It’s (Not Supposed To Be) All About Me. James 3:1-18

I hate to admit it.


If I could play back the tape of yesterday’s conversations, I would hear clearly in retrospect what I might have missed in the moment. My words are–more often than not–all about me.

Chapter 3 of James’s letter–and lesson 4 of this study–are about our words. “The tongue” is James’ word for it. “Tongues on Fire” is the vivid chapter title in our Bible study book.

What’s wrong with my words? With yours? This chapter will heighten our awareness of the good, the bad, and the ugly that comes out of our mouths.

And it will make us hungry for the good news he gives us at the end.

It’s Not About You

My boss at the Pilates studio where I teach is always reminding us about what it takes to lead a good class.

“It’s not about you,” she says. “People walk in with their own problems. They come to us to feel better, workout hard, and leave their problems behind.”

In other words I’m not supposed to chatter away about my problems, I’m supposed to help them shed theirs. But setting myself aside is harder than it looks. That’s why Boss Lady has to remind us regularly to keep it positive and not about us.

Note To Self

The other day I was driving to teach my first class of a long day, determined to heed her instructions. I prayed that I would be able to love, serve, and focus on the people in front of me.

But somewhere along the way, I lost it. My various aches and pains were nagging me, my mental focus was getting cloudy, and my spirit was starting to complain. My “positivity” was ebbing fast. When the next client walked in the door asking, “How are you?” I let fly.

Note to self. How are you is a conversation starter, not a request for a head to toe discourse on my condition.

Taming the Tongue?

My tongue often blurts out things I never wanted to say out loud. Sometimes terrible things–angry outbursts, expletives, half-truths, gossip–but sometimes simply self-centered things. Though I know it’s not supposed to be about me, I end up making it that way. I can’t seem to tame my own tongue.

If James had left us with just the bad news about our fallen nature, this chapter would be completely discouraging. But he doesn’t.

Let’s study James 3 to receive not just the diagnosis, but the shockingly good prescription for our unruly tongues.

Study Questions

Use the questions in Lesson 4 of our study guide, or the ones below.

  1. What does James caution us about in 3:1? How does 3:2 explain this concern?
  2. How do the 2 analogies in James 3:3-4 show us the tongue’s power for good? How does this encourage you?
  3. What image is used to represent the destructive power of the tongue in James 3:5-6? Write down every evil thing named in these two verses.
  4. In James 3:7-8 what image is used to represent the problem of controlling our tongue? Can you think of a personal example that illustrates his point?
  5. What does the mixture of good and evil in our words show us about our hearts (3:9-12)? How does this point prepare us for his answer?
  6. Compare the two sources of our words that James gives us in 3:13-18. What is the “origin, characteristic, and result” (The Message of James, Motyer, p. 134) of each?
  7. How are we to obtain this “wisdom from above”? See James 1:5 and 1:17.
  8. The early church father, Irenaeaus, liked to refer to the Son and the Holy Spirit as “the two hands of God.” Both Son and Spirit are the Father’s gifts from above to rescue us. Meditate on James 3:17 as a picture of Jesus for us and a work of the Spirit in us.

Have a good week. We’ll talk application on Friday.

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