James chapter three picks up on the ideas of faith supported and visible to others through works. He also takes this chapter to expand upon the tongue and the power it has. First however, he starts with a word of warning to those thinking to be leaders. Let’s dive right in!
1 Not many should become teachers, my brothers, knowing that we will receive a stricter judgment, 2 for we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a mature man who is also able to control his whole body.
Here James takes a pit stop and makes a great comment. He points out there are not many people who should be teachers. Why? Simple, you will be held to a high standard when Christ judges the world. Why will we be judged? Because all of us mess up in many different ways. If someone does not mess up then they are mature and in control of their body. But the human flesh is untamable by man alone. If you become a teacher in the church remember you will be judged for how you lead others.
3 Now when we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we also guide the whole animal. 4 And consider ships: Though very large and driven by fierce winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. 5 So too, though the tongue is a small part of the body, it boasts great things. Consider how large a forest a small fire ignites. 6 And the tongue is a fire. The tongue, a world of unrighteousness, is placed among the parts of our bodies. It pollutes the whole body, sets the course of life on fire, and is set on fire by hell. 7 Every sea creature, reptile, bird, or animal is tamed and has been tamed by man, 8 but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9 We praise our Lord and Father with it, and we curse men who are made in God’s likeness with it. 10 Praising and cursing come out of the same mouth. My brothers, these things should not be this way. 11 Does a spring pour out sweet and bitter water from the same opening? 12 Can a fig tree produce olives, my brothers, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a saltwater spring yield fresh water.
Now James comes back to the tongue. Above he talked about being in control of the body and now he shows just how hard it is to control our tongues (ie what we say). He points out we can tame huge animals and vessels but not ourselves. Much as the rudder is small but guides the whole ship the tongue can affect our path. Like a small spark burns a forest so can the tongue destroy. The tongue can pollute the whole body and set people on a course to he’ll. We cannot tame the tongue. It is restless evil full of poison. We can praise God one moment but curse men as well. Bitter words contaminate the whole body.
13 Who is wise and has understanding among you? He should show his works by good conduct with wisdom’s gentleness. 14 But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your heart, don’t brag and deny the truth. 15 Such wisdom does not come from above but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where envy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every kind of evil. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peace-loving, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without favoritism and hypocrisy. 18 And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who cultivate peace.
James issues a challenge to his readers. He points out, if you are wise then your deeds should prove it. If you really learn God’s word, then you will apply it to your life. If you apply it to your life others will see it. There is a false wisdom the world flaunts. This wisdom is rooted in bitterness, envy, selfish ambitions and other evils that come from an evil heart. This kind of wisdom, in reality, is from not only Earth, but demons. Selfishness is a direct of cause of many kinds of evil. In contrast wisdom from God is pure. It seeks peace and is gentle. It is full of mercy for others, good fruits and does not have favorites or show hypocrisy. The deeds of righteousness are done with a peaceful intent by those who are peace-loving. To be in God does not mean to always be fighting, but as Paul says in Romans 12:18 we must live in peace as much as it is possible on our end.
Whew! Made it to the end! So, what do we do next? Well, there are several points to apply. First, if you are asked to be a leader in the church, remember that you will be held accountable to that position by God. Check your heart and be sure God has called you to it before you jump in. Second, be careful what you let leave your mouth. Your words have the power to praise, and the power to destroy. You must do your best to control it. Thirdly, remember that true wisdom is rooted in gentleness and humility, not selfishness and bitter envy. This is opposed to what the world tells us. God is the only source of wisdom. Thank you for reading and I hope you will apply what you have learned. And if you can join me next week as we dive into chapter four.