Dear brothers and sisters, not many of you should become teachers in the church, for we who teach will be judged more strictly. Indeed, we all make many mistakes. For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way. We can make a large horse go wherever we want by means of a small bit in its mouth. And a small rudder makes a huge ship turn wherever the pilot chooses to go, even though the winds are strong. In the same way, the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches. But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire. And among all the parts of the body, the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself.
People can tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish, but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison. Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right! Does a spring of water bubble out with both fresh water and bitter water? Does a fig tree produce olives, or a grapevine produce figs? No, and you can’t draw fresh water from a salty spring.
James 3:1-12

A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. A tree is identified by its fruit. Figs are never gathered from thornbushes, and grapes are not picked from bramble bushes. A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart.
Luke 6:43-45

This week we looked at what James has to say about the power of speech. John-Mark challenged us to consider how we can exchange platitudes for beatitudes, and words of cursing for words of blessing. 

Discussion Questions for Small Groups

  1. Pastor John-Mark began this week’s sermon with some general reflections on language. How would you describe the power of language? What are some examples of speech as a force for good or for evil? 
  2. James 3:1 calls attention to the primary application for James’ words on the tongue: teaching in the Christian community. 
    1. Why are the stakes so high with the speech of teachers? What is at risk? 
    2. How does understanding the context of teaching help to make sense of the word pictures James uses about the tongue (James 3:3-12)?  
  3. This warning about the tongue is part of James’ understanding of wisdom. Old Testament wisdom meant all of life lived “in tune” with God’s purposes for creation. 
    1. How is the combination of blessing and cursing from the same mouth (James 3:10) similar to the divided loyalty of the heart (James 4:1-10), and faith without works (James 2:14-26), discussed in previous weeks? 
    2. How would you summarize what it means to be whole or mature as a Christian based on the book of James? 
  4. Two applications suggested in the sermon were: Kingdom speech we take in and Kingdom speech we give out. 
    1. Where do you get spiritual teaching from? How would you evaluate their speech in light of James’ warnings? Do they start fires or put them out? 
    2. What have been your positive and/or negative experiences with words spoken over you by others in the church? Did you feel blessed or cursed? Some of each? Is there a cultural component to what we feel we should say or how we say it? 
    3. Who are the people in your life that look to you as “a teacher?” How do you feel about your ability to speak kingdom words to them? Is there anything you would like to change about the way you influence others through what you say? 
  5. We closed with Jeremiah 15:19 – “worthy not worthless words.” What do people outside the church need to hear from us? What might be kingdom speech to a post-Christian culture? 
Missed this week's sermon? Watch it here!