Focal Passage- James 3:1-12
James 3:11-12 “Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.”
In Matthew 7:17, Jesus said that only good trees bear good fruit. As a matter of fact, He used a very similar analogy to the one his brother, James, uses here—fig trees will produce figs and grapevines will produce grapes. In other words, those who have become children of God will behave like children of God. This is the standard. James uses a second analogy to illustrate how we must keep this standard—the analogy of the salt and fresh water. If you have a cup of clean, pure water and pour salt water in it, the entire thing will become salty; it will not remain pure. Likewise, if we allow our hearts to be contaminated by unclean things, only unclean things will be able to come out of our mouths. We must strive for the standard, which is keeping our hearts pure so that our speech will mirror that. As Jesus also said, what comes out of a person’s mouth will demonstrate what is in his heart. (Matthew 12:34) In order to pour forth fresh wa
ter and produce good fruit, we must keep our hearts centered on Him, the only One who is pure.
Study/Meditation: What do you think Jesus meant when He said that only good trees bear good fruit? If we are by nature not good, how can we bear good fruit?
*Father, thank You for giving me the Holy Spirit so that I may know what is right and pure and good. Help me to follow Him in all that I do and say. Amen.
James 3:9-10 “With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.”
We were created to glorify and magnify our Father. Everything we do should bring praise and honor to Him. That includes, though not limited to, every single thing we speak, and yet we often use our mouths for purposes completely opposite to that. James is writing to fellow believers in these passages—my brothers—and of all people who should have reason only to speak praiseworthy things, it should be those who have inherited eternal life. Yet sometimes we reduce this instrument of praise to a weapon of destruction. As James said, “These things ought not to be so.” If we were to focus on what has been given to us in spite of the conditions of our hearts, we could do nothing but speak praises to our God. Let us this day look to those things and not the seeming inadequacies of our fellow heirs.
Study/Meditation: On what should you focus so that when your fellow brothers and sisters disappoint you in their actions, you can focus only on the majesty of God? What can you do to aid you in this endeavor?
*Father, You are glorious and mighty and good, and I praise You today. Help me to remember what You have given me. Please forgive the misuse of my tongue. Amen.
James 3:7-8 “For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.”
One of the reasons we so enjoy going to the circus is to watch the wild animal tamers with the lions and elephants and other animals. It’s amazing to see how a human being can train these killers to do whatever they command. And yet, as James points out, none of us has the ability to tame our own mouths. No one. It is untamable. But notice that James says “no man” can tame the tongue; our only hope of controlling this little muscle is God and His grace. Just as the horse is led by a bit and the ship by a rudder, we have to realize that both the bit and the rudder are guided by someone greater—the rider or the captain. An inexperienced and incapable rider will be of no use with the bit in a horse’s mouth, but the skilled rider can make the horse do whatever he wills. It is the same with the captain of a ship. Only God is capable of controlling and guiding us for good, and that includes the use of our tongues. In our speech, as in all things, we ultimately and totally need God’s grace.
Study/Meditation: How can we be sure we are relying on God to control our tongues? What can you do to improve your dependence on God’s grace in this area?
*Father, help me to depend on You for the grace I need to control my speech. Forgive me for the thoughtless words I utter, and help me to think and pray before I speak. Amen.
(by Dr. Deb Waterbury)
I love A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. Some of us even read it to our children at Christmastime. It’s a good reminder for us to get our minds off of ourselves and onto others at this time of year. It’s a classic.
However, it just scratches the surface, doesn’t it? Poor Ebenezer Scrooge is pitied by the audience because he has so obviously missed what his nephew and the Cratchits know, what Dickens portrays as the “true meaning of Christmas,” but what really happened to Ebenezer was isolation and loneliness because of a hurt he suffered a long time before.
Remember the story? He wasn’t always cold and heartless and unkind and ALONE. He was mistreated as a child by his father, and then relationship upon relationship began to falter, because of greed and malice and pain, until he became the curmudgeonly man we all love to hate in Dickens’ story.
The truth of the story of Ebenezer Scrooge goes all the way back to relationship. It goes back to the breakdown of relationship between him and someone he loved, and this is unfortunately an age-old problem. It’s a problem for men and women, but as the sex who lives a veritable life based on relationships, this issue often permeates our lives–the lives of women. (more…)
Focal Passage- James 3:1-12
James 3:5b-6 “How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell.”
It may seem as if James is being a bit dramatic here with this analogy, but in truth he is not. We can calm the raging storms of misery in someone’s life with soothing words and we can cause that same misery with divisive ones. The word James uses in verse 6 for “hell” was the Greek word “gehenna,” which is actually the transliteration of two Hebrew words meaning “Valley of Hinnom.” This was a valley outside of the walls of Jerusalem where ancient worshippers of Molech sacrificed their children and where the Jews now burned refuse and trash. It continually burned there and became an analogy used by Jesus and others to give some comparison to the hell of Satan. The apostle’s meaning is clear: our tongues must be controlled, because out of control, they do the work of the enemy and burn with the ravaging heat of Satan’s hell in both our lives and in the lives of those we meet.
Study/Meditation: Isaiah knew the torrent of the tongue in the face of the Almighty. Read Isaiah 6:6-7. Why did the angel put burning coals on Isaiah’s lips in response to the prophet’s fear?
*Father, forgive me for the unkind and rash words I speak. Help me to be sanctified in my speech and to let only words that are uplifting flow from my mouth. Amen.
James 3:3-5a “If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.”
Have you ever tried to control a car when the steering goes out? While moving forward in this state, the only things controlling the direction of that car are the road and any other obstructions that may be in the way. It’s such a small mechanism, and yet when we can’t control it, we lose control of the entire vehicle. So it is with our tongues, and this is precisely why James uses the two analogies he uses in these verses—the bits in the mouths of horses and the rudders in great ships. Like these two small things, our tongues and how we use them will determine the direction our lives take. When we don’t control them, we are no better than the ship whose rudder is controlled by the sea instead of the captain. Our rudder must be controlled by our Captain. Only He can correctly dictate the direction our lives must take, so only He should dictate the words that come out of our mouths.
Study/Meditation: How can you be certain that the rudder of your life is being controlled by your Captain? What steps today can you take to ensure this?
*Father, thank You for giving me Your Word as my guide. Help me to measure all that I say so that my words do nothing but glorify You. Amen.