James 3:13-16 says “13Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? Let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom. 14But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. 15This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. 16For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.”
James in previous verses has been making a point about the tongue. In these remaining verses he leaves the tongue and moves on to wisdom.
Verse 13 opens with a question. The verse says “Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? Let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom.” Keep in mind that this verse is to be taken in context with the whole chapter. The chapter started off with James pointing out a problem among the assembly; they all wanted to be teachers. These first few verses were what not to do; this verse is telling them what to do. James is asking ‘who is a wise man and full of knowledge among you?’ notice James asks for a man who is both wise and full of knowledge. Knowledge is knowing things, wisdom is being able to apply this knowledge. I’ve heard it put that knowledge is knowing how to take it apart, wisdom is knowing how to put it together.
So what is this knowledgeable and wise man to do? He is to “shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom”. Referring back to previous verses we can assume that this man can control his tongue and is able to teach other people. With this in mind this man is to set an example through word and deed. Is he to go about telling people off and beating them down? No, he is to do it with “meekness of wisdom”. This man isn’t going to boast about his knowledge and wisdom; he isn’t going to flaunt it. He’s simply going to live his life in meekness to be an example.
The next verse deals with a heart matter. The verse says “But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth.” James is telling the people that if they have anger in their hearts then they are not to exalt their goodness, this would be lying against the truth. Men may not know our hearts, but God certainly does. If He sees anger, bitterness and strife in our hearts then we cannot go about boasting our holiness, this would be lying both to man and God. Being holy and upright is not an exterior thing, it is purely interior. If your heart is pure the rest of your body will be. Denying this is to lie to God.
The next verse tells us the origin of this heart problem. Verse 15 says “This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish”. This verse is saying that this so-called wisdom doesn’t come from God. The person who claims to be knowledgeable and wise but does not have wisdom’s meekness is then by no means wise. Instead this false wisdom comes from the world, the passions of it and the devil himself. If anger and strife are in your heart then this does not come from God, instead it is the influence of the world around us, sinful passions and the devil. The man who has this false wisdom is in no position to teach.
The final verse says “For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.” The heart that is full of envying and strife will also be full of confusion and every evil work. Say for example a man with the wrong heart was put in a position of leadership. This man, having no desire to lead people in the way of the Lord, will sow confusion among the people. He will lead them astray, and due to this every evil work will follow. The people will simply follow the leader into sin. The people will focus on the strife among themselves and will lose sight of the Lord, and once they have lost sight they will end up back in sin, right where they started.
It is so important for people to follow the right people. If you yourself are in a leadership role I urge you to check your heart for any envying or strife, and if you find any either remove it or remove yourself from your leadership role. More harm than good will be done. Don’t claim to be full of knowledge and wisdom if you cannot apply it. If your heart is full of the wrong things you risk leading other people into the wrong things too. If you are a follower then don’t settle for what you see on the outside, search for the interior state. Look into your leader’s heart and see his desires. Are they leading you in the way of the Lord? Are they encouraging and challenging your faith? Don’t be drawn into confusion and evil works. Seek and ye shall find. – Andrew.
James 3:9-12 says “9Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. 10Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be. 11Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter? 12Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either a vine, figs? so can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh.”
Continuing on in James chapter 3 we see James’ conclusion to his first point on the tongue (other points come in chapters to come). In these verses we see a very common danger and fault with the tongue and some examples to emphasise the point being made.
Verse 9 says “Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God.” The first word ‘therewith’ shows us that this is a continuation from previous verses which were discussing the tongue. Thus these verses are talking about the tongue too. The verse is therefore saying ‘with the tongue we bless God, and with the tongue we curse men, who are made in the image of God’. In a previous lesson I noted that the tongue was the Devil’s organ, and here is a picture of it. Think back to the garden of Eden, Satan used a snake, snakes have a split tongue; the devil uses our tongues, we have split tongues also (figuratively that is). With one fork of our tongue we bless God and all His blessings to us, with the other fork of our tongue we curse men and gossip about them. The bible does not just leave it as cursing men though; instead it says “which are made after the similitude of God”. We may bless God, but with the same tongue we curse His dearest creation.
Verse 10 gives us a clear and simple message. The verse says “Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be.” The bible here points out the bare truth “out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing”. Two completely opposite things proceed from the mouth of men. What does the bible say about this? “My brethren, these things ought not to be so”. Simply put, it shouldn’t be like that. If we are blessing God we cannot be cursing men and if we are cursing men we cannot be blessing God. Our tongues are a one-way street, you can go one way or the other, but you can’t do both. For a Christian a forked tongue spewing conflicting speech is a big no-no.
