Pure Speech

Read Together: James 3:1–12

In our short series on deacons, we learned that deacons must be mature believers, those who seek to reflect the character of Christ in how they live and serve. Paul mentions that deacons must not be “double-tongued” (1 Tim 3:8). One mark of maturity in the faith shows up in how we speak. And James talks more in depth about the importance of our speech in James 3:1–12.

In this passage, James reflects on the power of the tongue: just like a horse’s bridle or a boat’s rudder, the tongue may be small, but it is powerful. The power of speech can be as destructive as a forest fire. Our speech can be poisonous, and except by the grace of God, we cannot bring our speech into line with God’s design.

So often, we are “double-tongued.” We come to church on Sunday and sing praises to God, but later in the day we find ourselves speaking (or typing!) spiteful words to those made in the image of God. Yet, those who are growing in Christ should care deeply about how we speak about others. We should want our speech to be consistent, truthful, and encouraging.

As James teaches, pure speech flows out of a pure heart, like fresh water from a fresh-water spring or figs from a fig tree. We need God’s Spirit working in us, making us new in Christ, to grow in pure speech. And if we are growing in Christ, we will learn to watch what is coming out of our mouths. We will seek to avoid gossip, put-downs, hateful speech, and cursing, and we will learn to build others up, praise the Lord with a pure heart, and use our words to serve and love others as Christ has loved us.

Discussion Questions

  1. What word-pictures does James use to describe the tongue and what do these teach us about the power of our words?
  2. What are some ways we use words to hurt others? How can we avoid these?
  3. What are some ways we can use our words for good?

Ideas for Younger Kids

  • Read “Taming the Tongue” in The Biggest Story Bible Storybook (pages 502–05).
  • Discuss with your children the power of our words. Describe how our words can be like a small spark that starts a forest fire. Consider showing this short video that shows the power of a forest fire once started. Remind them that we should want to speak words that build up, not hurt and destroy.

Memorization: “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” (Ephesians 4:29)

Song: Listen to “O Great God” (by Sovereign Grace Music) as a prayer for God to continue to work in your heart and help you live and speak in a gracious, God-glorifying way.

Pray Together

  • Praise God for his Word that gives us life!
  • Confess before God all the ways we use our words to hurt and tear down.
  • Give thanks for God’s work in our hearts to make us new through Jesus and transform every part of us, including the way we speak.
  • Pray that God would help us to be people who speak the truth with love and grace, encouraging others, praising the Lord, and sharing Christ with others.

Go Together

  • Use the month of November and the emphasis on Thanksgiving to speak (or write) encouraging words to others and tell them why you are thankful for them. As a family or individual, you could write an encouraging note once a week throughout the rest of the month to someone else giving at least one reason why you are thankful for them.
If you have any questions, comments, or ideas related to this Family Faith Talk guide or future guides, please let us know by leaving a comment!

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