Study Guide

James, 1-2 Peter, Jude Language and Communication

Language and Communication

If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you. But ask in faith, never doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind[…] for the doubter, being double-minded and unstable in every way, must not expect to receive anything from the Lord. (James 1:5-8, NRSV)

If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed[…] let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. A double minded man is unstable in all his ways. (James 1:5-8, KJV)

Words are powerful. If a believer "asks" for something, he or she will get it. One yacht coming right up! …Not so fast, though. If your thoughts don't match your words, you get squat. Apologies to the double-minded.

No one, when tempted, should say, "I am being tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil and he himself tempts no one. But one is tempted by one's own desire, being lured and enticed by it; then, when that desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and that sin, when it is fully grown, gives birth to death. (James 1:13-15, NRSV)

Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. (James 1:13-15, KJV)

Don't bad mouth God and blame him for your mistakes, says James. Yeah, James is big into the whole he-gave-us-free-will thing.

If any think they are religious, and do not bridle their tongues but deceive their hearts, their religion is worthless. (James 1:26, NRSV)

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. (James 1:26, KJV)

In other words: keep your mouth shut. If you're really a believer, then do your best not to say anything that could hurt anyone else. Think of it as Thou Shalt Not Say Mean Stuff.

The tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great exploits. How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire! And the tongue is a fire. The tongue is placed among our members as a world of iniquity; it stains the whole body, sets on fire the cycle of nature, and is itself set on fire by hell. For every species of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by the human species, but no one can tame the tongue—a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse those who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and brackish water? Can a fig tree, my brothers and sisters, yield olives, or a grapevine figs? No more can salt water yield fresh. (James 3:5-12, NRSV)

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. 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. 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. 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. (James 3:5-12, KJV)

Ask any politician who's ever experienced a gaffe: your tongue may be little, but it can get you in a lot of trouble. Here, James tells Christians that they shouldn't use their mouths for dual purposes. Don't worship God with your lips and then slag off his people in the next breath. It's just rude.

For "All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord endures forever." That word is the good news that was announced to you. (1 Peter 1:24-25, NRSV)

For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you. (1 Peter 1:24-25, KJV)

When God says to do something, he's pretty serious about it. In fact, his words are so important that they still haven't gone out of style. We can't sayeth the same for human words.

We did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received honor and glory from God the Father when that voice was conveyed to him by the Majestic Glory, saying, "This is my Son, my Beloved, with whom I am well pleased." We ourselves heard this voice come from heaven, while we were with him on the holy mountain. (2 Peter 1:16-18, NRSV)

We have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount. (2 Peter 1:16-18, KJV)

Peter wants everyone to know that the stuff about Jesus isn't just the greatest story ever told—it's also a true story. He's not making stuff up, telling tales, or penning fiction in his creative writing workshop. According to him, this is the non-fiction all the way.

No prophecy of scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by human will, but men and women moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God. (2 Peter 1:20-21, NRSV)

No prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. (2 Peter 1:20-21, KJV)

Scripture is made of up words, and humans interpret those words, right? Wrong, says Peter. He believes that understanding those words can only come from God. Hmmm…how does he explain the false teachers getting a different message from the same scriptures then?

They speak bombastic nonsense, and with licentious desires of the flesh they entice people who have just escaped from those who live in error. They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption; for people are slaves to whatever masters them. (2 Peter 2:18-19, NRSV)

They speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error. While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage. (2 Peter 2:18-19, KJV)

See, words can hurt. The false teachers aren't out beating people up and taking their lunch money—they're spreading untrue words. In Peter's opinion, that's much more dangerous than some noogies in the hallway.

In the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and indulging their own lusts and saying, "Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since our ancestors died, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation!" They deliberately ignore this fact, that by the word of God heavens existed long ago and an earth was formed out of water and by means of water, through which the world of that time was deluged with water and perished. But by the same word the present heavens and earth have been reserved for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the godless. (2 Peter 3:3-7, NRSV)

In the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished: But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. (2 Peter 3:3-7, KJV)

The language of naysayers is a sign of the end times, says Peter. They spread their evil words, while not putting much stock in the words that God has said. We're guessing those naysayers might say the same thing about him.

So also our beloved brother Paul wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, speaking of this as he does in all his letters. There are some things in them hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other scriptures. (2 Peter 3:15-16, NRSV)

Our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction. (2 Peter 3:15-16, KJV)

Peter and Paul: best friends forever! Sort of. Peter clearly digs Paul, but he's a bit annoyed that his words have been giving fuel to the fire of their enemies. No one's ever misinterpreted what Peter said, right?

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