james read-along: chapter 3

Well, folks. James has done it. He’s written a chunk of verses that’ve rendered me speechless. I’ve had such a big problem controlling my tongue this week (okay, my whole life–my dad lovingly used to call me Mouth) that I can’t think of a more horrible chapter to try to analyze and unravel.

The tongue is hard to tame. I’m doing a sucky job. From my mouth is coming both praise to my Father and curses on his children.


I do take comfort in my brother Paul who read my mind when he wrote Romans 7:18-19: “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.”

Like, hypothetically, screaming at my 9yo home-schooler and then throwing my Language Arts Teacher’s Edition against the wall when she says just the right thing to put me over the edge (she is quickly gaining on Gabe in the Knowing-How-to-Push-Marla’s-Buttons department).

And then we get to verse 14 with all its “bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts,” and I think to myself, “Can’t I catch a break this week? Did you have to go and focus on what are quite possibly my three biggest problem areas? 1. taming my tongue. 2. bitterness and/or jealousy and 3. selfish ambition.”

I have a couple options here. Turn this into a self-focused, self-deprecating confessional hour OR take it to God and spend the rest of my time focusing on verses 17-18.

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. (pretty much all the things he’s been hammering home in the first two chapters) And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

So there’s wisdom from God and wisdom from hell (v.15) and God promises (1:5) that if we ask in faith, he’ll give us the good kind of wisdom. And this wisdom apparently isn’t just intellectual know-how. It comes as a package full of purity and peace and gentleness and open-mindedness and mercy and fruit-bearing and impartiality and sincerity and a big ol’ harvest of righteousness.

Oh, God, I want that wisdom. I NEED that wisdom! Please help my unbelief so I can ask for it in faith and not doubt! Give me that pure, peaceful, gentle, merciful, beautiful, stinking awesome wisdom!!

Discussion Questions:

1. How did James 3 hit you over the head this week?

2. What encouraged you from this chapter?

3. What action steps can you take today to help line your life up with Scripture?

34 thoughts on “james read-along: chapter 3

  1. Nora

    I’ve been following along but not leaving comments.

    I am reading this book, and it means nothing to me. I’m not sure why. It seems like … nothing. I studied it last year (along with “Radical”), and it changed my life … for a while.

    But now, I think I’m losing my faith. Because I’m about as interested in James as I am … oh, I don’t know. Statistics and banana peels. It’s not moving me, not convicting me, not even interesting me.

    Does this ever happen to the strong believers on this site? I honestly would like to know. Thanks. –Nora G.

    1. Marla Taviano

      Hey, Nora. Thanks, first of all, for being so honest. I can only speak from personal experience, but I know that the times the Bible “does nothing’ for me are the times when my heart is hardened to what God wants to say. God’s Word is “living and active,” it’s God speaking to us. Could it be that something’s getting in the way of you and God?

      I’m definitely not saying that’s the only possibility. Sometimes certain parts of the Bible just don’t resonate with me as much as others. Are there other books that seem to mean more to you at this stage of your life?

      And if it all just feels dry and meaningless, I would be honest with God and tell him that. God, I don’t know what’s going on. I want to have faith, but I don’t feel anything. Please show me that you’re real and that you have something to say to me through your word.

      I know we can’t just rely on our feelings though. This is definitely a tough one. And I bet you’re not alone in this.

      I’m praying for you, Nora. Please don’t give up.

      1. Nikki

        I agree with Marla, but would like to add that… that is right where Satan wants us on the edge of faith or no faith. Satan is so good at getting us to question…the ways he does it are scary and sly. Just be aware of this and fight it. Don’t let Satan in, hold tight to what you know and how you felt during your Radical study. Know that it’s not just Marla praying…you have people all over that read this blog praying too….Stay strong!!!

    2. Danielle

      Oh Nora, I TOTALLY get where you’re coming from. In fact, I was nodding along to everything that Marla said in response to this.

      There are books of the Bible that I just don’t get, and I almost have to make myself read them because I know that they’re God’s word even if I don’t get it and they don’t excite me. I have a really hard time with wisdom and prophecy books, which is a significant portion of scripture, and at different times in different ways God has used a lot of these books to reveal his truth to me.

