I think towards you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
Jeremiah 29:11, NKJV
Knowing God is in control allows you to walk in a level of wisdom with meekness instead of anxiety or stress. And while you might be in a situation that doesn’t look positive right now, seeking God’s wisdom will reveal that He is giving you a future and a hope!
Characteristics of Ungodly Wisdom (vs. 14-16)
James 3:14-16 lists the tangible ways that people walk in their own flesh.
Bitterness, envy, and self-seeking mindsets leave us thirsty, drinking undrinkable water. A lifestyle that promotes these attributes is unhealthy. When we give our ear to the devil, he will continue to make suggestions to you that sway you to partner with these things. Not only will this thinking pattern create confusion with evil results, but it will leave you operating apart from the wisdom of God. And wherever there is confusion, the bitter cycle will continue with envy and self-seeking.
Characteristics of Godly Wisdom (vs. 17-18)
So how do we partner with Godly wisdom, and what does it look like? James 3:17-18 close the chapter by listing specific characteristics of God’s wisdom. They are purity, peace, gentleness, a willingness to yield, being full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality or hypocrisy, and filled with righteousness.
- Purity: This is the earliest decision you make by putting God first and not leaning on your own agenda.
- Peace: You desire to be a peacemaker, bringing resolution to the world around you. You decide not to partake in arguing, debating, or fighting.
- Gentleness: You are kind-mannered in all things. You rebuke hostility, taking the hit of people treating you wrong, and you stand firm, knowing God is fighting your battles.
- Willingness to Yield: You are compliant to those who are in leadership and authoritative positions. You recognize that God sees you in your surrender.
- Full of Mercy and Good Fruits: You are compassionate and full of pity. You also bear daily fruits as you lean on the power of the Holy Spirit.
- Without Partiality or Hypocrisy: You don’t choose favorites, and you don’t say you are something you aren’t. In a culture of mask-wearing, you don’t hide behind something that doesn’t reflect your identity in Christ.
- Filled With Righteousness: This is the fruit of justice. You fight for justice but do so peacefully! And while the world fights with destruction, you fight by how God fights.
People of God, I pray that we would be children who speak the supernatural things of Heaven. May our words heal, love, and reconcile the lost back to the heart of the Father. And as we pursue what is good and pleasing to Him, may the fruits of Godly wisdom flourish in our lives.
If you would like to watch my teaching on James 3, you can do so by clicking here: Living Out Loud: Book of James, Chapter 3.