Today, we take our journey into James chapter 3 – the midway point of this very transformational book. For those of you joining this blog series for the first time, the Book of James proved to be a great source of self-assessment as I went through a season of pruning (painful yes, but totally necessary) in my own life last year and I felt led to share so we can all see more clearly the areas in our own lives where transformation by the renewing of the mind is required. Always remember, Father God is more interested in our character than our comfort.
As a short recap, the topics covered in parts 1 – 4 of this blog series are: Profiting from Trials, Accessing Godly Wisdom, No Gain without Trust, The Curse of Riches, Strength through Temptation, Wrath – the Testimony Destroyer, Going Beyond Knowledge, The Sin of Partiality, and Practical Faith Equals Perfected Faith. Feel free to scroll back through the blog site to read any of the topics you believe will support your transformation process.
I have divided chapter 3 into two topics – (1) The Heart Meter and (2) Discerning True Wisdom. Let’s jump right in.
(1) The Heart Meter (James 3:1 – 12)
These verses speak specifically about the power of the tongue and the harm it can create if not controlled. At the same time, emphasis is placed on how difficult a job it is to tame or control the tongue. Why? Our tongues do not have a mind of their own. They are under the direction of our soul (emotions, mind & will). At salvation, our spirits are reborn (renewed, born again) but our souls are not. This is why Paul instructed the believers in Philippi to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12b). This applies to believers everywhere because as Jeremiah 17:9 so eloquently puts it, “the heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked. Who can know it?” (NKJV). Throughout the scriptures, most times when we see reference being made to “the heart” it is really referring to the soul. For a while, we can pretend and deceive others that we believe things that we don’t really believe, feel what we don’t really feel, and are who we really are not. For a time!! But there comes a time when the true beliefs, feelings and self are revealed – the true condition of our hearts becomes evident – and by no other means than by a ‘slip’ of the tongue. The mask comes off in a moment of truth and the real self is displayed in all of its glory (or lack thereof) by our words.
You are known by your fruit (Mt. 7:16-20). It is insightful to see, both in these verses in James and those just cited in Matthew 7, that fruit is always reflective of the state of the source from which it was generated. Therefore, if my words are evil then my soul (heart) must be evil and vice versa. Matthew 12:34 and Luke 6:45 tell us that the mouth speaks out of the abundance of the heart. Many times when we are caught off guard, we surprise even ourselves by what comes out of our mouths. So, your tongue is a good gauge of the condition of your heart. It actually reflects what is in your heart. Particularly, when you are placed in uncomfortable, suddenly distressful situations. Many times, Father God allows these very situations to come our way so that we can see evidence of the work that is still required to be done on the inside. This principle of fruit reflecting source underscores the importance of the vine and branches symbolization Jesus shares in John 15:4-5. Where you get your nourishment determines the nature of your fruit. The nature of your fruit (your words and actions) tells us the source of your nourishment.
It is definitely a sign of maturity to have things come to mind and be able to stop it proceeding out of your mouth. We call it ‘biting your tongue’. Better to suffer the pain of a bitten tongue than to allow your tongue to ruin a lifetime of character building. It can all be destroyed in an instant by one tirade of words said at the wrong time in front of the wrong audience. This is specifically why Paul gives a special warning to teachers at the beginning of this chapter. In essence, he is pointing to the fact that those to whom others look for mentoring and instruction have a greater need to heed the words he is writing in this section of his letter. Their carelessly spoken words can cause the greatest damage, not only to themselves but to those who look up to them.
As a rule, engage brain before speaking!! In other words, think before you speak. Are your words going to bring life or death, encouragement or despair, growth or destruction, help or hindrance, faith or fear, error or truth? Is love the motive behind the words you intend to speak or is it pride, acrimony, resentment, insecurity, jealously, or some other unrighteous motivation? Are you walking in the spirit or in the flesh? You need to recognize that it is not by might nor by power but only by the power of the Holy Spirit that you will have the victory over this very small but very powerful member of your body. Ensure you wash your mind with the Word of God daily so that self-control (temperance, bridling) will be the fruit that is seen in your life (Gal. 5:22).
So as not to weary you with my much speaking (in written form…..smile) we will unwrap the second topic in James chapter 3 in my next blog (next week same time). Please join me then.