James 3

James 3

Taming the Tongue

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.

How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.

Wisdom from Above

Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.


James 3 Commentary

by Brad Boyles

  1. “Name-It Claim-It” Theology – believers have the power to speak anything into existence. You just have to have faith.
  2. Universalism – everyone is saved as long as they believe in some form of higher power because God is universal.
  3. Tongues – every believer should speak in tongues, and if you don’t, you aren’t really saved.
  4. Prosperity Gospel – every believer should be healthy and wealthy.
  5. Legalism – in addition to faith in Jesus, you must obey a subset of rules in order to keep your Salvation.
  6. Hyper-Grace – Jesus loves me and will always forgive me, therefore, I can live however I want.

Most likely all of us have experienced at least one of these false teachings in our lives. The interesting fact to consider is that every false doctrine on this list was formulated and carried on by a host of false teachers over the years. When an influential, charismatic leader steps in to proclaim one of these “new” insightful doctrines, it can almost always be traced back to a false teacher who introduced the idea thousands of years ago. It’s the same pig with new lipstick.

This is precisely why James cautions believers who are considering becoming teachers. False doctrine comes from false teachers.

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.

James 3:1 ESV

Over the entire chapter, James helps us to follow a common thread.

As humans, we are prone to following our own mind and our own ways (Jam 3:2). When our lives are consumed by bitterness, selfish ambition, and jealousy, (Jam 3:14-15) our tongues become a spigot spewing all kinds of deadly poison (Jam 3:5-6).

If you are reading this, you most likely have had a “church hurt” moment in your life. Everyone does. In fact, most people have several. I would estimate that nearly every form of heresy, division, and moral failure of the church throughout history can be attributed to a teacher who was consumed by self and never fully yielded to Godly wisdom, humility, and/or accountability.

Now with your story in mind, consider why James verbally ambushes this topic? This is the reason why he is cautioning (even recommending) that not many should become teachers. The accountability that is avoided in this life with be dealt back to such a person on the judgment seat before Jesus Christ. The phrase ‘greater strictness’ implies that Jesus will stoke that seat to a much higher temperature as compared to the lives of others.

As a teacher myself, this verse has always made me uneasy. Not because I am intentionally disobedient to it, but because each time I speak or write, I must consider the stubborn nature of my flesh which has the potential to influence my teaching. Sometimes I find myself upset at a particular person and want to use my platform to correct them. This is wrong. Sometimes I find myself seeking people’s approval and wanting their praise. This is wrong. This is why it is absolutely critical to be living a life of submission to the Spirit and to be held accountable by other faithful believers. We all have the potential to stumble by embracing the sinfulness in our hearts and lashing others with our words.

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