Monday 06 February 2017

Bible Book:

James 3:1-18 Monday 6 February 2017

Psalm: Psalm 101

The Methodist Church's Bible Month this year focuses on theletter of James. It takes place in June, although churches andcircuits may choose a different time if that is more convenient.For more information (including training and resources), goto


This chapter begins by warning that not many should becometeachers, since those who teach will be liable to stricterjudgement (verse 1). This leads to a larger section dealing withthe power of the tongue, and particularly the way in which ourwords can harm the lives of others (verses 1-12).

James uses a number of different images to illustrate the powerof words. The tongue in the body is a like the bit that directs ahorse or a rudder that steers a ship (verses 2-4). The tongue isalso like a fire that burns a forest, and - in vividly negativeprose - can even be described a "restless evil, full of deadlypoison" (v. 9). The harm that the tongue can cause is reflected inthe way that we curse those made in God's likeness while at thesame time blessing God. Such inconsistency challenges us to use ourwords rightly.

While James' critique of the tongue may seem overly negative, herecognises that we can use our words to build up or tear down, toedify or to destroy. Many of us will remember words ofencouragement and love spoken to us, while the words that have hurtus may fester within our hearts, even years later. James' ownteaching on this echoes that of Jesus, who warned that the way thatwe speak to our brother or sister can make us liable to judgement(Matthew 5:22).

In the final section of the chapter, James contrasts "wisdomfrom above" (v. 17) with "earthly, unspiritual, devilish" wisdom(v. 15). Wisdom from above is reflected in good works, and Jamesuses  a number of powerful adjectives; it is "pure","peaceable", "full of mercy and good fruits" (v. 17). Earthlywisdom, however, wants to have its own way and is characterised by"bitter envy and selfish ambition" (v. 14). For James, theattitudes of our hearts matter as well as the words of our mouths.Both are connected to the "righteousness" that should characterisethe lives of Christians (verse 18).

To Ponder

  • In what ways have you been encouraged by the words ofothers?
  • How can you take more care in the way that you speak orcommunicate?
  • How can you cultivate the "wisdom from above" (v. 17) thatJames describes? 
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