      I have gone through times where I don’t read a book because it feels like it means nothing to my life, and then I hear a sermon on that book and I want to go read it in light of that sermon. That happened just a few weeks ago for me with Revelation. We read through the NT as a church this summer, I dreaded Revelation both for my own reading and for the sermon that I thought would be taught on it since the Sunday sermons were following what we had read that week. Honestly, that sermon totally changed my view on Revelation, and I want to go read it again and ask God to reveal himself to me afresh. Maybe listening to the sermons on James from David Platt would help stir your heart, I know they did mine.

      All scripture is God breathed. Even the parts we don’t get, we don’t like, or we don’t care for. Dear sister, pray to God that he would breathe life into these words on a page so that you see the Word (John 1) revealed. James 4:8 is an invitation to us, as we draw near to God we see that he has drawn near to us. The God who created all things, and by his hand they were made, invites you to draw near. Keep following along, and pressing in, even when you don’t feel it.

  2. Candice

    I ran out of time to post yesterday even though I did read.

    1. Obviously taming the tongue. I do feel like there has been a lot of progress in this area, but I know I still struggle. Sometimes for fear of having an awkward situation I facilitate gossip instead of cutting it off.

    2. I’m encouraged that I can repent and ask God for His help. I pray that Holy Spirit just takes over my tongue in my weak moments.

    3. Something I’ve really been wanting to do in general that can also help with this is praying with others. I feel really compelled to start praying with people on the spot when they express a need rather than just telling them that I will pray for them later. I think it is a powerful way to bring God’s presence and peace into the equation and cut off everything else.


  3. Marla

    1. I was reading through the verses, all but congratulating myself on how much better I am these days at controlling my tongue (way better than I was in college). God hit me over the head with the reminder that it’s not too hard to control my tongue when I really don’t have those kind of relationships like you do in college, where you’re practically living on top of each other….and then reminded me of my shortcomings with those people that I do “practically live on top of.” Oh, yeah, my kids. My husband. Hmmm…out of the same mouth come praise and cursing? Yeah, pretty close. Some days, they get nothing but the leftovers of my spirit, and some days, those leftovers are pretty rotten. (umm, yesterday?)

    2. I don’t think James is very encouraging in this chapter…encouragement comes from knowing we’re not alone, and that God does not desire for us to wallow in our shortcomings. I do like the reminder at the end of the chapter, of the wisdom that comes from heaven. Surely if we are filling ourselves with His wisdom, our speech (and attitudes) will become an outflow of that.

    3. Praying, praying, praying…for wisdom, for grace, for the ability to bless my family with more than the “leftovers” of me that have survived a day of middle schoolers.

  4. Claudia

    This chapter makes me want to buy designer duct tape so I can put some over my mouth every day! (designer so I can have duct tape that color coordinates with every outfit!)

  5. Jaclyn K.

    Well Said!!!! I keep telling myself I will not speak negatively about anyone than bam I find myself doing it. I keep thinking about some of the things you said I will not judge a women who…James was right about us watching our tonuge.

  6. Mandy

    Thanks for doing this, Marla! It’s so helpful. I don’t get out much during the week since I don’t have a car at home right now and being able to do this study with you and all the people here is so helpful! Writing answers to your questions is really helping me grow. And thanks for being so open and honest about your struggles, too. Did I mention that I find this so helpful?

  7. Sharon Meekins

    I love you and your honesty, Marla. My tongue gets me into alot of trouble as well. Knowing that I’m not in this struggle alone encourages me. My goodness, I may never speak again. 😉 Would that make me a great listener? I didn’t think so… 🙂 You rock, my friend! Love you much!

  8. Danielle

    HA! I wrote my post, then read what others had posted. I know James said “not many” but my very sinful response would be “don’t teach!” Seriously, God better be moving your heart inexplicably in that direction. It’s H-A-R-D, and desiring to teach without the surety of God is downright impossible. Either way, I’m glad a couple of us are in the same boat of totally getting, and being convicted by 3:1.

  9. Pingback: Biting my tongue | Multi-Tasking Mama | Multi-Tasking Mama

  10. Jennifer

    1. I told myself earlier today that I don’t have a problem with my speech, and not thirty minutes later, I was having a problem with it. It takes so very little for me to unleash all the negativity I’m thinking and say what doesn’t need to be said. God keeps bringing to mind Ephesians 4:29 over and over again. I pray that He would enable me to follow His words!

