“A Disciplined Faith” Sunday School Lesson Summary and Activities, James 3:1-12

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Sunday School is a vital part of any ministry. In it, one is able to experience a deeper knowledge of God’s Word.  Here at “Word For Life Says,” I want to help you help others. Below you will find resources to help you prepare for your upcoming lessons and my personal summary notes that I use when teaching. May God bless you!

“A Disciplined Faith”

James 3:1-12

PDF Lesson Print Out is now Located at the Bottom of the Lesson. Please Scroll Down, Click and Enjoy!  Blessings.

Please Note: All lesson verses and titles are based on International Sunday School Lesson/Uniform Series ©2014 by the Lesson Committee, but all content/commentary written within is original to wordforlifesays.com unless properly quoted/cited. I am glad you like to read my personal summary notes that I use when teaching, but as always you are encouraged to do your own studies as well.  Blessings!)


Being disciplined is a word, I think, is used to describe the moral or character compass of an individual who keeps him/herself to a specific set of guidelines for whatever it is they are trying to do or accomplish in life.  But, over the past several years and decades, it has almost become a naughty word to some.  With the idea of restraint leaving a bitter taste in the mouths of those who would rather live lives without restraint, throwing off all rules and guides that they might live rebelliously free.  They view the word as something of a bygone era, not considered to be relevant for the times of today.

But, the idea of discipline will never just be a novel thought of days gone by.  It is a necessity that is to govern every area of our lives.  Especially, if we are Christians.  And, no greater place does this need to be implemented in than in the use of our tongues.

Our mouths are vessels of influence.  The words we speak can heal or hurt; they can build up or tear down.  It is a powerful force of life and death all its own, and as such, it needs to be brought under control.

James unpacks, in chapter 3 of his self-named book, the truth of this power of the tongue and how people of faith should be cautious in how they unleash it.

James 3:1-2 “My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation.  For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body.”

“My brethren, be not many masters.”  Was this a title being popularly sought in their days?  Perhaps.  And, perhaps the need for this warning.  “Masters,” or “teachers” have the unique position of pouring what they know or perceive to be true, into the lives of their hearers, or students.  They are educators of any said specialty or field of expertise.  Their goal is to provide understanding and unpack for the students what they don’t know, that the students may be able to comprehend and use or apply to one’s area of life whatever knowledge the teacher reveals to them.

Lest one thinks that’s a position of glory, James reveals just the opposite.  With that position, there comes a downside: “we shall receive the greater condemnation.”  The responsibility of the words of one in such a position is weightier.  Their position is heavy and strewn with accountability.  People in these roles usually have higher levels of influence, and as such, have more to answer for.

Their mouths, or the words of the teacher, touch lives beyond themselves.  Their sphere for making an impact people, for good or bad, is larger than an individual not in such a position.  Therefore, the accountability level is amped up for the one carrying this title or operating in this role.  This one not only has to mind what they say but make sure their lives match the words coming from their mouths.

Consequently, because of this, there is a greater call for them to watch and reign in their words and to make sure they are using the force of the tongue in a proper fashion.  Earlier, in his book, James gives this warning, “If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain,” (1:26).

“For in many things we offend all.”  “We all stumble; we all make mistakes,” James said.  And, not just in one thing, but “many things.”  He recognized and included himself in the propensity of mankind to sin; to say and do the wrong things at times.  The only individual that has walked this world unspotted from sin was the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.  Other than that, we have all lived lives of offence.  Especially, when it comes to that little rash member of the body, the tongue.

If we compare our speech with that of our Lord, even in that, we would see how His sinlessness was so much higher.  For when He spoke, the words were always right, prayerful, helpful, compassionate, with authority, filled with grace and love, understanding and instruction, and so much more.  His words were never wasted and never without use or purpose.  Can we say that about every time we have opened our mouths?

But, we have a goal to be like Him to work toward.

To this, James says, “If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body.”  Moving from speaking of offence in general, James targets offences of the mouth; the words we use.  And, for the one who is able to control them (words) and use them in the proper frame and at the proper time at all times, he likens that one as “a perfect man,” meaning he/she has matured and grown in this area to the point of completeness.

With such maturity at work in the life, this is one who should be “able also to bridle the whole body.”  Being that it would appear that keeping the tongue under control and guarded against misuse is the harder task, it would seem the one who is able to do such a thing is able to control or be temperate also in other things, impulses, or urges as it relates to the “whole body,” or the person. 

Previously, I wrote:

“’He that keepeth his mouth keepeth His life: but he that openeth wide his lips shall have destruction,” is what we are told in Proverbs 13:3a.  If one can keep their mouth under control they can often hold tight elsewhere avoiding destructive patterns that would work to tear them down.” (Word For Life Says/Control Your Speech).