Verses 11 and 12 go on to give examples. The verses say “11Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter? 12Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either a vine, figs? so can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh.” The first example is of a fountain. James asks a rhetorical question here by asking ‘does a spring gush with clean and pungent water at the same place?’ It is impossible for a natural spring to produce both clean and unclean water at the same place; it is either one or the other. The second example given is another rhetorical question. He asks ‘can a fig tree bear olives? Or can an olive vine bear figs?’ again there is the idea of continuity, a fig tree bears figs and an olive vine bears olives, it cannot bear anything other than its kind. The verse finishes “so can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh”. The word ‘so’ means in like manner, so James is saying in a like manner can a spring not produce fresh and salt water. All of these examples show that two things cannot exist together. So what does this mean for us, what is the point being made?
The point is that our tongues cannot be blessing and cursing. If we have Jesus in our heart we will speak of Jesus and nothing unsatisfying to Him. We cannot go around blessing God and cursing His creation. Our tongues cannot contain both bitter and sweet words. The bible tells us in Matthew 12:34 that “for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.” The things that are in our heart will come out in what we say. If we have love in our hearts, it will show in our speech; if we have hatred in our hearts, this too will show in our speech.
I cannot emphasise the importance of this point. It is no small matter. Your entire Christian witness hangs in the balance of your tongue. People, even though you may not think they do, listen to every word that you say. If people know you are a Christian but hear you going around talking about things of the world then is this an effective witness? You cannot have a forked tongue and be a Christian. You have to choose your words wisely. The saying ‘think before you speak’ is essential for any Christian. A little thought goes along way. Before you say something, think about who it will affect, what possible consequences it may hold, whether or not it’s glorifying to God and what it will do to your witness. Will your faith be shown through your words, or will people only hear the world?
Let me ask you today, how is your tongue? Is it forked? Do you have God on one side and the world on the other? If you do then know today that they cannot co-exist, eventually one will take over, why wait for it to be the world though, how about today getting alone with God and dedicating your tongue to Him? How about asking for His help to keep your tongue pure from evil and ask for help to know what to say. Your witness is controlled by your tongue; don’t let it be ruined by hasty and ill-chosen words. Don’t let blessing and cursing proceed from the same place. Find the love for Jesus in your heart and your tongue will speak the same. May people hear the gospel through you. Let me leave you with these verses:
Matthew 12:33-37 says “33Either make the tree good, and his fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt: for the tree is known by his fruit. 34O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. 35A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things. 36But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. 37For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.”
James 3:7-8 says “7For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind: 8But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.”
Today’s lesson is yet another continuation on from previous lessons. Yesterday we learnt how the tongue is a small thing but is capable of great things. We learnt that it is a fire, a world of iniquity which is capable of defiling the whole body. The last thing we learnt yesterday is that our words affect our entire being and that the tongue is “set on fire of hell”.
Today we are learning more about the tongue. Verse 7 says “For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind” James here is setting us up with a comparison. The bible tells us that every animal: every mammal, every insect, every bird, every reptile, every amphibian and every fish has been tamed by mankind. Just as a quick side note the word ‘beasts’ in Greek means a wild or dangerous animal. With this is mind, take any zoo; what does it contain? It contains all manner of animals, most of which are dangerous! Are these animals a threat though? Generally, no (I say generally because I’ve heard some pretty crazy zoo animal escape stories!) These animals are not a threat because they have been tamed. We use horses to pull ploughs, we use dogs for hunting and scavenging, Noah used birds as testers to see if the water had gone and some circuses have performing elephants, bears or even fleas! The bottom line is that man has a pretty good grasp on taming animals. If you go to any safari park, any zoo, any aquarium, any bird park or any reptile house you are going to see animals that have been tamed. Sharks, lions, bears, tigers, monkeys, snakes, lizards; you name it, somewhere has it. With this in mind we move on to our next point.
Verse 8 says “But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.” There are just some things out of man’s control though; one of them is taming the tongue. The verse says ‘no man’ can tame the tongue. When the bible says no man it means no man! No-one is capable of taming their own tongue. It’s funny that man has the capability to tame all other things except himself! The next phrase in the verse shows us why it cannot be tamed. The bible calls the tongue “an unruly evil”. The word ‘unruly’ here means unrestrainable. No man can restrain his tongue. Have you ever been in a situation where you were splitting at the seams wanting to say something but trying with all your might to keep it in, but eventually blurting it out and causing problems? You walk away thinking “why couldn’t I just keep my mouth shut?!” however I wouldn’t beat yourself up over it, keep in mind that no man can tame the tongue. Keep in mind though, the things man cannot tame, God certainly can! With a little help from the Lord restraining your tongue will be a lot easier.
The last phrase in the verse says that the tongue is “full of deadly poison”. What is the primary purpose of poison? Simply, to kill. Nature uses it to neutralise its prey, man uses it to neutralise fellow-men! This is not just some mild poison though; the poison of the tongue is deadly poison; and if our tongues are poison so too will our words. Poison takes time to work, but it slowly kills the prey. A venomous snake will strike its prey and inject it with venom. The prey does not just drop dead though. The poison takes time to set in. It shuts down the organs one by one until life is impossible to cling on to. Poisonous words are much the same. When they are dropped into someones ear it takes time to spread. It will spread throughout their entire being, completely destroying them. It will affect their mind, their heart and eventually their tongues. Another thing about a poisonous tongue is that it is contagious. Like we learnt yesterday it only takes a small spark to start a huge fire. Small words can have a big impact, and will often lead to bigger words.