    2. I’m encouraged that with God, even this impossible thing (controlling my tongue and my thoughts), is possible.

    3. I’m memorizing Ephesians 4:29 all over again and reciting it often. 🙂

  11. Lorena

    I was once again reminded how the tiny tongue, as small as it is, is able to do much damage and  destruction. While reading James 3 , it brought to mind the passage in Luke 6 where is says that “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” So when I am talking (or arguing, or yelling), I am showing what is going on in my heart at that time.  Many times is is evident that i am not allowing myself to be led by the spirit. My words should be loving, encouraging, filled with grace, etc. That same passage talked about how a good tree brings forth good fruit and a bad tree brings forth bad fruit and how they can’t bring forth the opposite. Definitely ties in with chapter 2 of James and how the evidence of the spirit working in us should be obvious to those around us. I am encouraged because as I step back and take a look at salvation and the grace that God has shown to me, I realize more and more every day that it isn’t me. I cannot do this, I am nothing. It is only a result of Christ and His power in me. I may not be able to tame my tongue, but he can tame it for me. The more I understand of what he has done for me, the easier it is to stop trying to fix it myself and instead let him fix me. (if you remember from week 1, I love to be in control, so I feel like it has taken me a very, very long time to really understand this all.) This week I want to live this out by trying to talk with people with the same grace and love that God speaks to me.  

  12. Rachelle

    1. I avoided reading James 3 until this morning. It’s been a long few days and I knew I was in trouble. You can run but you can’t hide.

    2. I am encouraged that’s if I will follow God’s plan to be wholehearted, straightforward and sincere I will reap the benefits. I can be a peacemaker. James 3:17-18

    3. I am going to work at being better at allowing discussion.Verse 17 I have a really hard time with this when I intuitively know the truth.

    A tough few days with one daughter in particular. I am not accustomed to having kids push my buttons, it’s a new world for me. And sadly I handled it fair, not good.

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  14. Liz

    I know there was a season in my life when I could not call my son to dinner without praying first. We were just like water and oil, any conversation could turn ugly quick. Praise God that is no longer the case but through that time, even though I blew it many times, I saw what God could and would do if I asked for help over and over. I know that He loves me and wants to help me be more like Him but He wants me to come to Him, to spend time with Him to sit at His feet, to ask for forgiveness when I am not kind to others. He will always help me and be there for me, He does not give up on me, so grateful.
    verse 17 and 18 in the Message translation is pretty clear, it is not easy, it takes hard work but it is possible with Christ.
    18Real wisdom, God’s wisdom, begins with a holy life and is characterized by getting along with others. It is gentle and reasonable, overflowing with mercy and blessings, not hot one day and cold the next, not two-faced. You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoy its results only if you do the hard work of getting along with each other, treating each other with dignity and honor.

    1. Marla Taviano

      Thanks, Liz! I’ve shared James 18 from the Message lots of times when I speak to groups of women. Seems we have a little trouble getting along and treating each other with dignity and honor sometimes.

  15. Lori

    I think I’m liking The Message version a bit better this morning. Feeling a little better about my many imperfections when I read this: “And none of us is perfectly qualified. We get it wrong nearly every time we open our mouths.” Duh! That’s why we need Jesus! It’s so painful when we try to do it ourselves.

    1. Marla Taviano

      I was playing a game with Ava and Nina just now and was SO proud of myself because Ava was acting a little bratty and I didn’t say something mean back to her. And then I told Nina that Ava was acting like a jerk and we weren’t going to be like her. Um. Nice. Let’s keep trying, shall we?

      1. ellen

        the struggle I have is the ‘so proud of my self’ and it slides me right into judgement and meaness — I don”t think good behavior counts when we are proud of ourselves – pride can kill — literally – and one of my largest problems

  16. Sharon W

    Thanks, Marla, for showing us your humanness. I can get so frustrated when my toddler doesn’t do what I want when I want (as if, as an adult, I do what others want, when they want ie my husband, God). I cannot imagine trying to teach my child(ren) all the things they’d learn in school on top of all the other things there are to teach them. Bless you for being willing to take on such a huge responsibility. Praying for God’s wisdom for you!

  17. Nancy

    1. Oh, taming the tongue….not only is it difficult to do, but according to James “no human being can tame the tongue.” Is there hope?

    2. What encouraged me is knowing I’m not alone. (Yeah, I have a problem with comparison, too.) With God’s help there is hope.

    3. Masking tape? (That’s how my kindergarten teacher solved it.) I can do the same thing I do every day: Ask God to help me and declare to myself that THIS is the day that I will be a positive person and keep the negative comments to myself. (And then at the end of the day, when this clearly WASN’T the day, thank God that his mercies are new every morning.)

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