James, the Lord’s brother, wrote one epistle that made it into the Canon of Scripture. His letter provides us a lot of key information about the Christian’s goal of spiritual maturity. He teaches us that we Christians grow by encountering and overcoming various trials. Amazingly, James wrote that we believers should consider it joy when we face trials (Jas. 1:2). James explained that we should understand that the testing of our faith by trials produces hupomone (steadfastness, perseverance), and by persevering through trials, we become mature and complete (Jas. 1:3-4). When speaking of humans, the Greek word teleios is often translated as “full grown, adult, of full age or mature.” For example, at 1 Corinthians 14:20, the Apostle Paul wrote “Brothers and sisters, do not be children in your thinking; yet in evil be infants, but in your thinking be mature.” At James 1:3, James also added the Greek word holokleros to further describe spiritual maturity, which means “complete in all its parts and whole.” The more we grow spiritually as Christians, the more we have a sense of completeness and wholeness.
At James 1:12, we read “Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.” Those believers who persevere in their walk of faith and become mature believers will receive a special award and recognition called the “Crown of Life.” Such believers discover true living, which is loving God. The Greek word stephanos includes both the idea of a crown designating rank and the idea of a wreath awarded to someone victorious in some type of contest or sporting event. Spiritual maturity should be the goal of every believer. Spiritual maturity does not imply sinlessness; it means that a believer loves God.
James 1:21 states, “Therefore, ridding yourselves of all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls.” This verse is not speaking of the moment someone first believes that Jesus is the Christ. This verse is describing one’s walk of faith and the believer’s need to continually receive the implanted word of God. When a believer grows to spiritual maturity, he or she experiences experiential salvation (Jas. 1:21). Spiritual maturity (i.e., experiential salvation) is consistent Kingdom Living. At the moment of first believing, it is true to say that we experience salvation (Acts 16:31; Tit. 3:5; Rom. 5:1; Gal. 2:16). It is also true to say, however, that although permanently changed at the moment of first believing, immature believers do not practice Kingdom Living. At the moment of first believing, God declares every believer to be positionally righteousness (Rom. 3:22-24), and God, the Holy Spirit, will indwell every believer from that moment forward (Eph. 1:13; 2 Cor. 5:5). We are forever qualified to experience fellowship with God. However, in our new status, we are required to grow spiritually. If we do not grow spiritually, we will remain in a condition of incompleteness. We grow spiritually by receiving the implanted Word of God (Jas. 1;21) and by persevering in our walk of faith through various trials and tribulations (Jas. 1:3-4). James explained that we must be more than just hearers of the Word, we must be doers of the Word (Jas. 1:22).
For example, James taught us that we must learn to bridle our tongues (Jas. 1:26). In fact, learning to bridle our tongues is an important and indispensable mark of spiritual maturity. James taught, “For we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect (teleios) man, able to reign in the whole body as well” (Jas. 3:2). Again, the use of the English word “perfect” at James 3:2 (and in most every translation) in no way implies sinless perfection. As explained above, teleios is describing spiritual maturity, completeness, or wholeness. It should be the goal of every believer.
James further figuratively explained that the “tongue is a fire, the very world of unrighteousness; the tongue is set among our body parts as that which defiles the whole body and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell [geenna]” (Jas. 3:6). For example, stirring up strife, lying, gossip, slander, judging, and maligning of others puts oneself in a place of judgment. When we do not function in the Spirit, in the Kingdom of God, we will inevitably function according to our sinful nature and inclinations. In fact, James tells us that, “If anyone thinks himself to be religious, yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this person’s religion is worthless (Jas. 1:26). If we want to seek spiritual maturity, we must learn to control our tongues. We must put our tongues under the control and guidance of the Holy Spirit. As David prayed, “May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, Lord, my rock and my Redeemer” (Ps. 19:14).
If we want to grow to spiritual maturity, we must accept that our lips are not our own (Ps. 12:4). Our lips (ability and inclination to speak) belong to God. In other words, we must seek to submit our tongues to the control of the Holy Spirit. Perhaps, our reader can now see why growing to spiritual maturity is such a challenge to every believer – the vast majority of us prefer to assert and maintain our autonomy and independence from our Creator. Instead, we must learn to heed the Holy Spirit, who will help us to pick and choose our words wisely when we speak to our spouses, parents, children, neighbors, coworkers, etc. Psalm 34:12-13 states, “Who is the person who desires life and loves length of days, that he may see good? Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit.”
Scripture is clear – our tongue can lead us to destruction or righteousness. Psalm 37:30 states, “The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom, and his tongue speaks justice.” At Proverbs 10:20, we read, “The tongue of the righteous is like choice silver, the heart of the wicked is worth little.” At Proverbs 10:31, we read, “The mouth of the righteous flows with wisdom, but the perverted tongue will be cut out.” At Proverbs 12:18-19, we read, “There is one who speaks rashly like the thrust of a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. Truthful lips will endure forever, but a lying tongue is only for a moment.” At Proverbs 15:2, we read, “The tongue of the wise makes knowledge pleasant, but the mouth of fools spouts foolishness.” At Proverbs 21:23, we read, “One who guards his mouth and his tongue, guards his soul from troubles.” And finally, we read, “The plans of the heart belong to a person, but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord” (Prov. 16:1). We may assent or agree on a plan to pursue spiritual maturity, but to succeed in attaining spiritual maturity, we must learn that our tongues belong to God. To speak wisely, we must submit our tongues to God, the Holy Spirit. If we do so, we will have a better marriage, family life, work life, and social life. All of this can be done without losing our uniqueness and individuality. We should always remember, “Do not be quick with your mouth or impulsive in thought to bring up a matter in the presence of God. For God is in heaven and you are on the earth, therefore let your words be few” (Eccles. 5:2). We must be quick to hear and slow to speak (Jas. 1:19).
 “G5281 – hypomonē – Strong’s Greek Lexicon (nasb20).” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 11 Apr, 2022. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/g5281/nasb20/mgnt/0-1/>.
 “G5046 – teleios – Strong’s Greek Lexicon (nasb20).” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 11 Apr, 2022. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/g5046/nasb20/mgnt/0-1/>.
 “G3648 – holoklēros – Strong’s Greek Lexicon (nasb20).” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 11 Apr, 2022. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/g3648/nasb20/mgnt/0-1/>.
 “G4735 – stephanos – Strong’s Greek Lexicon (nasb20).” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 11 Apr, 2022. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/g4735/nasb20/mgnt/0-1/>.
 “G5046 – teleios.”