How is your tongue today? Are you letting it be unruly? Are you asking God for His help in the matter? If not I urge you to pray each morning and ask Him to guide your tongue and purge the poison from it. Don’t let your tongue become an unrestrainable evil. It is true that no man can control his tongue, but the things that man cannot do, God can do. Ask God to keep the fire at bay before it gets out of control! – Andrew.
James 3:5-6 says “5Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! 6And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell.”
Yesterday we saw from verses 3-4 how a small thing such as a bit for a horse or a rudder for a ship can control and influence something much larger and more powerful that itself. Today’s lesson picks up from where we left off.
Verse 5 says “Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth!” the first phrase ‘even so’ simply shows us that it is a continuation from the examples given in verses 3-4, it’s just saying that it’s the same general idea. The verse continues “the tongue is a little member”. It is an undisputable fact that the tongue is small. The word ‘member’ here means limb or organ (the tongue is an organ). Compared to our other organs the tongue is pretty small, but boy does it cause a lot of trouble! The verse continues “and boasteth great things”. The tongue is a small organ in our body but it boasts great things! When I read this verse I think of those little dogs. They are so small and seem so harmless until you get closer and they start yapping and growling! They are little things, but boy do they boast great things; I’ve come across Rottweiler’s who are more timid than some of these toy dogs!
So the first thing we have seen is that the tongue is a small thing that boasts great things. Many confrontations have started because of something someone has said; sometimes even by the way they said it! It is a great truth though that the tongue does boast great power. Proverbs 18:21 says “Death and life are in the power of the tongue” the tongue holds the power to utterly destroy or preserve life. When I see this I think of the old-time Kings and queens. When a criminal was brought before them they could either sentence them to death or set them free. They had complete control over the convict’s future. The tongue holds this great power. The wrong words, in the wrong place, at the wrong time could end with someone dying. An old war poster read ‘LOOSE LIPS SINK SHIPS’. Even things said in the privacy of a home has the potential to get out and cause 100s of problems. The tongue is a super power.
Verse 5 continues “Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth!” another great truth is presented here. Look at how much can be destroyed by a little fire. I have witnessed countless stories on the news about raging forest fires kindled by someone throwing a cigarette butt away or the sun shining through a discarded glass bottle. Great things can be burnt by a small fire. Take for example the fire of London in 1666. Embers from a baker’s oven caused a fire that lasted for 4 days, destroying over 13,000 houses, 89 churches and 52 guild halls; destroying in total 80% of London and leaving 100,000 people (a sixth of London’s population) homeless. Just a few embers destroyed most of a city; ‘how great a matter a little fire kindleth!’ our words can have this effect. We may say something that will come back to hit us in a big way if we are not careful. We can cause big problems from little words.
Verse 6 goes on to explain more. The verse says “And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell.” The first thing that sticks out to me is the first phrase ‘And the tongue is a fire’. Notice it does not say it is like a fire, it says it is a fire. Fire has its disadvantages and advantages. On the bad side it can cause death and destruction but on the good side it can help with cooking and be used to power machines. The fire does not change, only how it is used does. Our tongues are the same. Our tongues are fire, this is not a bad thing, it’s how we use that fire. We can use it to destroy people or empower them. However we see from the next phrase the truest nature of the tongue.
The verse continues “a world of iniquity”. The tongue is filled with different sins. Lying, blasphemy, cursing, covetousness, slander, railing and so on. The tongue doesn’t just hold one sin; it is a world of them. The world is big; the tongue is small, but we see that the tongue holds a world of iniquity. In other words it is filled with a great quantity of all manner of wickedness.
The third noticeable phrase is the next bit of the verse “so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body”. The tongue is an iniquity filled organ among our other organs and limbs; so much so that it defiles the whole body. Take, for example, a man who says something wrong and it gets him into a fight, it is not his tongue that gets beaten up, it’s the rest of his limbs and organs! The tongue brings trouble on the whole body. Not only this, but more often than not people judge other people by what they say. Therefore if a person’s speech is wrong it brings a bad name, a defiled name, on the whole body. The tongue also has the power to lead the whole body into sin. When you say you are going to do something more often than not you will end up doing it. We saw yesterday that what we say comes from the heart, and if you have purposed to do something in your heart it will come out in what you say. This will lead to sin.
The tongue is also very influential. Say you get up one Sunday morning. You look outside and its pouring down and you don’t feel well and you sit there and say to yourself ‘I can give church a miss this morning, that weather is terrible and I really don’t feel well, I’ll just go back to bed’. What has just happened? Your tongue has influenced you into not going to church!
