[epistle of james] chapter 3

wind, surfing, windsurf, storm, sail

Written by Victoria Jenkins

Victoria is a stay at home wife and homeschooling mom of three. She writes what God places on her heart.

May 2, 2011

wind, surfing, windsurf, storm, sail


Read James 3 (NASB, ESV, MSG)

I open my Bible, the one with pages reading like a colorful map of my life these past five years. Its binding worn, its self-made tabs nearly unneeded after so much traveling to and fro through its precepts, His story. Ours. I’m grateful for the reminder of God’s faithfulness to grow, us each time I hold this Bible in my hands.

Turning to the third chapter of James, I can’t help but notice every verse highlighted in varying shades of soft blue and soothing green and eye grabbing orange. Every verse but one. One I’ve met in passing but never truly visited. Still as black and white as the day it was written. I look forward to the day that one verse is Life to me. When not only does it apply to me, it screams for me to apply it. I believe that is exactly the point I need to take away from it as I wait for that day.

See, we can choose to live baffled by our unknowing or in anticipation of the day we come into new understanding. When that time comes, we can be the man who looked in the mirror only to forget what he saw, or we can be determined not to forget. Either way, we will be changed by our choice.

Eternal works in progress from the moment we were knit, each decision—of attitude, word, and deed—changes us. Each guides our entire being.

C.S. Lewis put it this way in Mere Christianity, “…every time you make a choice you are turning the central part of you, the part of you that chooses, into something a little different from what it was before. And taking your life as a whole, with all your innumerable choices, all your life long you are slowly turning this central thing either into a heavenly creature or into a hellish creature; either into a creature that is in harmony with God, and with other creatures, and with itself, or else into one that is in a state of war and hatred with God, and with its fellow-creatures, and with itself.”

Nothing, then, is insignificant, inconsequential, ineffectual, irrelevant. All we say, do, and think will in fact lead to something else. The question becomes, do we want heavenly significance or hellish? Heavenly consequences or hellish? Heavenly effect or hellish? Heavenly relevance or hellish?

Maybe that jumped all over you as it did me. Thankfully, every little bit we can offer toward growing in our godliness is met and surpassed by our Father in Heaven.

If we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we guide their whole bodies. Or look at ships: though they are so large that it takes strong winds to drive them, yet they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. (James 3:3-4, NRSV)

That phrase, “the will of the pilot” isn’t as it seems at first read. The Greek hormē, translates in such a way that we assume it would be a person doing the steering, but the true meaning is “a violent impulse”. The will behind that violent impulse determines its nature, be it heavenly or hellish. Whether we operate under our own will or that of the Lord is truly the determining factor of where we’re headed.

Our journey’s direction isn’t up to our own strength and navigation skills. It all comes down to wisdom, and that, not our own.

Real wisdom, God’s wisdom, begins with a holy life and is characterized by getting along with others. It is gentle and reasonable, overflowing with mercy and blessings, not hot one day and cold the next, not two-faced. You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoy its results only if you do the hard work of getting along with each other, treating each other with dignity and honor. (James 3:17-18, The Message)


  1. Juliakate

    “it all comes down to wisdom…” really appreciated the wisdom shared here.

  2. Keri

    >>>When not only does it apply to me, it screams for me to apply it.

    Is that not true faith, and truly walking out your faith? Of course there have been various parts of James that speak to me about walking out my faith. But, I love how you sum it up here with the idea of application. It’s so easy to ascribe to these beliefs and even identify them, yet not let them change my lifestyle. That’s so much of what chapter 1 was about.

    >>>We can choose to live baffled by our unknowing or in anticipation of the day we come into new understanding.

    My pastor admits that even he, someone who has studied the Bible for decades, has a “to be answered later file”. That doesn’t mean that he isn’t seeking the answers or dedicated to the truth, but he doesn’t allow those unanswered questions to stunt the growth of his faith, or to distract him from the things he does understand. God gives us wisdom to understand His Word, His precepts. I like that it takes time. I can become overwhelmed with the entirety of the faith. But, I sense that He is building my knowledge, like a scaffolding-concept upon concept, experience upon experience, all leading to a better understanding of who He is, and what righteousness looks like. I’m so grateful for His patience and grace for me, especially in my stubborn or flighty moments. 🙂

    >>>The Greek hormē, translates in such a way that we assume it would be a person doing the steering, but the true meaning is “a violent impulse”.

    Oh, man “a violent impulse”…as a woman, I’m prone to this violent impulse with the tongue. I find that it creeps up at any given moment, particularly if I’m in a group of women! What is that about??? I’m not sure why it seems that women in particular struggle with sins of the tongue. But, I do know that what comes out of the tongue is evidence of what is in the heart. I have said things that have surprised myself. hehehe Then, I find myself wondering, “Where did THAT come from?” It leads me to examine my conscience, examine the state of my heart. It usually comes down to the same issues, over and over again, just manifesting themselves in a different way or towards a different person.

    I really appreciate the C.S. Lewis quote. I think of our choices, even the little ones, as training grounds for righteousness. I wrote a pop parable about it once based upon the movie The Karate Kid (2010). The slightest movements, even the ones that he thought didn’t matter, could determine his course in a match. But, those small movements made up big movements. It’s the same way with my daily Christian walk-if I make too many small movements away from Him, I find myself in shambles, with a big old mess to clean up, which leads me to repentance.

    This has all got me thinking about so much more. Thanks so much for this James project. I’m really enjoying it. 🙂

  3. Bryant Neal

    What a great picture of what so often happens when harsh, cruel and insensitive words are used instead of life-giving, inspiring, and healing words are used. I like the point about the harsh impulses as opposed to the pilot in steering a ship. In thinking about this, I realized that turning a ship is a very violent process of gears grinding, chains straining, parts shifting, water churning and boiling. Of course this is never seen from onboard the ship unless you go to the stern and look into the convulsing wake of that ship. Too often the ship moves along like there is nothing wrong while it is filled with violent impulses that leaves a huge wake of devastation in its path.

    Thanks for a great word picture that will really make a person think and the verse scream “don’t just read me…make me a part of your life!!”

    • Keri

      That is some great insight! Thanks for sharing that and extending the word picture even further.


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[epistle of james] chapter 3

by Victoria Jenkins time to read: 3 min