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Good works, faith and prayer

James 5.13-19



People say that James is all about doing good works and not about faith.
Well certainly, James is immensely practical
He challenges us

To control the tongue, what we say :
· not to speak evil of each other (4.11)
· not to grumble against each other (5.9)
· not to boast (claiming that I am going to do this or that and forgetting God) (4.13f)
· not to swear or take oaths, as if our word needs enforcing (ch 5.12). 

Because of that verse Tolstoy refused to swear on the bible. He asked how could he swear on a book which itself forbade him from swearing?
I’m not sure that I completely agree with him. When I made my oath of allegiance to my bishop and to the crown, I placed my hand on the bible. But I wasn’t swearing on the bible. I wasn’t saying, ‘If I don’t do this, may all the curses that are written here fall on me!’ Instead I was placing my hand on the bible, which I believe is the ultimate source of truth, and I am saying that my yes will be yes …

How can I control what I say?

James 3.1-12


A couple of weeks ago we saw how James speaks about three marks of true religion:

- Controlling the tongue
- Showing care to orphans and widows
- Growing in holiness

Today we look at the first of those three – controlling the tongue - because it seems slightly odd.

Why does James mention controlling the tongue, when there are so many other things that could have been said? Why is it so important?

Of course, James has got nothing particular against the tongue. It is a big muscle that is used for tasting, chewing and swallowing. It is also used – and this is what James is really on about – for speaking.

And in these verses, James gives us several reasons why we should control the tongue

1. The tongue, the spoken word, is incredibly powerful


At the very beginning, when the beginning began, and time came into being, God – we are told – spoke a word: ‘Let there be light’. And there was light.

It was God’s spoken word which brought creation into…

The three marks of true religion

James 1.17-27


I’d like us to look at those last two verses of our reading from James
If any think they are religious, and do not bridle their tongues butdeceive their hearts, their religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world. (James 1.26-27) There are three marks of true religion – and I fear that I fail on all of them!
1.If any think they are religious and do not bridle their tongues but deceive their heart, their religion is worthless
James speaks a great deal about the tongue. We’ll see that in a couple of weeks’ time.
It is interesting that he speaks of the tongue and not of the written word.
I think that is because, firstly very few people of his time used writing, and secondly because writing requires you to think a bit! You have to get a piece of paper and write something, and then work out how you are going to get that piece of paper to t…