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Bible Commentaries

Bridgeway Bible Commentary

James 3

Verses 1-12


Control of the tongue (3:1-12)

James warns his readers not to be too ambitious to be teachers in the church, because if they instruct others and then fail themselves, they will receive greater judgment. This places teachers in particular danger, because they cannot avoid making some mistakes (3:1-2). A person who can control his tongue can control the whole self. Just as the bit controls the horse and the rudder controls the ship, so the tongue controls the person. Small as it is, the tongue can do great damage when uncontrolled, just as a tiny flame in dry grass can burn down a whole forest (3-5).
All the wrong within a person shows itself through the uncontrolled tongue. With the help of Satan, the tongue spreads evil through people’s lives like a destructive fire that burns out of control. The more they speak evil, the more their behaviour becomes evil (6). People are able to tame wild animals, but they are unable to tame their own tongues (7-8). Three examples from nature illustrate the inconsistency of using the same tongue to bless God and curse people (9-12).

Verses 13-18

Spiritual and worldly wisdom (3:13-18)

Christians must distinguish between spiritual wisdom and worldly wisdom. Some people are undoubtedly skilful in laying plans and using circumstances to achieve their goals, but their actions are often characterized by jealousy, selfishness and dishonesty. This is worldly wisdom. It comes not from God but from Satan, and results in wrong actions. It contrasts sharply with spiritual wisdom, which is characterized by humility and uprightness (13-16).
In addition, those who act according to spiritual wisdom will consider the well-being of others before their own. They will be free of any trace of deceit or dishonesty (17). The farmer who sows good seed can expect a good harvest. Similarly, Christians who sow peace by building good relations with others can expect to see a harvest of righteousness in their lives (18).

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Bibliographical Information
Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on James 3". "Fleming's Bridgeway Bible Commentary". 2005.