Sabbath School Lesson for November 8-14

A word was spoken and our earth was created, by a God who has been designated as the Word (John 1). Our Bible, also known as the word of God, is the most specific avenue of communication between God and man.

God has endowed man with this incredible ability of speech. Animals communicate with sounds, but only man has the ability to impact his environment so accurately with just the sounds coming from his mouth.

It’s no wonder that James has much to say about the need to control that tiny member in our mouth known as the tongue. Our tongues have the uncanny ability to comfort and uplift or contaminate and tear down. We must guard our communication, which often leads to action–either acts that glorify God or ones that cause us or others to stumble and fall into sin.

Key Text: ” ‘For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.’ “ Matthew 12:37 NKJV

Just previous to this verse in Matthew we find the statement by Jesus that “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” And also “they will give account of it [every idle word we speak] in the day of judgment.”

So we see that James was just reiterating one of the lessons Jesus taught His followers. And the reason for this caution is because our words reflect what is in our hearts. Therefore we must make a thorough inventory of our words and make sure they are giving the right message to our listeners.

Evidently any change will be difficult without some positive alterations on the inside, on the heart itself. Thank heaven God is our cardiologist. With Him we can have victory over our words.

Sunday: Accountability

 “My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment.” James 3:1 NKJV

This verse held a particular significance for me, because I have found myself in the role of teacher many times in my life. I have taught Sabbath School for all ages, and even thought of myself as a teacher when I was a parent. This verse makes it sound like it’s not a good idea to be a teacher, because your judgment will be stricter than others.

I don’t think it was James’ purpose here to discourage us here from teaching. Teachings are even mentioned as a gift of the Holy Spirit (I Corinthians 12:28). But James wants us to be aware that anyone with a wider field of influence than most is held accountable for more, simply because he is reaching more people. The Greek word for “teacher” here could be translated “doctor”, “teacher”, or even “master”. These were considered people of influence at the time.

Seeing the responsibility that’s involved, teachers should receive encouragement from James’ earlier statement that “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally…” James 1:5 NKJV Solomon likewise testified that “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom…” Proverbs 9:10 NKJV

Remember that the more we know of the Lord, the more responsible we are for sharing our knowledge. Therefore all Christians should consider themselves teachers, and as we mature in the Lord this is even more evident.

Our judgment will be greater, but that should include punishment AND rewards. The King James Version uses the phrase “the greater condemnation” for “a stricter judgment”. “Condemnation” refers to a decision. So we  might assume that if people of influence have a or larger condemnation at the judgment, they might, if found worthy, also have a greater reward.

Discussion Questions: They say that as knowledge increases, dependance on God seems to decrease. Why is this so, and how could it be prevented?

Read II Timothy 3:7. +Who was Paul referring to when he talked about those who are “always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth”?

Who has been a great influence in your life? How did their words impact you in a positive way? How can you do the same for others?

Monday: Word Power

“For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body.” James 3:2 NKJV

How kind of James to acknowledge that “we all stumble”. This certainly reflects the tone of James’ counsel. He’s not just speaking to us as a loving father, but as a brother at our side, desiring to guide us in the right direction in life. He undoubtedly received this same love and brotherly concern from his brother Jesus.

But notice also the depiction of our words as able to bridle or control the whole body. We know that thoughts lead to words, and words lead to action. Words actually reinforce what we think, which in turn reinforce our actions, and not just our actions but all who hear our words as well.

Here are some Bible references for how we should use our words:

  • teach them [God’s words] to our children–Deut. 6:6, 7
  • keep your promises to God–Deut. 23:23
  • praise God with our words–Ps. 40:3
  • words help our feelings of depression–Prov. 12:25
  • they can turn us away from sin–Mal. 2:6, 7
  • preach words that build faith–Rom. 10:6-8

Discussion Questions: Children are very impressionable when it comes to our words. Their minds are open and they memorize easily, because language is a skill they are focusing on. But as we age, we become resistant to change and find it harder to remember. How can we, as adults, continue to benefit from God’s word?

What does it mean to “bathe” our thoughts in God’s word?

Is it still possible or even necessary for adults to memorize Scriptures?

Some consider morning and evening worship times as the best. Why do you think this is so? Parents are told to observe bedtime rituals with their children, and the stories we tell them right before they sleep are more likely to stay with them. Does this hold true for adults as well?

Tuesday: “Little” Things ARE the Big Things

James gives some excellent illustrations to help us understand the power behind our words. He compares the tongue to a bit in a horse’s mouth and the rudder on a ship. Both are able to guide large things. Therefore our tongues have the ability to give us direction in life in a powerful way. See James 3:3-5.

