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The Power of the Tongue (James 3,4)

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James 3

The tongue
Be not many teachers. My brothers, realize that we teachers shall receive heavier judgment. 2 For in many things we all make others stumble. If any does not cause stumbling by his words, the same is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body also. 3 Now if we put the horses' bridles into their mouths that they may obey us, we turn about their whole body also. 4 Behold the ships also, though they are so great and are driven by rough winds, they are all the same turned about by a very small rudder, wherever the impulse of the steersman wills. 5 So the tongue also is a little member, and boasts great things. Behold, how much wood is kindled by how small a fire!
   6 And the tongue is a fire. The world of iniquity among our members is the tongue, which defiles the whole body and sets on fire the wheel of nature, and is set on fire by Gehenna. 7 For every kind of beasts and birds, of creeping things and things in the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. 8 But the tongue no one can tame; it is a restless evil, it is full of deadly poison. 9 With this we bless the Lord and the Father, and with this we curse men, even though they are made after the likeness of God. 10 Out of the same mouth comes forth blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. 11 Does the fountain send forth from the same spout both fresh and bitter water? 12 My brothers, can a fig tree yield olives or a vine figs? Neither can salt water yield fresh.

True wisdom
13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show his works in his good life, in meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter jealousy and rivalry in your heart, do not boast about it and deny the truth. 15 This wisdom is not a wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, sensual and devilish. 16 For where jealousy and division are, there is confusion and every vile deed. 17 But the wisdom that is from above is most importantly pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, without variance, without hypocrisy. 18 And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace for those that make peace.


3:6 Our words really can lead us to eternal condemnation; for by our words we will be either condemned or saved (Mt. 12:37). The control of our thinking and words is so utterly vital; and it is these things which are the essence of Christianity.

3:13 Good works aren’t so much the occasional dramatic act, but a life lived in wisdom and humility.

3:16 Division between believers comes ultimately from jealousy and rivalry (:14; 4:1) which begins within the mind. Personal spiritual mindedness is therefore so important. Only because this isn’t achieved do we end up with divisions. And division results in “vile deeds”. Yet such division was being justified by the immature Christians as “wisdom” (:15). Hence James has to say that this isn’t wisdom at all, as true wisdom leads to unity and gentle behaviour between believers (:17).