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INTRODUCTION James Chapter 3
The brothers in the church need to be cautious about becoming teachers, as they will be charged with weightier judgment. Those who misuse the tongue will receive God’s condemnation. All of us in our lives stumble many times. Like the tongue is a small part of our body, a bridle controls a horse’s body and a small rudder a large boat. So, the tongue has unrivaled power. It is like a spark that can set a devastating forest fire! It is easier to tame wild animals than to tame the tongue. The tongue can be used to bless our Creator or curse our friends. This is unnatural. Is anyone aware of a fountain that provides both acidic water and sweet? Does an orange tree produce apples? Do grapevines produce raspberries? No one will fill a cup from a mudhole and come away with clear, clean spring water. Who wants to be thought of as being wise by others? Let him reveal his works with humility and avoid causing heated, controversial arguments, excessively proud, and boastful talk against the truth. He should not be twisting the truth to sound wise, as that is not wisdom. Wisdom from above is restrained and pure, at peace, showing reason and sound judgment, willing to obey, full of kindness and good works, not partial, not hypocritical.
3:1-2: We need to control our tongues.
3:3-6: We need to understand just how powerful the tongue is. While it is small, it can control everything that happens in our lives.
3:7-8: The tongue in imperfect humans is rebellious. We can control much in life, but it is impossible to tame the tongue.
3:9-12: There is a double-mindedness of the tongue in that it can bless God in one breath and then insult a loved one in another.
3:13-18: We all need wisdom from God if we have any hope of controlling what we say. If we have true wisdom, we will not be envious of others, be selfish, hungering to get ahead, but instead, we will produce peace and righteousness.
3:13: All of us want to be viewed as wise and thought of as possessing wisdom, but it is difficult in human imperfection.
3:14-16: Imitation wisdom will not help us look good to others.
3:17-18: Real wisdom is God’s wisdom, which begins by living a holy life and will help us get along with others.
Jealousy and greedy desires can control our tongues. When we put ourselves ahead of our Lord Jesus Christ, we seek to advance what we think is important instead of making him known to others. It is all too easy to use the gift of speech to then disparage others, gossip about others, which will only cause us a life of difficulties. We may fail to be peaceful and kind to others, produce godly devotion, and show that we can be merciful.
James has helped his readers and us to better understand the power, lack of control, and double-mindedness of the tongue. He warns us of just how evil the tongue can be, which must be controlled and constantly watched. While it is true that we are born-again Christians with a new person, this does not remove our human imperfection. We are mentally bent toward evil, with a treacherous heart and the natural desire to do bad. So, the tongue must be kept in check by our Christian, biblically guided conscience. If we cultivate our conscience, making it ever stronger, it will become easier to watch what we say and do. However, if we ignore our conscience, it will grow callused and unfeeling and not alter what we are about to say or do. Everything we say and do passes through our mind first, even if for a millisecond, and is controlled or not controlled by the conscience.
We will have much better success if we heed Paul’s counsel. “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as the need may be, that it may give grace to those who hear.” (Eph. 4:29) Suppose we commit ourselves to God wholeheartedly and are biblically minded, seeking wisdom from above, spending time in His Word. In that case, we will be refined and purified and become selfless and humble.