WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
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CONTROL YOUR SPEECH
(Our words should honor GOD and others)
When JESUS becomes the LORD of our hearts, HE also automatically becomes the LORD of our thoughts, and our tongues. Not many people should become teachers in the Christian Church, because those who teach will be judged by GOD with greater strictness (James 3:1).
After explaining the Christian characteristics of “patience” in chapter 1, and of “truth”, in chapter 2, James, the brother of JESUS, now moves on to the subject of “Christian maturity” here in chapter 3. Here he endeavors to explain the all-important characteristic of a Christian being able to “control his or her thoughts and tongues”.
Here James begins by discouraging the efforts, or ideas of too many people seeking to be teachers in the Church. He reminds us that teachers are evaluated by GOD in a much stricter manner than everyone else. To teach GOD’s Word is the most serious of undertakings, and must by no means be taken lightly. And while it is a great privilege to teach, such a calling comes with an even greater responsibility and dedication. And perhaps the greatest responsibility of all is controlling the tongue with which we teach. In fact, James says that, if we are successful in doing so, we should also be able to control ourselves in every other area of our lives (v.2).
The mature Christian must “be patient in troubled times”, “practice the truth”, and, “exercise power over his or her own tongue” constantly. Our words must always reflect GOD’s wisdom, and not, the wisdom of the world. Thereby, James is saying that, “controlled talk”, and “cultivated thought” are both necessary at all times.
As Christians, we must not be prone to gossip, sarcasm, or trying to hurt or destroy one another with the words that we speak. The tongue is a small, but powerful instrument, and with it, we have the power to direct (Vs.1-4), destroy (Vs.5-8), or delight one another (Vs.9-12). We can use the tongue, to both, praise GOD, and, to curse, or cuss those who are made in the image of GOD.
In verses 3-5a, James uses the examples of “a horses bit”, which is used to control the horse’s direction, and “a rudder”, which is used to pilot, or steer a ship in any direction, even in a storm. As small as these two items are, they are very effective in controlling the powerful horse, and the massive ship in the storm. The human tongue can be likened to that in its size-to-power ratio. It can be a great director of GOD’s wisdom as it is taught to others, or, it can be a great destroyer, and do tremendous damage to mankind if its teachings are false.
In verses 5b-6, James likens the tongue to a tiny spark that can set off a great forest fire. He tells us that the tongue can be a flaming fire full of wickedness that can ruin your whole life. It can turn the course of a person’s life into a blazing flame of destruction that seems to have been set by hell itself.
Even a person who possesses a faith that produces many works, will still have to meet many challenges along their Christian walk. Among the first of those challenges is to learn to deal with the very tongue that has always been with them. The tongue can be uncontrollable, and it exerts a tremendous amount of influence into the lives of all people.
The term “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” is a statement that is a classic example of worldly wisdom, and is in fact, a lie. Words can sometimes cut to the bone, even more deeply than sticks and stones, and can indeed, be very painful, and can hurt for a lifetime.
The words of our tongue changes only when our thought process changes. As Christians our thought process must be more reflective of GOD, and more fixed on the will of GOD, and thereby, our goal is to be able to share the mind of CHRIST. Until our hearts, or, thought processes change, we won’t ever be able to tame our tongues, or replace worldly wisdom with the wisdom and knowledge of GOD.
Another problem that we as humans face in life, rather Christian or non-Christian, is that of our own “sin nature”, which causes us to harbor bitterness and ambition in our hearts. As a result of that, we become moved by a world wisdom that aids us in achieving worldly selfish ends that leave others in ruin in our wake. Wisdom from GOD, on the other hand, directs us into a pure, peace-loving, and submissive way of life under GOD, that, we will not, and cannot, find through our dealings in world wisdom.
We need to become accustomed to living by the GODly wisdom that will ultimately bring us a harvest of righteousness through CHRIST JESUS. We must learn to speak with thoughtful speech, and always let our words reflect the wisdom that comes from GOD HIMSELF. However, this does not mean that we won’t ever offend others while we are defending the Word of GOD (the Gospel), with our speech, in the world. And hopefully, we ourselves, as Christians won’t be offended when we are rebuked for going against the Word of the GOD we say we serve and represent, in this world.
A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander