God’s first act in Scripture was creating the world by speaking. The first job he gave to Adam—the first image bearer of God—was to name the animals, to express creativity by speaking. We have the privilege of bearing the image of God, and we bear God’s image when we speak like our Father.
1. The Power of Speech
James 3:1-5 recognizes the power of speech. It seems small, but it carries great power.
2. Speaking Like Satan
The first sin humans committed was speaking like Satan (Genesis 3). James highlights 4 characteristics of the tongue that can be so destructive: 1) the tongue is a world of unrighteousness (Jas. 3:5-6); 2) the tongue destroys life (Jas. 3:6); 3) the tongue is untameable (Jas. 3:7-8); and 4) the tongue displays our double-mindedness (Jas. 3:9-12).
3. Speaking Like Jesus
We speak out of the abundance of our heart (Luke 6:44-45) and we ought to speak like Jesus if we have faith in him, because he makes us new creations (2 Cor. 5:17). Jesus IS God’s Word (John 1:1) and he IS the image of God (Col. 1:15-20). We get to participate in Christ because we are united to him by faith. We speak like Jesus when we speak from faith.
Reflection and Discussion Questions
This is the longest section in James on a single subject. What do you think was happening in the church at the time that would lead James to write this? (Look especially at Jas. 3:1, 13-16.)
Why does James appeal to our identity in Christ (and our neighbors’ identity as God’s image bearers) to call us to speak in love (Jas. 3:9-12)? What are the implications of 2 Cor. 5:17 and 1 Cor. 15:49 for this?
Sinful speech is a faith problem (Rom. 14:23). How does an untamed tongue betray a lack of faith in Christ in your own life?
What fears and feelings make you speak in selfishness? What fears and feelings keep you from speaking boldly in love?
Meditate on 2 Corinthians 5:17 this week, and pray this passage back to God. Tell him you believe you are new in Christ. Confess the ways you struggle to walk in that newness. Ask him to make this promise true in your speech.
The sermon encouraged us to ponder who is one person we can bless with our words. Who is that person for you this week? What do they need to hear from you? Ask for the Spirit’s guidance. Step out in faith and encourage that person!