“Real Authentic Faith"

[Week 5]

James 3:1-12

Verse of the Week

“...Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check.” [James 3:2 NIV]

The Big Idea

In the first two chapters of James, he emphasizes and argues for the importance of works in the life of the follower of Jesus. This, however, begs the question: which works? Chapter 3 begins to answer this question by focusing on one of the most basic: the way we use our words.

The Importance of Words (vs. 1-2)

James will make the argument that our words are supremely important. He begins, though, by addressing those who would want to become teachers. He cautions against becoming a teacher of the word, by reasoning that those ‘who teach will be judged more strictly (vs 1).’ But how does this idea fit with his upcoming argument? Because teachers teach using their words. And as James points out, we all stumble in this area. Those who teach the word are responsible for keeping it themselves, and that is a tall order.


Our words are evidence of what is in our heart. In fact, James appears to be making the argument that if someone is never at fault in what they say, it is evidence that the other areas of their life are in order. In other words, it is often last on the list of things to fully clean up.


  • In Luke 6:43-45, Jesus talks about this same principle. Read this passage in and discuss how both passages work together.


The Impact of Words (vs 20-26)

Our ability to communicate is a central part of what makes us human. It is immensely powerful, but so common, that it is not difficult to forget about it’s place in our lives. James seeks to remind us of its importance with three metaphors. 


The first metaphor is of a bit in the mouths of horses (vs 3). Anyone who has ever worked with horses knows the immense power they hold. There is a reason that the horse has been used as a central part of militaries for centuries. But all of that power is wasted unless it is controlled by the rider. The second metaphor describes ships (vs 4). Even today with our incredible amounts of technology, massive ships rely on comparatively small rudders to navigate. 


Our words have the ability to guide the direction of our very lives, and guide the direction of our relationships, as the 3rd metaphor illustrates. A significant number of forest fires in the western United States are caused by small oversights from everyday people. It may be a campfire that is not extinguished properly, or even a cigarette tossed outside of a car. These small sparks can cause catastrophic damage and loss of life. And once the damage is done, it is rarely able to be restored to the way it was before.



  • Each of these metaphors describes a way that our small words can have a big impact. What is one way we can use this power for God’s purposes?

  • If you were helping James write this letter, what other metaphors would you employ to illustrate his point?

The Source of Our Words (vs 20-26)

In verses 7-8, James makes the statement that the tongue cannot be tamed. At first glance, this may seem strange, because the intention of the letter is to discuss how our actions display our faith. If our words are baseline actions we take on a daily basis that display our faith, how can he make the statement that it cannot be tamed?


Because the tongue isn't the root problem. The heart is. It is impossible to tame a tongue, because it is only a reflection of what is in the heart. If we are to get our words in order, we must get our heart in order.


“With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness… my brothers and sisters, this should not be. (Vs 9-10).” James is not making a statement that there is no hope, he is illustrating the supreme importance of getting this right.


James uses 2 analogies to help us understand the principle further: a spring of water and a fruit bearing tree. Is it possible for a spring to produce salty and fresh water? No. If there is salt water, it is all salt water, and it cannot be drunk from. And a fruit tree cannot magically change which fruit it produces. The point is best summarized by what Jesus said in the Luke 6:45 “... For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”



  • Take a look at the following verses that relate to fruit trees and springs of water and describe how they relate to the principle of how we use our words:

    • Fruit Trees: Psalm 1; John 15:1-17; Galatians 5:13-26

    • Springs of water: John 4: 7-13; Psalm 1; Genesis 2:10-14 & Revelation 22:1-2

Question Bank

  1. How has your week been spiritually?

  2. What is God teaching you through this passage?

  3. How can you use your words wisely this week?

  4. What’s your next step in your relationship with God?

  5. How will you turn that next step in to action this week?

Call to Action

  • Share your next step with 1 person inside or outside of group and invite them to hold you accountable.

  • Talk about Group with at least 1 person.