Wise Talking

Opening Prayer

Lord, guard my heart today from anything not worthy of Your kingdom. Fill my life with the fruit of Your Spirit.

Read James 3:1–12

Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. 2 We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check.

3 When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. 4 Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. 5 Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. 6 The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

7 All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

9 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. 11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 12 My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.


How would others describe the way that you speak about the people in your life?

After dealing with the need for practical concern for the needy, the letter turns to the power of our words (cf. 1:19,26). Using a series of vivid metaphors, James warns us of the terrible damage we can do with our words and the need to take extreme care with what we say.

Eugene Peterson writes: “We cannot be too careful about the words we use; we start out using them and they end up using us.” In The Message he translates verse 5b as “By our speech we can ruin the world, turn harmony to chaos, throw mud on a reputation…” When have you said something about someone else that had painful consequences?

This passage paints a realistic portrayal of ourselves and our desires. Jesus said: “the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart… For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander” (Matt. 15:18).

James emphasizes the need for self-control, one of the fruits of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22). We all need God’s transforming power in our lives.


Think about the words you have used this week. Have you used them for good or for harm?

Closing prayer

God, forgive me for the times I have used my words for harm. Help me to change my speech all for good.

Syndicated via Scripture Union. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Terry Schneider