James 3:1-12 James warns the believers to be wary of the power of the tongue. Not many of them should become teachers of God’s word, as teachers will be judged more harshly than most by the effect of their words.
The tongue is only small, but it can have a huge effect – like the bit in a horse’s mouth, or the rudder on a ship. A person’s tongue can spread evil like a forest fire, or it can be used to praise God. Blessings and curses shouldn’t pour out of the same mouth any more than you’d expect sweet water and salt water to flow out of the same spring!
James 3:13-18 No one should boast about wisdom if they’re jealous and selfish; because wisdom received from God is expressed through peace, gentleness and friendliness. It’s free from prejudice and hypocrisy, and produces a harvest of good deeds.
A person’s tongue can spread evil like a forest fire... or can be used to praise God. (James 3:5-9)
Quarrelling and judging others
James 4:1-10 James rebukes the believers for quarrelling amongst themselves. They bicker and fight because they can’t get what they want. But God doesn’t answer their prayers because their motives are wrong – they’re only asking for things to satisfy their own pleasures.
By seeking to be the world’s friends they are becoming God’s enemies. Instead, they should submit to God’s will and oppose the devil, who will run away from them!
James 4:11-12 James warns the believers against judging other Christian brothers. By doing so, they are setting themselves up as God.
James 4:13-17 Neither should they boast about what they are going to do this year or next, because they may disappear before then, like a puff of smoke! Instead, they should say ‘God willing’ before making plans for the future.
James 5:1-6 James criticises wealthy Christians who have piled up riches for themselves, but who haven’t paid their agricultural labourers a fair wage.
James 5:7-11 He urges the believers to be patient as they wait for the second coming of the Lord Jesus. Like the Christian ‘prophets’ who have already endured suffering for telling the Good News about Jesus, they need ‘the patience of Job’ (see Job 1:21-22).
Christians suffering persecution need 'the patience of Job' (James 5:11)
Swearing and praying
James 5:12 James criticises the common practice of swearing ‘by God’ or ‘by heaven’, ‘by earth’, or ‘by Jove’. (‘Jove’ was another name for the most important Roman god, Jupiter – the Roman equivalent of the Greek god Zeus.) He says no-one should need to swear they are telling the truth so people trust their word. Just saying a straight ‘yes’ or ‘no’ should be enough.
James 5:13-18 James urges anyone who is sick to ask the church leaders to visit and pray with them. The sick person will be healed by prayer and action offered in the name of the Lord.
Similarly, those who are suffering stress because of guilt should ask for God’s healing power of forgiveness. God will answer the prayers of a good person – just like he answered Elijah’s prayers for rain (see 1 Kings 18:42-45).
James 5:19-20 James concludes by commending those who bring wanderers back to a living faith in Jesus.