Note—As you work through the discussion guide, remember that you do not have to answer every question; pick and choose which questions work best for your group discussion.
Activity: Talk about someone you have known who rarely, if other, had anything “bad” to say about others. Why did you find this attractive and compelling?
Question 1: What are some situations where it might be necessary to talk about others in ways that might seem “negative”?
Read James 4:11-12: Brothers, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?
Explain: James is taking us back to 3:1-12. Let’s review some of his points there.
Question 2: What things stand out to you in that passage?
Explain: James was clear that we cannot tame the tongue, but it is also clear from Scripture that we are responsible for our words. We must leash our tongues to Christ and grow in the healthy use of words to honor him and bless others.
Question 3: Without naming names or implicating someone…can you tell a story of when someone’s careless words harmed a relationship?
Question 4: What about the opposite? When have you seen words build a relationship?
Question 5: How does slandering others equal judging the Word of God?
Read James 4:13-17: Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil. Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.
Question 6: What is the attitude of this hypothetical businessperson, and why is it wrong or evil?
Question 7: Paul wrote, “Watch your life and doctrine closely.” (1 Tim. 4:16). How does this tie with James’ admonition to tie faith and works together?
Read Luke 12:16-21: The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”‘ “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ “This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.”
Question 8: What is the attitude here, and how are they separate from the actions? (What might be right about the actions but wrong about the attitudes).
Read Matt 26: Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”
Question 9: Jesus wrestled with the will of God but lived with a “free heart.” How have you struggled to gain and maintain a free heart in regard to your life and God’s will?
Conclude: Spend time discussing and praying about having a heart that is free and able to truly say, “Your will be done.” Has the Lord revealed any sins of commission or sins of omission?