The next phrase in the verse says “and setteth on fire the course of nature”. The ‘course of nature’ literally means here the wheel of nature. Think of your life as a circle. Now say you set a small part of this wheel on fire by something you say. Sooner or later the fire is going to travel all around the wheel and destroy it until there is nothing left. Your entire life can be injured or even destroyed by the tongue. Time does not fix something that is burnt, nor does time correct the sins of the tongues. The sins may be forgiven, but the fire will keep spreading. It is amazing how something someone said when they were younger can change their future. They kindled a small fire and it spread throughout their whole life.
The last statement is a profound one. Some of you may be thinking ‘well where does this fire originate?’ and here we are given the answer. The verse ends “and it is set on fire of hell.” The multitude of sins from the tongue are inspired by hell itself. A bad tongue is the devils organ. With it he purposed to overthrow God, with it he convinced a third of the angels to go with him out of heaven and with it he lies to us on a daily basis. It is no wonder though, if the tongue can lead the rest of the body into sin, if the tongue can break relationships and cause strife then of course he is going to use it! there is an alternative to the fiery tongue of hell though. As we see in the bible at Pentecost God sent tongues of fire. We have the choice to have a tongue set on fire by God. With it we can share the gospel, praise His name and glorify Him. it is all a heart matter though. If the heart is on fire for the things of this world then the tongue will reflect this and it will burn with the fire of hell, but if the heart is on fire for the things of God then this will be reflected and it will burn with a heavenly fire!
Let me ask you today, what is your little tongue boasting? Is it telling of your almighty God or is it telling of worldly things? I pray that today you will realise that little words can cause a big problem. Don’t let your tongue defile your whole body. Claim the heavenly fire for your heart and tongue. Use it for God’s glory! James has told us we are to be swift to hear and slow to speak. I pray that as you go about your daily life you will be careful not to kindle any fires. As Thumper said “if you can’t say something nice…don’t say nothing at all”. I pray that you will think about your words before they leave your lips, it will save you a lot of trouble in the long run! – Andrew.
James 3:3-4 says “3Behold, we put bits in the horses’ mouths, that they may obey us; and we turn about their whole body. 4Behold also the ships, which though they be so great, and are driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small helm, whithersoever the governor listeth.”
This lesson, as well as lessons to follow, all tie into each other so looking back at the preceding verses is advised. Yesterday we saw an introduction of sorts to this lesson at the end of verse 2 which said “If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body.” We see from this verse that someone who does not offend with their words is able to bridle the whole body. This shows us that what we say affects everything that we do as we will see in today’s verses.
The first example we are given is in verse 3 which says “Behold, we put bits in the horses’ mouths, that they may obey us; and we turn about their whole body.” The first thing we see is how we control a horse. To obtain and retain control the use of a bit is essential. The verse says ‘that they may obey us’. The bit demands obedience. Not only does it demand obedience though; it also steers. The verse says ‘and we turn about their whole body’. A bit is used to turn the horse to the desired direction. It is interesting to note that such a small piece of equipment can alter the ‘whole’.
First consider a horse without a bit. If you are on its back you will have no control. With no bit you cannot force the horse into obedience and therefore you cannot turn it into the right direction. A horse without a bit will go where it likes and do what it wants. Now on the other hand consider a horse with a bit. With just a small thing complete control can be gained. On the horses back you can turn it in any way you want.
Now you may be asking ‘well Andrew, that’s all well and good, but how does that apply to us?’ (I asked myself a similar question!) This is what I came up with. As Christians, we need a spiritual bit. As we see in later verses the tongue “can no man tame; it is an unruly evil” (verse 7). As Christians what we say can affect ours, and everyone else’s, lives. Proverbs 18:21 says “Death and life are in the power of the tongue”. The tongue holds great possibilities for us, with it we can share the gospel, sing songs and praise God, but it can also be used to ruin people, to start wars and to cause death.
Everyone has experienced moments of anger where they have said something they did not mean which possibly affected someone for the rest of their life. In verse 7 James calls it unruly. As a horse without a bit is unruly so is a Christian without their spiritual bit. With a horse the bit demands obedience and directs the paths, with a Christian the spiritual bit does the exact same.
So what is this spiritual bit? The answer: God. God is our spiritual bit. As the bit overcomes the wild nature of the horse so God overcomes our sinful nature. If we have God as our spiritual bit we will obey Him and He will be able to control our whole body. another thing to point out is that the bit goes in the horse’s mouth. Have you ever tried to talk with something in your mouth? It is not easy. The idea of a spiritual bit is this: If we have God in our mouth (figuratively) then 3 things will happen. 1) We will obey Him, 2) He will guide us and 3) We will not be able to use our tongues for the wrong thing.
