James 3
Wisdom and the Tongue

by Bob Young
[permission is given to reprint with credit noted]

Today's Bible Reading: James 3

Selected Biblical Text
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.
13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15 Such "wisdom" does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.
17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18 Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness. (James 3:9-17 NIV)

Reflecting and Thinking
In this middle chapter of the book, we find two related concepts -- the tongue and wisdom. (The middle chapter of the book may reveal the primary focus and message of James, considering the possibility of a chiastic structure for the book.) There are two ways to use the tongue; there are two kinds of wisdom. Both the tongue and wisdom are powerful beyond what is at first apparent. The two concepts are related -- the tongue reveals whether the wisdom that guides our life is earthly or heavenly. There is a wisdom that is informed by the principles of this world but it ultimately comes to nothing. Any advancement it brings is temporary. The wisdom from above may seem little capable of moving any cause forward, but its presence and practice reaps a great harvest of righteousness.

James suggests the tongue is a major part of hypocrisy -- what other factors play a part in our tendencies toward hypocrisy? The tongue is involved in many sins. Make a list of some of the sins that are related to the tongue. Which one of the sins you listed will you work on today?
What could you do to cultivate God's wisdom in your life? Which characteristic of heavenly wisdom (wisdom from above) will you work on today?
[Note: The suggested exercises for today's reflection give you both positives and negatives to work on -- may God bless your efforts to apply your knowledge in your daily life.]

Dear God, help us be both hearers and doers of your word. Help us as we strive today to avoid a negative related to the tongue and to build a positive related to heavenly wisdom. Make us this day peacemakers, ready to harvest. Help us use our tongue in positive ways to encourage others. We pray for your presence and power this day, in Jesus' name, Amen.

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Last updated January 23, 2019