James begins Chapter 3 with a caution against those who want to be teachers of the Word. In regard to the judgment that awaits them, he said that one should be certain that they possess the maturity and the self-control necessary for controlling their tongue. He then provides some illustrations to demonstrate the power and the danger of the tongue.
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Teachers and Wisdom
James revealed that there were those who sought to become teachers in order to look wise. But he goes on to write that wisdom and understanding should be shown by the conduct of a person. Earthly wisdom causes confusion and all that is evil. There is another type of wisdom that is heavenly and it produces peace and righteousness.
Controlling the Tongue
In the first twelve verses of James Chapter 3, the writer cautions against becoming teachers, saying that they will receive a stricter punishment unless they are mature and possess self-control virtues. He revealed that the power of the tongue is like a bit that controls the horse or a small rudder that directs the ship.
James was adamant about the dangers of the tongue. He said it is like a fire that kindles a big forest, capable of defiling the body and setting fire on the course of nature. He also talked about the difficulty in taming one’s tongue saying that there is nobody who can control their tongue all the time. It is an unruly evil that full of poison that can be used for both blessings and curses.
James concludes Chapter 3 with a brief discussion about Godly wisdom. He said that worldly wisdom is bitter, self-seeking, lying and boosting. James said that wisdom from the earth is demonic and produces confusion. Heavenly wisdom, however, is pure, gentle, peaceful, willing to yield, bears good fruits and is full of mercy. It is without hypocrisy and partiality. This type of wisdom comes from God and produces righteousness and faith.
James 3 (King James Version)
1 My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation.
2 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.
3 Behold, we put bits in the horses’ mouths, that they may obey us; and we turn about their whole body.
4 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.
5 Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth!
6 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.
7 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:
8 But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.
9 Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God.
10 Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be.
11 Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter?
12 Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either a vine, figs? so can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh.
13 Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom.
14 But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth.
15 This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish.
16 For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.
17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.
18 And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.