Teachers, Words, and Self-Control

Lesson 7: James 3:1-12

The topic for today's lesson is the tongue. We have all heard that childhood saying: “sticks and stones can break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” As adults we know that words do hurt! Whether we are teaching others or just enjoying conversation, what we say can have great impact on others. What we often fail to remember is that our impact can be positive or it can be negative. James warns us that our tongue is difficult to control. In fact, out of it sometimes comes both blessing and cursing!

Controlling the tongue is an important task for Christians. It affects all areas of our lives-our families, our church, our work, our evangelism, and more. We cannot take this lightly. The tongue's impact is too strong. We must harness it for good.


1. Why is teaching such an important responsibility? What responsibilities do those who receive the teaching have?

o The follow-up to 2:1-13 concerning faith and works is an acknowledgement that the position of a teacher is extremely important.
o James uses the phrase “my brothers” to reflect his relationship with the readers and his deep feelings on this subject. James' use of “we who teach” indicates that he is including himself in this warning.
o Being a teacher is a position in the church (Eph.4:11)
o Teachers must be careful and responsible with their “words.” Note - Rom 2:17-29
o Teacher should: 1) teach Jesus and the Gospel; 2) instruct concerning doctrine; and 3) edify the church
o Teachers are to be judged with a “greater” judgment. Teachers are held accountable for their “words.” Note Jesus' teaching in Matt.12:36; 18:6 and Luke 9:42.
o We all teach in some manner! Teaching is not a lecture style - it is a life style. Words are powerful, from the lecture podium and from interactions with others.

2. What analogies does James use about the nature of the tongue? Why is the impact of the tongue so great?

o The analogy- horse and bridle bit - can control the actions and movements of the horse.
o The analogy- a ship and its rudder.
o Both are examples of the small things that can control larger objects
o The human tongue is a small organ of the body yet it can control the actions and outcomes of humans.
o The analogy- a spark in the forest can destroy millions of acres of forest.

3. What is the most encouraging word you have ever received? What is the most discouraging word?

Teachers, ask your class to give examples of encouraging and discouraging words. Make sure the examples stay in the context of the lesson and can be used to edify the class. We do not want to allow “words” that will harm.

4. What damage does an uncontrolled tongue do to a church? What good could a controlled tongue do?

5. What damage does an uncontrolled tongue do to a family? What good could a controlled tongue do?

o Questions 4 and 5 can be discussed together because the congregation is a family too. We need to look at the impact of our words on each other in our spiritual, as well as, our earthly families. Remember our previous lesson on listening well (James 1:19-27). Try to connect these to lessons. ---- A good teacher will listen well too!
o The tongue is a “cosmos” of evil - a world in itself. The evil that can come from the tongue is a force that is opposed to God.
o James even describes the source of the power of the tongue as “set of fire by hell.”
o Note what Jesus said in Matt7:18; 15:11

6. How do we control the tongue?

o Control of the tongue comes with maturity in the faith. Keep in mind that chronological age does not necessarily indicate maturity.
o From verse 2, James tells us that none of us are perfect.
o Use Paul's words from Rom. 8:1-17 to help us understand how we can control our tongue.

7. What is the connection between our worship and our conversation?

o We worship God by our words and our actions. Our faith will determine the nature of our worship. Since the tongue is a controlling factor in the purification or corruption of our body, then we must work hard to “tame” the tongue.
o We must be bold enough to question our daily conversation. Is our conversation spiritual? Certainly not every word can be of a spiritual nature but are our words meaningful, supportive, edifying, etc ?

Brentwood Hills
Church of Christ
5120 Franklin Road
Nashville, Tennessee 37220
Phone: (615) 832-2541
Fax: (615) 832-2583