You know when you are driving down a desolate stretch of flat highway and then out of nowhere you come across a big billboard, you can't help but look at the billboard. It has achieved the purpose of the one put something on that billboard- you looked and you focused on it. To me this is what James, the brother of Jesus did by writing chapter 3.
In chapter 1 James tells us that remaining humbly steadfast after God will produce a strong faith. In chapter 2 he tells us that we can tell we have a strong faith by God's production of tangible fruit in and through our everyday lives. In Chapter 4 he ties many of the world’s troubles to the absence of this strong faith in so many people's lives. But in chapter 3 he puts up this large billboard to draw our attention to this great danger, a danger to the effectiveness of our desire to live a life marked by God’s fruitfulness. The danger is our speech of all things. What we say to others. Based on James' later comments in this chapter, I take this to mean that what we say is a telltale sign, the canary in the coal mine pointing to the maturity of our faith.
I like James’s style. Although James words can be hard to read as I apply them to my own life, I love his straightforwardness. Can you imagine the depth of conviction James would have about what he is writing at this later stage of his life. He grew up literally side by side with Jesus for over 20 years. James, more so than all but about 10 people who have ever lived on this planet, knew “exactly” how Jesus behaved throughout his growing up years. However the apostle John says in John 7:5, after one of Jesus' visits home, that none of Jesus brothers believed Jesus was the son of God. Then after Jesus’ resurrection, James’ eyes and his heart are opened to the truth. The memories of all those years watching Jesus grow up now flood his consciousness, combined with the realization of Jesus’ true identity. Nothing could shake his faith and very few people living at that time could recount to us what Jesus’ Godly life looked like “in the everyday” of those 20 plus years growing up. I think James comes across so strongly and straightforwardly because God gave him a very unique view during his life and the Spirit of God has deeply solidified to him these truths.
I wonder if what James writes on the billboard of chapter 3 – that the words we speak and the true motives and attitudes of our heart & life are an accurate mirror of the maturity of our faith – are heavily influenced by what James saw in Jesus growing up.
All I know is that when I lay in bed at night and reflect on the day I just lived, I am grateful to know that my savior is merciful, and His Spirit motivates me to desire more of my faith tomorrow.