Solomon also recognized this about our words. He even said, “A soft answer turn away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Proverbs 15:1 NKJV) In other words, our language is effective in guiding us because it impacts our feelings.

But it goes even deeper than that. Read what Jesus told His disciples one day when they wanted to use their words in a harmful way to the Samaritans:

“Now it came to pass, when the time had come for Him to be received up, that He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem, and sent messengers before His face. And as they went, they entered a village of the Samaritans, to prepare for Him. But they did not receive Him, because His face was set for the journey to Jerusalem. And when His disciples James and John saw this, they said, ‘Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did?’ But He turned and rebuked then, and said, ‘You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.’ And they went to another village.” Luke 9:51-56 NKJV

The power of our communication actually can reveal whose side we are on, the Lord’s or Satan’s. This thought is sobering. But we must recall what the disciples did after Jesus’ reprimand. They went to another village. Many times we find ourselves “moving on to another village” when our words are leading us in the wrong direction. There is always opportunity to change the direction of our lives, when we listen to the Spirit and obey the written Word.

Discussion Questions: Using the disciples’ experience with the Samaritan village as an example, why are the words we don’t say as important as the ones we do say?

Can you think of more relevant illustrations, like the bit and the rudder, that modern listeners could identify with? [chip in a computer, steering wheel on a car, TV remote, etc.]

Wednesday: Damage Control

“Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles! And the tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.” James 3:5-8 NKJV


I’ll never forget driving through Yellowstone National Park one year after they had had extensive fires the previous summer. Then there was the time I drove through a town recently ravaged by tornadoes. Any time you witness in person destruction on a massive scale such as this, it leaves a deep impression. There’s no way seeing it on

television  even comes close to experiencing it firsthand.

It’s these type of scenes that James uses to make his readers realize the destructive force behind communication. He even calls the tongue a world of iniquity. It can ruin reputations, marriages, and friendships.

Sin was introduced to this planet by a short, seemingly innocent question: “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden?’ ” Genesis 3:1 NKJV

Discussion Questions: Read Ephesians 4:29-31 and Colossians 3:8, 16. What kind of antidote or damage control is available for impure speech?

Is there an alternative to the use of profanity so prevalent in the world today? Is slang an acceptable substitute?

Thursday: Blessing and Cursing

James points out some curious aspects of our speech. He says:

“With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in he similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening? Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh.” James 3:9-12 NKJV

Can the same mouth that praises God in church later be found telling a dirty joke? I think we all know the answer to that one. Our mouths are often used for both blessing and cursing, for good and bad. James is reminding us that the answer lies under the surface. For plants, the root system is responsible for what fruit it yields. For water, the source, ocean, river, or well, determines the water quality.

All of us have sinful natures. It has to be a miracle of God to keep those blessings coming, and the cursings away. I once knew of someone’s parent, who was a God-fearing exemplary Christian, who never uttered a word of profanity his whole life that anyone could remember. But later in life as dementia set in, he was known for spouting off a string of curse words quite regularly. And I understand that adult patients who receive traumatic brain injuries many times use a lot of profanity upon waking up from their comas.

These real life examples show me the seriousness of our sin problem. It’s part of our being, and we must constantly be on guard, asking the Holy Spirit to “keep a cork on it”, if you will. God’s righteousness not only cleanses us, but it covers us, giving us double protection from the sin spilling out for the world to see. I remember how my daughter was always looking for just the right “sippy cup” for her toddlers, so the contents of their drinks would not spill all over her car. God is that perfect “cup” for us. And we must ask Him every day to let the words of our mouth and the meditation of our hearts be acceptable in His sight (Psalm 19:14).

Discussion Questions: What can be done to put out the fires that our tongues may have ignited?

Many followers of God in the Bible had low points in their experience, such as Moses murdering the Egyptian and David’s sin with Bathsheba. Should we question their profession of faith at these times? How do their stories encourage us today?


  • Our words reflect what is on our hearts.
  • They have the power to influence our feelings and to generate actions.
  • Although the tongue is a little thing, it can be a powerful force in the world for good or evil.
  • We must learn self-control in our communication in order to glorify God as we should.
  • What we don’t say is as important as what we do say.
  • The Holy Spirit is available to help us purify our speech and let it bear the right fruits for Jesus.


Try to consciously talk to others as much as possible this week about…

  1. what God has done in your life
  2. how God has blessed you
  3. how God has seen you through hard times

Then, after a day or two, ask yourself if this is making an impact on your own faith.

Next Week: The Humility of Heavenly Wisdom

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