Throughout his letter, James talks about proper and improper ways of speaking.
James 1:19 – “Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters! Let every person be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger.”
James 2:16-18 – “and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm and eat well,” but you do not give them what the body needs, what good is it? So also faith, if it does not have works, is dead being by itself. But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith without works and I will show you faith by my works.”
James 3:1-11 – “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers and sisters, because you know that we will be judged more strictly. For we all stumble in many ways. If someone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect individual, able to control the entire body as well. And if we put bits into the mouths of horses to get them to obey us, then we guide their entire bodies. Look at ships too: Though they are so large and driven by harsh winds, they are steered by a tiny rudder wherever the pilot’s inclination directs. So too the tongue is a small part of the body, yet it has great pretensions. Think how small a flame sets a huge forest ablaze. And the tongue is a fire! The tongue represents the world of wrongdoing among the parts of our bodies. It pollutes the entire body and sets fire to the course of human existence – and is set on fire by hell. For every kind of animal, bird, reptile, and sea creature is subdued and has been subdued by humankind. But no human being can subdue the tongue; it is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse people made in God’s image. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. These things should not be so, my brothers and sisters. A spring does not pour out fresh water and bitter water from the same opening, does it?”
James 4:11-12 – “Do not speak against one another, brothers and sisters. He who speaks against a fellow believer or judges a fellow believer speaks against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but its judge. But there is only one who is lawgiver and judge – the one who is able to save and destroy. On the other hand, who are you to judge your neighbor?”
James 5:12 – “And above all, my brothers and sisters, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath. But let your “Yes” be yes and your “No” be no, so that you may not fall into judgment.”
Summary of the teachings of James:
James teaches us that listening is very important. Many people are too busy thinking about what they will say next instead of listening. James teaches us to be quick to listen and slow to speak. He teaches us to not speak in anger, but to speak in love. James also teaches us to speak about our faith and to live our faith. Words without works are pointless. We need to back up what we say and stay faithful to God in our works. In James 3, James talks in great detail about the dangers of the tongue and our words. We can cause more damage sometimes by what we say over what we do. We need to make sure that what we say stays true to God and to our works. James teaches us to not judge one another and to watch what we say about one another. We are not the lawgiver and judge; therefore we should not act like we are. Finally, James teaches us to be true to what we say, making sure that “yes” means “yes” and “no” means “no”. In other words, be truthful and not deceitful in our words.