With Control - James 3:1-12

1.      On a scale from 1 to 10 with 10 the most; how powerful are words?

2.      When you think about words that have made a difference in the world around us what comes to mind?

We just finished a mid-term election. I heard words that were hateful, vindictive and borderline downright criminal.

3.      Consider the last time you were hurt by someone’s words. How did the impact of this compare to the impact of a compliment?

We all have opportunities to speak words that are healing rather than words that tear down and humiliate.

4.      When was the last time you chose to use negative words when you could have used positive words that would help bring healing?

Our words influence others. They can teach and encourage others, but they are also dangerous and able to quickly tear others down. James warned believers to guard their speech!

James skillfully packed over six analogies into just twelve verses. All of them deal with one subject—the difficulty of controlling the tongue.

5.      In your opinion, why is controlling the tongue such an important issue for Christians?

Today we will discuss “Genuine Maturity,” especially as it relates to our speech!


When Teaching the Truth! Read James 3:1-2


Many, if not most, of the Christians at this point were Jewish converts. The Jews had a high regard for their teachers or rabbis. The indication here is that there may have been many desiring to be teachers for the wrong reasons.

1.      What does it mean that teachers will be judged strictly?

2.      What danger is there for a teacher who really is not ready to teach but insists on teaching? (They may not be teaching the truth, and thus leading people astray!)

If one claiming to be a teacher leads someone astray, that person may leave the church having lost faith in the leaders.

3.      If teachers are held to a high standard, why would someone want to assume that role? (Our speech has an unusually strong power to influence others. Teachers have a special place in this, and must be careful that their teachings are biblically accurate.)

Teachers need to be given positive comments from time to time. Of course, no two people will teach the same, so we must realize God uses different personalities in His kingdom.

The phrase “does not stumble” is interpreted “perfect” in some translations. Of course, this does not mean without sin. It is translated “mature” in some translations.

4.      How does mastery over the tongue prove one fit to teach?


Teachers need to be careful about both their teaching and their speech in general, since they occupy a place of influence. Watch out for false teaching, gossip, hateful speech, and hypocrisy.


When Influencing Others! Read James 3:3-6


James uses three metaphors here: the bit in the horse’s mouth, the rudder of a large ship and a small fire. In each illustration, something very small is controlling something very large. While the bit and rudder can have both positive and negative uses the fire is all negative. While James didn’t say anything positive about the tongue in verse 6, we know that the tongue can be used for good. But James spoke in absolutes.

His point is very clear: Human beings, in their own strength, cannot tame the tongue!


1.      How does the skill required to ride a horse or to navigate a ship compare to skillful use of words?

2.      When you think about a small fire burning a large forest, how can words have an equally devastating effect?

3.      What are some strategies we can use to control our speech? (James warned us of the potentially destructive nature of the tongue. Some suggestions for controlling our tongues can include pausing before speaking, prayer, and Scripture memorization.)

4.      When is harsh language acceptable? (Jesus and even Peter and Paul were not always tame in their speech. We should always be thoughtful and controlled in our speech, especially in difficult situations.)


Words are Important


Words are powerful.                                    Prov. 12:6, 18; 15:4; 18:21

Eph. 4:29


Words are a window into                Matt. 12:34; James 1:26;

the heart.                                            James 3:11-12


Controlling the tongue is key           Proverbs 13:3; 21:23

to a successful life.


God will hold us accountable for    Matthew 12:36-37

every careless word spoken.


We need God’s help to control        Psalm 19:14

the tongue.


(Read some of these passages as time permits!)


When Offering Praise! Read James 3:7-12


According to verses 9-10, even our praise of God is corrupted by our uncontrollable tongue.

1.      Why does the praise of God demand a tongue that is under His control?

2.      Why do you think people have this double standard in the way we speak to God and the way we speak to those created in His image?

No human being can control his or her own tongue, but that doesn’t mean it is uncontrollable. In order for a horse’s bit or a ship’s rudder to be effective, what is required?—Someone who takes the reins or has a hand on the ship’s wheel. If a human being can’t do it, who can? See James 3:15-17.


The ability to control the tongue must come from outside ourselves, since it cannot come from within. We must constantly ask the Holy Spirit to take control of our speech, since we are not capable of controlling it on our own. The good news is the Holy Spirit can and will help us control our speech if we ask Him to.


3.      How can we use our speech to measure the consistency of our walk with God?

4.      How is a person’s speech a mirror of a person’s character?


Summarize and Challenge!


Ask the class to keep you in their prayers as you try to teach the Word accurately.


What are some areas where you need to repent of poisonous speech?  The tongue is disproportionately powerful!


What are some practical ways you can use your words this week to help others?


A true believer’s speech will reflect a heart changed by the gospel.


We all need the transformation process to continue in us.


Try to see the image of God in everyone you encounter this week, whether in person or through the media. Speak accordingly!