Verse 4 says “Behold also the ships, which though they be so great, and are driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small helm, whithersoever the governor listeth.” Here we have another example. This time imagine a mighty ship, pushed along by fierce winds, but yet they are controlled with a small rudder in whatever direction the governor wants it to go. Again we are shown something small controlling something mighty and again we see the picture of the unruly tongue. Even the greatest man, if he is not careful, will be driven by the ferocity of his tongue. But there is something small which can control it. We saw in verse 2 that a control of the tongue means a control of the whole body and in this case a control of the rudder gives control of the whole ship. Notice though that it is something small controlling the larger. A bit of self-control, with God’s help, goes a long way.
Why is the tongue so dangerous though? Matthew 12:34 says this “for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.” What is in the heart will be what comes out of the mouth. If Jesus is the Lord of your heart he will also be the Lord of your tongue. It is when our hearts are filled with anger, bitterness and hatred that problems occur.
Let me ask you today, have you got your spiritual bit and rudder? Is God controlling what you say? Is He guiding you? Realise that what you say holds a lot more significance than you know. With this in mind it is so important to control your tongue. It doesn’t take much, we have seen this. Just let God take control. Give God the control of your tongue and watch how it affects your life and everyone around you. – Andrew.
James 3:1-2 says “1My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation. 2For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body.”
Chapter 3 deals a lot with the tongue and the dangers of it. From what we have seen already in James already we see that what Christians say is a very important aspect of their faith. As we will see in lessons to come James’ audience had a big problem with how they conducted their speech. James has already warned them to be swift to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger. This would give us the indication that the believers this is written to were very outspoken and did not listen like they should have been and consequently arguments inevitably arose.
Verse 1 hits on another problem that is still around today. The first part of the verse says “My brethren, be not many masters”. The phrase ‘my brethren’ shows us that this is talking to believers so this applies to us today. The next bit says ‘be not many masters’. From this we can gather there was an obvious problem with leadership. Everyone wanted to be in a position of leadership, perhaps because of the authority or perhaps because of the prestigious office. Whatever the case may be we can see there was a problem. However, these people desiring to be in an office did not consider the tremendous responsibility and more importantly their accountability. Those who are in a position of leadership face a far stricter judgement. Teachers of God’s word must teach God’s word; but they must also be accountable in everything else they say. They must speak the truth. They must also adhere to what they preach! If you are a spiritual leader you can’t go around telling people not do things when you yourself are doing them. You have to practice what you preach. Otherwise you are in danger of being called a hypocrite. Un-salvageable damage has been caused in people’s lives from preachers and teachers who were unprepared or whose spiritual life was not up to par.
The second part of the verse says “knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation.” This links back into my previous point about accountability and responsibility. If a spiritual leader is leading his church in the wrong direction, preaching false doctrine, gossiping, lying, bullying, slandering, cursing or using his tongue to talk about things that aren’t glorifying to God then this ‘leader’ is in danger of the souls he has led astray. He will not be sent to hell if he is truly saved but he will not be rewarded for his incorrect service. A spiritual leader must conduct his words in a fitting manner at all times.
Verse 2 says “For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body.” The first phrase ‘for in many things we offend all’ is like an expansion pack to all believers. It is not just the leaders who are accountable for things they say. Neither is it just the things that are said. The verse says ‘for in many things’. There are people out there who are always offended by the smallest things. There is always something you do that is going to offend someone. This will be explained in more detail in later lessons.
The second part of the verse says “If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body.” James 1:26 explains that if any man who seems to be religious but doesn’t bridle his tongue hasn’t got true religion. Now we see here that if there is a man who does not offend in what he says then this man is perfect. We also notice something very interesting. We see that a man who doesn’t offend with his words is able to take control of his whole body. A person who can control his speech can control everything. As we will see in later lessons the tongue is an uncontrollable member. With this in mind we notice that a man who can control the most uncontrollable member of his body can control everything.
Let me ask you today, can you control your tongue? Do you desire to be a leader when in reality you need to be the one being taught? Are you trying to force your way into a ministry when you have no place being there? Realise today that some people are just not called to the ministry and forcing your way in will not result in a blessing. If you are a spiritual leader are you adhering to the things that you teach or do you go around slandering and lying? Are you teaching proper doctrine? Realise that if you are in a leadership position you are held accountable for the people you lead. Also realise today that it is not just the spiritual leaders who are accountable for the things they say. Every Christian has an obligation to control their tongue. If you can control your tongue then you can control the rest of yourself. Self-control is an important part of Christian life. If you are not up to scratch today I pray that you will take it to the Lord and confess what needs to be confessed and ask for His help to get over it. If you are a gossip ask for forgiveness and change. If you are a liar ask for forgiveness and change. If you are constantly running people down ask for forgiveness and change. If you are doing anything that is not glorifying to God then take it to God and change. The only way to be effective as a Christian is to set the right example with a little self-control. – Andrew.
James 2:21-26 says “21Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? 22Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? 23And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. 24Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. 25Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way? 26For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.”
In these last verses James is bringing his point to the end. Due to the fact that this whole chapter is one continual point you do have to look back to other verses to get the full picture of what’s going on.
Verse 21 says “Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?” James concludes his point by giving us some examples, the first of which as we can see from the verse is Abraham. Romans 4:2-3 says “2For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. 3For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.” From these verses, and from the rest of Romans 4, we see that Abraham was not justified by works but by faith. Now you may be saying ‘but Andrew, the verse in James says that he was justified by works, is this not a contradiction?’ at first it may seem this way, but delving deeper into Gods word reveals all.
Justification is an important doctrine in the bible. Justification is the act of God whereby He declares the believing sinner righteous on the basis of Christ’s finished work on the cross. It is not a process; it is an act. Justification is not something the sinner does but rather something God does for the sinner when he trusts Christ. But how can you tell if someone is justified by faith if this justification takes place between the sinner and God privately? This is where Abraham comes into it. The justified person has a changed life and obeys God’s will. His faith is shown by his works. God knows the heart of a person and whether they are justified or not, but the justification spoken of in James 2:21 is a justification in the eyes of man. People saw his works and through this knew he had faith. His works did not justify him; instead his works showed he was justified. The second part of verse says “when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?” I once read faith described like this:
Faith is not believing in spite of evidence; faith is obeying in spite of consequence
When God commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son what did he do? He willingly obeyed. Abraham knew the consequences, he knew he was going to lose his son, but he obeyed anyway; trusting that God had good reason for doing whatever He was doing. This was Abrahams work. You may be saying ‘well no-one actually saw Abraham put his son on the alter’ and in saying that you would be right, but we have a divine account which tells us all about it. Anyone who has read Genesis in the last few thousand years has read of Abrahams willing obedience. Everyone has seen his faith in obeying God and through this we see his justification. He was willing to do whatever God told him to do, no matter how difficult; if this is not evidence of a changed life and a living faith then I don’t know what is!
Verse 22 goes on to say “Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?” we can see through Abrahams willing obedience that his faith was a working one. his “faith wrought with his works”. There was a perfect relationship between Abrahams faith and Abrahams works. Someone once said ‘Abraham was not saved by faith plus works, but by a faith that worked’. Abraham had a working faith, it was not dead, but instead it was ready to obey anything God told it to do. By faith Abraham was justified by God and his righteousness declared; by works he was justified before men and his righteousness demonstrated. Going back to verse 18 which says “Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.” We see here that Abraham was showing his faith by his works. Back in verse 22 we also see how “by works was faith made perfect?” in other words Abraham’s faith was made complete by what he did. Imagine a picture that had been torn it two. One half of the picture was faith, the other half was works. Each piece on their own is not a complete picture; it’s only when they are brought together and put side by side that the picture is complete.
Verse 23 goes on to say “And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.” Genesis 15:6 and Romans 4:3 both state this verse. We see that scripture was fulfilled which said that Abraham believed God. Abraham’s faith was never inactive; it was accounted to him for righteousness. His obedience gained him the title “the friend of God”. What a title! To be the very friend of God, to commune with Him and spend time with Him; this for the Christian is one of the greatest honours and privileges, and all because he had a working faith!
Verse 24 confirms this. The verse says “Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only”. Now before I continue I want to make a note that this verse is still in context of the example of Abraham. Many people take this verse out of context to try and say that you can get to heaven through works. This however is wrong. The context of the verse is that of Abraham, why would James suddenly jump from an example in the past to a present comment that wasn’t relevant to what he had just said? The answer: he didn’t. Verse 24 is part of the Abraham example and is not to be taken out of context. This verse is simply pointing out that a justifying faith is a working faith. Taking it in context with the previous verses there were those who thought they had faith but could not prove it. This verse shows that to be justified in the eyes of men, to be able to prove you have faith, there has to be works. Just claiming a faith does not justify you. There needs to be evidence.
I cannot stress enough though that I am in no way, shape or form saying that you need good works to get to heaven. You cannot work your way to heaven, trying too shows that you are not fully trusting in God’s salvation. Works do not get you to heaven, before or after salvation. Works come about as evidence of a changed life. To prove your faith you have to work. God does not need proving too, He already knows your faith; works are for other people to see. Not to boast about, but instead to glorify God. You show your faith by what you say and do.
Verse 25 gives us another example. The verse says “Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?” this is another story from the Old Testament. This example deals with Rahab when she helped the Jewish spies escape when she found out that God was going to destroy the city. We see again that she showed her faith through her actions. Her deeds did not save her, the faith that spurred the deeds saved her.
The last verse in chapter 2 says “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” This is James conclusion to his point. As the body without the spirit is dead; so too is faith dead without works. The one relies on the other. You need both in order for them to be alive. A bicycle is capable of movement; but simply sitting on it (in most cases) will not make it go. It is not until you put your legs to work that you start to go somewhere. Sitting on the seat and putting your feet on the peddles but not doing anything is going to result in you falling off. This is like faith without works. However if you sit on the seat, put your feet on the peddles and start to do some work you’ll start to go forward. This is like faith with work. Not only will you go forward but you will be stable. A faith that is moving and working is a faith that will go far.
Look into your heart today. Search your faith and see how it measures up. Are you showing your faith through what you do? Can you see that faith without works is a dead faith? I pray that today you will assess yourself and see how your faith fairs. – Andrew.
James 2:18-20 “18Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. 19Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. 20But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?”
Verses 18 and 19 are two of my favourite verses in James; they convey such a great truth in a simple yet effective manner.
Verse 18 sets out a great summary of the previous lesson. The verse says “Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works”. James here gives the picture of a man coming up to another and saying “you have faith, and I have works: show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works”. Here again we see one person who is all talk and no work. This man says he has faith but with no works to go along with it how can he prove it? Have you ever heard the expression ‘actions speak louder than words’? It amazes me how true this saying is. The other man says that he will show his faith by his works. The first man stands around saying he has faith whereas the second man has no time to stand around saying he has faith, instead he’s out doing what he has been commanded to do and through this his faith is proved. Having faith is believing what the bible teaches. If we believe the bible, then we must also believe that it is our Christian duty to help people and spread the gospel. Thus, if works elude our life then how does this show others that we are believing? And if we cannot show we are believing how can we show we have faith? Always remember that actions speak louder than words. Instead of standing about talking about your faith how about going out and proving it?
Verse 19 is another cracking verse that cuts straight to the heart. The verse says “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.” Talk about a complacency buster! Some people put faith as just knowledge of God. They think that because they know there is a God that they instantly have a faith. They couldn’t be further from the truth though. For one we’ve already seen that you cannot have faith without works, the second thing we see is that knowledge of God is not enough. The verse starts out “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well”. The verse is saying ‘you believe there’s one God, good job!’ in my mind this has a slightly sarcastic/humorous tinge to it, especially when the rest is taken into consideration. The rest of the verse says “the devils also believe, and tremble.” The verse says ‘you believe there’s one God, good job: the devils believe that too, and tremble.’ Not only do the devils believe that there is one God, they tremble! They show more reverence and faith that some believers do! If this doesn’t spur a change then nothing will. Verse 20 gives further emphasis.
Verse 20 says “But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?” continuing on from the point in verse 19 James continues with a ‘but’. The word but in Greek is de which is translated to mean now. So James is saying ‘now will you know’. James, having made his point, is asking them if they will change. The verse continues “O vain man, that faith without works is dead?” he starts out by saying “O vain man”. The word ‘vain’ is the Greek word kenos which is translated empty. James is emphasising on their empty faith. Therefore the verse is saying ‘now will you know, O empty man, that faith without works is dead’. James is hoping that his message had finally hit home. He makes the point again that faith without works is dead. An inactive faith is an ineffective faith; an inactive faith is an empty faith and an inactive faith is a false faith.
Today assess your own heart. Are you the Christian who stands around saying you faith, but not doing anything to show it? Do you claim to have faith because you know there is one God? If you are one of those people today take heed of what verse 19 says. Know that the devils believe there is a God, but this knowledge does not prove a saving faith.do you know today that a faith without works is dead? Is your faith living today? Is it growing stronger and stronger each day the more you work for God. Are your actions speaking louder than words? – Andrew.
James 2:14-17 “14What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? Can faith save him? 15if a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, 16and one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needed to the body; what doth it profit? 17even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone”
Over the past few days we have seen that James chapter 2 has dealt a lot with our attitudes towards people, and today carries the same theme. From here on in some very controversial verses are dealt with, but with a closer look into the word of God the message is clear.
Verse 14 poses an important question to us as believers. The verse says “What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? Can faith save him? Here the bible is challenging our service. The verse is saying, ‘what good is it, though a man say he has faith, but doesn’t show it through works? Can that kind of faith save him?’ it is a sad truth that there are people who claim to have saving faith yet do not possess salvation. It is important to keep in mind that wherever God has a truth Satan has a counterfeit. Jesus himself gives us a clear warning in Matthew 7:21 which says: “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.” Notice that verse 14 uses the phrase “though a man say he hath faith”. Notice this man is only saying that he has faith; but with no outward works to show his faith how can he prove he has it? What good is it saying you have faith but having nothing to show that you do? There are many people out there who have the right vocabulary and say the right things, but when it comes down to it their walk does not measure up to their talk. They go around thinking that their words are a good enough substitute for works, but we see this is wrong from the next few verses.
Verses 15 and 16 continues “15if a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, 16and one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needed to the body; what doth it profit?” verse 15 and 16 gives the perfect example of verse 14. Here James gives the picture of a Christian Brother or sister coming into a fellowship without clothes or food. One of the believers who says he has faith says to them ‘go on in peace, be warmed and filled’ but doesn’t give them the things they need, then what good is this? Here we see that words are no substitute for works. You can tell someone you’re going to do something, but unless you do it then it’s no good to anyone.
Verse 17 gives a thought-evoking conclusion. The verse says “17even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone”. Here we see that the people, who claim they have faith, but do not have works, have a dead faith, because their faith is alone. You see faith and works go hand in hand. Note here that I am NOT saying that salvation requires works; I’m saying that works come about after salvation as proof of a changed life. Any declaration of faith that does not result in a changed life and good works is a false declaration. That kind of faith is a dead faith. The person who has dead faith has the knowledge of salvation, but they have never dedicated their life and accepted Christ as their saviour. He knows the right words, but cannot back it up with the right works. We see that when we get saved we get a new life, we are born again. Now with new life you expect growth. In order to grow as Christians in our faith there must be the presence of good works. If there is not good works then this faith is dead and there can be no growth.
Before writing this I listened to a song called “deeds”. The first chorus goes “if you don’t have faith you have nothing at all, if you don’t have deeds your faith will fall, they can’t be true without each other, you can’t have one without the other” the second chorus goes “if you don’t have deeds you have nothing at all, if you don’t have faith your deeds will fall, they can’t be true without each other, you can’t have one without the other”. I think this is a fantastic way of putting it. To start with if you don’t have saving faith then you don’t have anything, next if you don’t have deeds to show this faith your faith will fail. The second chorus puts it another way. This time it says that if you don’t have deeds you have nothing at all, and if you don’t have faith your deeds will fall. Think of it as your heart as your faith and your brain as your deeds. The heart supplies blood to the brain, but the brain sends electrical impulses to keep your heart beating. They cannot function or even exist without each other. The exact same is seen with faith and deeds. They have to be co-existent, or both will be non-existent.
How is your faith today? Is it dead being without works? Do you go around trying to substitute words for works? Or are you a do-gooder without faith? Understand today that one cannot exist without the other. If you’re a Christian today how are your deeds? Are they showing your faith or are you just talking about it? Search your heart today; make sure that your faith isn’t dead. If it is do not worry though, there is a remedy. Our God has power over death. He can raise your dead faith into living faith. Go to God today, ask for His help. You will know when your faith is living, the proof of a changed life is the desire to do works. You will start serving Christ the way you should be. Don’t settle for a dead faith, revive it today! – Andrew.
James 2:12-13 says “12So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty. 13For he shall have judgement without mercy, that hath showed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgement.”
Before we begin its important that we clarify something before people get confused. Both Jesus (John 5:24) and Paul (Romans 8:1) assure us that Christian believers will NEVER be judged for their sins. However, Christians will be judged for their deeds which they have or have not done.
This lesson is to be taken in context with yesterdays. Yesterday verses 8-11 were discussed where we saw believers who didn’t love the way they should have been. We saw that in failing to meet one aspect of being a Christian they were failing in everything. They were justifying themselves by pointing out the aspects they were meeting but they weren’t realising that God who said to those other things also said to do the thing they were not doing and in this they were found as transgressors.
Back in verse 12 James is talking to the believers again who had been respecting rich men and despising the poor. The verse says “so speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty”. The word “so” here is the Greek word houto meaning thus or in this manner. In this we see that this is referring back to the previous verses. Therefore this verse is saying: “you are speaking in this manner, and doing things in this manner. You’re acting like those who are going to be judged; you’re acting in a carnal way” (look back over verses 8-11 to get the whole picture).
Verse 13 goes on to emphasise this point. The verse says “For he shall have judgement without mercy, that hath showed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgement.” This verse is saying that God will judge without mercy to those who have shown no mercy, but to those who have shown mercy can rejoice in the fact that they have security in their merciful ways. I believe this is referring to the Christians judgement concerning deeds. The Christians, like the ones discussed in the preceding verses, who showed no mercy to the poor but instead despised them will not receive any rewards concerning their acts; but those Christians who show mercy to others can rejoice in the fact that they will not be judged for not being merciful and they can rejoice in this.
Just as a side note here the word “mercy” is the Greek word eleos which is translated compassion. With this in mind it goes back to love being the fulfilment of the law (see yesterday’s lesson for more on this). In this we can see that the Christian who does not love everyone is breaking the foundation upon which Christianity itself is built. The unloving Christian will be judged in an unloving way, but the Christian who has shown true love to all can rejoice in the knowledge that they will not be judged in this way.
Ask yourself today how loving you are. Do you despise people? Do you go around saying you hate this and hate that? If so search your heart today and get rid of this hatred. We are commanded to love everyone. The past cannot be changed but the future can. If you’ve been unloving in the past ask God for forgiveness and start afresh. Ask God to help you love everyone the way He loves them. Ask for His compassion and His love for people. Don’t subject yourself to an unloving judgement. After all, it is far easier to love than to hate. – Andrew.