James 3:3-4 “Behold, we put bits in the horses’ mouths, that they may obey us; and we turn about their whole body.  Behold also the ships, which though they be so great, and are driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small helm, whithersoever the governor listeth.”

Size doesn’t matter.  Size can be seriously overrated in the matter of getting things done.  Just because physically something may appear to be little and insignificant, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not powerful enough to impact in a big way.

James gives two very real illustrations that any could easily understand.  In the previous verse, he used the world “bridle,” which speaks, I believe, of the headgear used to restrain and direct a horse in which way to go.  In this verse, he speaks of the “bits in the horses’ mouth,” which is the small mouthpiece part of the whole headgear apparatus used for control.

Those are put in the horses’ mouth, “that they may obey us.”  As the rider or controller of the animals, we use this equipment to steer the horse in the direction in which we please.  These instruments give us the power to take and train this huge, wild beast, and “turn about their whole body.”  All possible through the use of that one little piece of metal inserted in the horses’ mouth.

Moving from an equine example to that of an oceanic vessel, James teaches of the power of great “ships.”  “Fierce winds” rise and blow and catch in the sails that propel them forward.  But, it is the “very small helm” that steers them and gives them direction and control over the ship.

Little doesn’t mean powerless.  Little doesn’t mean there’s not the potential for impact.  Little doesn’t mean minuscule in its effectiveness to turn the biggest and mightiest at its command.

This will prove especially true in the next few verses as he continues to describe the strength of the tongue’s impact and control.

James 3:5-6 “Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth!  And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell.”

In comparison to the rest of the body, the “tongue is a little member,” but it has a lot to say.  It “boasteth great things.”

Well, you may think, that’s a tongue’s job, to say stuff.  Yes, it is.  But, if the speech is not wholesome, if it’s not edifying and correct, and if the communication is not up to par befitting a teacher, or even one who professes to be a child of God, it can do much damage.

Words are far-reaching.  And, once they leave the mouth, they cannot go back.  Whatever was spoken and heard can keep being reproduced from person to person, as long as there is one willing to carry that particular message.

And, if the message is destructive, and not wholesome, godly speech, James warns us, “Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth!”  The tongue is small but boasts great things.  Compare that to just a “little fire” which can set to blaze in a “great” way.  It doesn’t take much to cause a lot of damage!  Just a spark can bring down the whole woods.

The tongue or the wrong words coming out of someone’s mouth will keep destroying as long as it has “matter” to feed off of.  Proverbs tells us, “Where there is no wood, the fire goes out; and where there is no talebearer, strife ceases,” (Proverbs 26:20, NKJV).

But, as that “little fire” can eat its way through the things surrounding it, we see that an uncontrolled tongue as a “fire” that operates with the same destructive force.  Wrong words and wrong use of speech destroys!

It is a “world of iniquity.”  Proverbs 10:19 says, “In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin: but he that refraineth his lips is wise.”  A lot of running off of the mouth gives many opportunities for sin to rear its ugly head.  When the tongue is let loose it lashes about without regard for hurt, feelings, or the devastation that it leaves behind.  Like a whirling tornado, it ravishes, spinning around and around in sinfulness, wiping out all in its path.

Without restraint, all it knows how to do upheaval.  Without restraint, the tongue “defileth the whole body.”  Jesus once taught, “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh,” (Luke 6:45).  What comes out through the mouth is evidence of what already resides in the heart or in the “body.” (Notes used from previous lesson “Control Your Speech” because I like the way it was already explained J)

“And setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell.”  It not only destroys every part of life this “unruly evil” comes into contact with, but it is an opposer of all that is good and all that is God because evilness spewed from the mouth, in any fashion of lying and false ways, tearing down one another, gossiping and like use of wrong words, has its source from “hell.” 

Unless anyone thinks that its just this side of life where one can feel the damage of an evil tongue, for the one who chooses to play with this “fire,” the Bible gives this warning: “But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give an account thereof in the day of judgment,” (Matthew 12:36).  There will be an answering to Him for the wrong mouth choices we use today.

James 3:7-8 “For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind:  But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.”

Tame the untamable?  Hmm.  If you have ever visited a zoo or a circus you may see mankind doing some extraordinary things with animals.  And, not just any animals.  But, “beasts” like lions, tigers, and bears which are able to take a life at moments notice, especially if they met them in the wild of their natural habitat.  In these conditions, humans have gained control of said animals and have even trained them to respond to positive feedback that will cause them to perform or do tricks we wouldn’t normally see coming from these animals.

Not to mention, animals have also been tamed and trained to help us work, transport, and be used in many areas of life such as dogs that assist people with medical conditions and the like.

Somehow, even though man has gained dominion over certain animals like “serpents,” they can’t seem to control that little, wagging tongue: “But the tongue can no man tame.” 

How ironic is it that we can take a creature such a snake, use them for our benefit by extracting their venom from them, from their mouth, and make an anti-venom with it to save lives, but it has seemed to escape man, on his own, how not to unleash that “unruly evil, full of deadly poison” coming from our mouths called the tongue, which is bent on articulating destruction, in order to spare others from its deadly effects.

It definitely takes the work of the Holy Spirit in us to help train us to tame the tongue that we may operate in the way that God would have us to operate; to sow seeds of love and encouragement and instruction as opposed to other forms of speech which would tear down.  “Set a watch, O LORD, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips,” (Psalm 141:3; see also Psalm 39:1).  “Whoso keepeth his mouth and his tongue keepeth his soul from troubles,” (Proverbs 21:23).

James 3:9-10 “Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God.  Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be.”

“Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing.”  Isn’t it something that we can open our mouth in praise to God at one time, and the next, as soon as someone gets our goat, a curse can be unleashed; unhealthy language can be spewed?  Blessings and speech that is not profitable, beneficial, and healthy should not flow from the same source.  James said, “My brethren, these things ought not so to be.”

“My brethren” indicates that these are members of the church he is addressing.  As spiritual siblings in the Lord, as members of the body of Christ, this should not be a thing when we have the Spirit of God living on the inside of each us.  Our mouths should produce fruit worthy of being called a Child of God.

James 3:11-12 “Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter?  Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either a vine, figs? so can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh.”

With that, James poses this question, “Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter?”  The answer is no.  Either the source where it flows from will be sweet or bitter; “salt water and fresh.”  Therefore, if one is in Christ why is there this puzzling thing of producing both out of the same vessel in some?  This is confusing.  That is contrary to how one’s faith is supposed to operate.  One is to be disciplined in their faith, through the Spirit of God, to exhibit control over the tongue that produces what is sweet according to the holy nature that now resides in us through Christ Jesus.  There should be no difference in how one talks when they are in church and when they are out of church, so to speak.

The same with other examples found in nature.  A “fig tree” is not going to “bear olives.”  It’s not in its nature.  It’s not the way it was designed.  The nature of the Christian is to produce out of his/her mouth, things that are good and according to the fruit of the Spirit, and not bad, according to things of the flesh.


The choice is up to us how we use the words we speak.  One of the best ways we show our true faith is in the course of our speech.  Our speech should match the faith we profess and be disciplined as such.

Standard Print PDF: A Disciplined Faith Sunday School Lesson Summary Standard Print

Large Print PDF: A Disciplined Faith Sunday School Lesson Summary Large Print

For additional lesson notes, check out the previous lesson “Control Your Speech” covering the same verses but with different information.  Enjoy!

Below are activities to support this week’s lesson.  Enjoy!

Word Search: A Disciplined Faith Word Search  Answers: A Disciplined Faith Word Search Answers

Crossword: A Disciplined Faith Crossword  Answers: A Disciplined Faith Crossword Answers

Word Scramble: A Disciplined Faith Word Scramble  Answers: A Disciplined Faith Word Scramble Answers


Below are activities I borrowed from one of our previous lessons “New Power to Proclaim Truth” but they are crafts that can go easily with today’s lesson.

Speaking Collage:


This craft is perfect if you have old newspaper comics laying around.  Just cut them out and glue onto construction paper to make a collage (I prefer the ones with word balloons on them to demonstrate speaking).  In the middle, attach our cut-out printable: James 3 10 Verse Cut Out (I just changed the verse cut out). There you have it.  Enjoy!

Tongues as of Fire Activity:


The effects if this craft is done with crumbled up tissue and/or construction paper (I used both).  Simply print out the flame from Primarygames.com and glue it onto construction paper.  Put plenty of glue on the inside lines of the flame and apply the crumbled tissue and/or construction paper.  Last, attach our verse for Acts 2:3 with this printable: James 3 6 Verse Cut Out (I just changed the verse cut out). There you have it.  Enjoy!

Below are Activities/Links/Resources to support this week’s lesson.  Enjoy!

“Lessons on Taming the Tongue for Teens” (Scroll to the activities on the “Object Lesson/Chewing Gum” and “Fire Quechers.” These are really good for emphasizing this week’s lesson.  Enjoy!)

“Taming the Tongue Sunday School Lesson”

“Control Your Tongue Coloring Page” 

“The Power of Words” (Just think about this: shaving cream.  Yes, it turns out to be a good illustration for this week’s lesson. Enjoy!)

“Taming the Tongue Coloring Page and Cartoon”

“Tongue Twister Crafts”

“Tongue Twisters for Kids”



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