Monday, July 30, 2007

James, Chapter 3

The first two chapters of James have told us much about practical living as a Christian. We have seen the result of perseverance in the face of temptation, the importance of acting in faith, and the dangers of showing favoritism. What we see in the third chapter is an explanation of the most dangerous part of us, our own mouths.

    "We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check." – James 3:2

I welcome the person that has never said the wrong thing to e-mail me and take over this blog. Of course, I am not expecting my inbox to inundated with requests. As we see from the rest of the first part of this chapter, man may be able to tame animals, but he cannot tame his own tongue. At the same time we can create beautiful works of praise with our mouths, we can also cause unspeakable damage with just one misspoken word. Hitler rose to power in Germany based on his mastery of words and the ability to incite a crowd with them. He accomplished untold evil with his gift of oration, evil that may not have happened if he was not an accomplished speaker. While we find that our own words aren't nearly as evil as his, we still can cause much trouble with our tongues.

With our words we lie, we cut others down, we speak out of bitterness and in deceit. What we say reflects what is in our heart, and we must learn to control our tongue and use it for its potential for good, not for its potential for evil.

"The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and itself is set on fire by hell." – James 3:6

We cannot dwell solely on the bad that can come from the tongue, as then we would forget all the good. The pastor at the church my wife and I attend is a gifted orator, and merely with his words and the passion that he puts behind them he can captivate a room. He also recognizes that the purpose of his oration is to represent Christ and put His case first. As a result, he will do or say anything to advance the cause of Christ. While the tongue can be used for evil, it can also be used for praise, worship, and evangelism. It is that which is in our hearts that controls what we say.

So how do we make sure that our tongues are not used for evil? We do this by making sure that Christ is always in our hearts. When we focus on our inner life and clean up what's inside us, and trust me, it can be messy, the tongue will then take care of itself. When we reap only bitterness and discord, then a harsh harvest will come of it.

The brief second part of chapter three discusses the different kinds of wisdom in the world: earthly wisdom and heavenly wisdom. Earthly wisdom contains our selfish ambition, and can be our undoing. Earthly wisdom serves only our own needs and wants, and not the needs of our Father. With earthly wisdom there is often a price, and that price comes at the expense of ourselves or others.

Heavenly wisdom, however, is pure as it says in verse 16. Heavenly wisdom accomplishes nothing but good, and while it also benefits others, it elevates us as well. Think of heavenly wisdom as an all-reward, no-risk proposition. The problem with this though is, at the time, it may seem like we need to risk a lot. What we value in this case is often some type of earthly wisdom. We must be prepared to part with it in order to achieve something greater, which is often heavenly wisdom. This heavenly wisdom, if we knew exactly what it was, would make for an easy choice at the moment of choosing, but it is hidden from us because God wants us to act in faith. With heavenly wisdom comes the promise of faith, and as we saw in chapter 2, faith requires action.

The reward in all of this, of course, is doing what God wants us to do. Nothing in life feels better than when we are working in tune with the heart of God. We get in that zone and even if we don't have all the answers, everything just feels right. That is what I equate with writing this blog. I am not sure why I am supposed to do it, or what ultimate purpose it will serve, but I know it is what God wants me to do right now. I feel like I am working right in line with what God wants me to do, even though a regular job isn't anywhere on the horizon right now. It's very exciting to know that He is going to accomplish something with this that I could never hope to accomplish on my own.


  1. What is truly on your heart? How does it reflect what you say?
  2. If the tongue cannot be tamed, what is the point in trying to control it?
  3. What do you see in your life as earthly wisdom that is getting in the way of heavenly wisdom?

No comments: