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The Master's Touch small group Bible studies

gossiping women The Power of the Tongue, James 3:1-12

Recommended Procedure. Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading

For leaders: As an opening activity, have one member of the group whisper some rumor or gossip to another member of the group. Make it just a little long so it will not be easily remembered. If you have more than just a few in your group, in all likelyhood the rumor will have changed.

Review. Christians who dispersed from Jerusalem, their hometown, were dealing with their persecutions in a wrong manner in their churches. Apparently, they were angry and vengeful; they acted with favoritism; and they were idle in their faith. Now in this section of Scripture James outlines the danger of being idle with their tongues.

Some people in the early church apparently had the problem of being know–it–alls. They were idle, and they set themselves up as being experts, especially in church matters. Probably these were respected Christians or no one would listen to them. In their idle talk they were teaching the people, and people listening to them would be affected by what they heard. Because of idle talk, what warning does James issue? James 3:1-2

Answer 1


Teachers will be judged more strictly by what they say, so they better be careful. What is the danger of freely giving out our “expert” opinions? The danger is that the tongue is a powerful member of the body. In James 3:3-4 what illustrations does James use to illustrate its power?

Answer 2


In James 3:5-6, what other illustrations does he use to show the power of the tongue?

Answer 3


In James 3:7-8a, what other illustrations does he use to show the power of the tongue?

Answer 4


In James 3:8b-9, what other illustrations does he use to show the power of the tongue?

Answer 5


In James 3:10-12, what other illustrations does he use to show the power of the tongue?

Answer 6


What is the alternative to the destructive use of our tongues? Verse 13 gives us a clue.

Answer 7


Lessons to Live by: (ask for members' input first)


Today's Bible memory verse:

Proverbs 2:18 Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. (NIV)

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A1: Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check. (James 3:1-2, NIV)

A2: The tongue is like the bit in a horse's mouth or like a rudder of a ship. We pull on the reins that are connected to the bit, left or right to steer the horse. We steer the rudder of the ship in a certain direction, and where we steer it that is where it goes. We need to control the bridle of our tongue or the rudder of our ship so we do not steer it and other people in the wrong direction.

A3: Second, the tongue is like a forest set ablaze. How can this be true? We can start an uncontrollable fire with gossip or malicious speaking or by stirring up trouble.

A4: Third, the tongue is like an untamable animal. How might this be true? Untamable animals are wild, unpredictable and uncontrollable, and so is anger. At times we need to put a leash on our tongue or keep it caged.

A5: Fourth, the tongue is like a deadly poison. How might this be true? We have the power in our tongues to encourage someone, but we also have the power to destroy someone. If a child is told he is stupid or worthless or will never amount to much, he may believe it, and his character may be destroyed. There are many people who are unemployed, on drugs, or in jail or prison that were told such destructive words by their teacher or a parent.

A6: Last, the tongue is like a salty spring. How good does salt taste in spring water? Yuck! We spit it out, don't we? Spring water is supposed to taste good. Christians are likewise supposed to speak good things, but many Christians are also critical, abusive, and even slanderous in their speech. This should not be! Bad speech is like pouring salt into spring water; it doesn't taste very good to the hearer. As Christians we possess the fountain of life, the Holy Spirit. Should we pour salt into the spring so no one wants to drink from him?

A7: In verse 13 James returns to his reference of showing our faith by our deeds. Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. Some of us are critical because we are idle. Let us find something the Lord wants us to do and get busy.

Lessons to Live by:

  • Do not be an idle person, setting yourself up to be an expert. God will judge your words. Get busy doing what God wants you to do.
  • Control the bridle of your tongue or the rudder of your ship so you do not steer it and other people in the wrong direction.
  • Do not start an uncontrollable fire with gossip or malicious speaking. You will hurt someone and your own reputation.
  • Put a leash on your tongue or keep it caged if it is wild.
  • Be careful that you do not poison others with your tongue and destroy their future.
  • Do not pour salt into the fresh spring of your Christian life by cursing, lying, gossiping or slandering. Who wants that kind of Christianity?
  • Let the fountain from your mouth be sweet instead of bitter. Walk in humility, speaking with kindness and wisdom.

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