Small Group Questions

Faith That Works When The Pressure’s On: A Faith That Helps Me Filter What I Say  

Introduction:

During the COVID-19 pandemic, we need a deep and genuine faith in God that is revealed in the things we do. In the book of James, we’re told that if we don’t control our tongue, our religion is worthless. Then James gives three powerful reasons why we need to ask God to help us filter everything we say.  

Bottom-line:

Something To Talk About: 

Your words have tremendous influence and control over your life. In fact, your tongue can destroy your life quicker than anything else. That’s why you need to ask God to help you filter your words. Consider the following three things: 

  1. My tongue directs where I’m headed: My words and your words, have tremendous influence and control over our lives. We don’t even realize it. If I wanted to know where you’re headed in the next five years, all I need to do is listen to what you talk about most because we shape our words and then they shape us. Now, because the tongue is so small, just a small part of your body, we often overlook its power and its great influence. Each of us can give examples where a little bit of a word or a phrase changed the direction of your life. In other words, our words are like a rudder. They either keep us on the course or they can drive us way, way off course. Your tongue is the steering wheel of your life. It’s the guidance system of your life. If you don’t like the direction where you’re headed, you need to change the way you talk to yourself because your tongue is directing your life. We have to choose our words carefully. Proverbs 13:3 says this: “Those who control their tongue will have a long life; opening your mouth can ruin everything.” First, I need to filter what I say because my tongue directs where I’m headed.
  2. My tongue can destroy what I have: Second, I need to filter my words because my tongue can not only direct where I’m going, it can destroy what I have. James 3:5 says this: “In the same way, the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches. But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire.” Gossip and rumors are like fire. They spread quickly and they wreak havoc. The wrong words can inflame the situation. Proverbs 18:21 says, “The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences.” Now look at James 3:6, “And among all the parts of the body, the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself.”  Next James uses a zoo to illustrate not only that our words control our direction, but they can destroy what we have. In James 3:7-8 he says this: “People can tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish, but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison.” The tongue is uncontrollable. I need a filter for my words because first, my tongue directs where I’m headed.” Then he says, “I need a filter because my tongue can destroy what I have.”
  3. My tongue displays who I really am: The third reason James gives for why we all need to filter what we say is because our tongue displays who we really are. It reveals my real character. It reveals my true identity. It shows my real heart, not the fake me, not the reputation me, the real me. Your mouth shows what’s going on inside of you and James points out how inconsistent we are. James 3:9-10 says, “Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God.  And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right!.” Isn’t it amazing how quickly we can change our tune? Our tongue is an incredible contradiction? How do you talk about people who disagree with us? How do you talk about people who are a different race from you? We can’t treat people with disrespect who are made in the same image of God like you. James tells us the answer in the next couple of verses. Verses 11-14, James chapter three. “Does a spring of water bubble out with both fresh water and bitter water? Does a fig tree produce olives, or a grapevine produce figs? No, and you can’t draw fresh water from a salty spring. If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you are bitterly jealous and there is selfish ambition in your heart, don’t cover up the truth with boasting and lying.” James is saying, whatever’s in my heart comes out of my mouth. My mouth eventually betrays what I’m really like inside.  

Discussion Questions:

  1. Why is it important in today’s multi-communicative way of life to be especially intentional with what we say and how we say it? What could be the far-reaching effects? Think of a time you said something that seemed harmless but caused irreversible damage. 
  2. Why is a person’s speech more important or influential than other aspects of that person’s behavior?
  3. What are the analogies and comparisons that James uses in chapter 3 to describe the tongue? 
  4. How does James describe the destructive potential of the tongue? 
  5. Why does James say the tongue is difficult to control and so destructive?
  6. James’s focus is on the dangers of the tongue. In what ways can the tongue be used for bringing life and hope to one another?
  7. Why do we often regret the things we say? Why is it so hard to control our speech? How can we avoid this costly mistake?
  8. Discuss why a person’s deeper problem would stem from their heart (attitudes) rather than their tongue, or the words they choose. 
  9. What are some reasons we don’t stop and pray for help to control our tongues before we speak?
  10. What will you do? How will you or your group put into practice what you’ve learned today?

Take one thing home with you:

Speech is a wonderful gift. God gave us a voice and a language so we could communicate. He gave us tongues so we can praise and glorify God, teach His Word, pray, and express encouragement. However, the tongue has the power for destruction as well. It often starts with something small, like a thoughtless comment that can snowball, causing unforeseen damage. At times we may express our opinion in a critical way, which tears the other person down. Or out of curiosity, we might ask a question or make a suggestion that sows seeds of doubt and distrust, thereby damaging another person’s reputation.

God takes our words very seriously, and so should we. Jesus said, “…For whatever is in your heart determines what you say.” (Matthew 12:34). Therefore, what we need is a heart transformation, and the only one who can do that is God.