Translations: Chinese GB Big5

JAMES 3:1-12 (web)

Control of the Tongue

3:1 Let not many of you be teachers, my brothers, knowing that we will receive heavier judgment.
3:2 For in many things we all stumble. If anyone doesn't stumble in word,
the same is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body also.

3:3 Indeed, we put bits into the horses' mouths so that they may obey us,
and we guide their whole body.

3:4 Behold, the ships also, though they are so big and are driven by fierce winds,
are yet guided by a very small rudder, wherever the pilot desires.

3:5 So the tongue is also a little member, and boasts great things.
See how a small fire can spread to a large forest!

3:6 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 course of nature,
and is set on fire by Gehenna.
{Gehenna is a name that describes a burning Hell with rotting bodies and unclean things in it}

3:7 For every kind of animal, bird, creeping thing,
and thing in the sea, is tamed, and has been tamed by mankind.

3:8 But nobody can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

3:9 With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men,
who are made in the image of God.

3:10 Out of the same mouth comes forth blessing and cursing.
My brothers, these things ought not to be so.


3:11 Does a spring send out from the same opening fresh and bitter water?
3:12 Can a fig tree, my brothers, yield olives, or a vine figs?
Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh water.


vs 1 2Pe 2:1 "But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction."

vs 2 Matt 12:36 "But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment."

Pr 24:16 "For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again: but the wicked shall fall into mischief."

vs 3 Ps 39:1 "I said, I will take heed to my ways, that I sin not with my tongue: I will keep my mouth with a bridle, while the wicked is before me."

vs 5 Ps 12:2 "They speak vanity every one with his neighbour: with flattering lips and with a double heart do they speak."

vs 6 Pr 26:21 "As coals are to burning coals, and wood to fire; so is a contentious man to kindle strife.

vs 12 Luke 6:43 "For a good tree bringeth not forth corrupt fruit; neither doth a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit."


vs 1 Why will teachers be judged more strictly?
What should be the teacher's highest priority in teaching?
Is James discouraging people from taking positions of responsibility, since they will incur greater judgment?
vs 2 In what aspects of speech can one be found to be at fault? (Compare Matt 12:36,37 also)
vs 3-5 In what ways is you life controlled by what you say?
vs 6 Have you ever said something you regretted?
vs 7-8 What does James mean that the tongue is a restless evil, full of deadly poison?
vs 9-12 If a salt spring cannot give fresh water, and a fig tree cannot produce olives, then why is it that out of the same mouth can come praise and cursing?

Some Principles of Speech from Prov 10,11

10:6,11 restrain verbal hostility
10:8,10 don't substitute speech for obedience
10:13 try to understand
10:14 don't speak if you don't know, else you could destroy
10:18 when you speak, don't lie
10:19 be concise and to the point
10:20 speech is not cheap
10:21 speak to meet the needs of others
10:31 bring out wisdom when you speak
10:32 know what is socially acceptable to say
11:9,11 be careful not to destroy your neighbor by what you say
11:12 don't be quick to argue with a hostile neighbor
11:13 keep other's secrets to yourself


Teachers Strictly Scrutinized

James 3:1
Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.

There is an expectation that as Christians mature they become teachers of the word. "In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food!" Heb 5:12 With maturity comes responsiblity, but with responsibility comes accountability.

However frequently recent converts often quickly jump into the role of teacher without having taken the time to study the Bible, considering its implications and applications, but rather they often end up playing the fool. For "a fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinions." Pr 18:2 It's the "sophomore effect". The word "sophomore" comes from "sophus" which means "wise" and "moros" which means "fool" and from which we get the word "moron". Thus Paul instructs concerning overseers, "He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil." 1Tim 3:6  "They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm." 1Tim 1:7

As teaching can have a huge impact on many people, teachers are to be judged more strictly, and not just by God. In Berean fashion, teachers need to be scrutinized. Too often people listen to teachers only to affirm what they want to hear. "The time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths." 2Tim 4:3,4 Too often Christians replace the Bible with their own pet theologian, pastor or preacher. Even teachers who are products of a seminary education are often mindless drones whose allegiance is to a denominational theology rather than to the Word of God.

There are also strict warnings to beware of false teachers. "There were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them— bringing swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping." 2Peter 2:1-3 "Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves." Mt 7:15

Advice to teachers:

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly. Their teaching will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have wandered away from the truth. They say that the resurrection has already taken place, and they destroy the faith of some. 2Tim 2:15-18  So avoid too much speculation.  Focus on what the Bible clearly teaches and that which has application.

Self-Control is Reflected in Speech

James 3:2-4  For in many things we all stumble. If anyone doesn't stumble in word, the same is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body also. Indeed, we put bits into the horses' mouths so that they may obey us, and we guide their whole body.] Behold, the ships also, though they are so big and are driven by fierce winds, are yet guided by a very small rudder, wherever the pilot desires.

In as much as what one says is an expression of one's heart as Jesus said, "For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks." Mt 12:34b, self-control over one's speech is a reflection of one's self-control over one's desires.

Conversely as what one says reflects one's beliefs, people will be held accountable for what they say:

"I  tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned."
Mt 12:36,37

"If you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." Rom 10:9

Thus one's destiny is partly determined by what one says, and what you say often determines the course of your life.

"From the fruit of his mouth a man’s stomach is filled; with the harvest from his lips he is satisfied." Pr 18:20

Therefore "a man of knowledge uses words with restraint, and a man of understanding is even-tempered.  Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue." Pr 17:27,28 For "when words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise." Pr 10:19 

And James likewise teaches concerning speech, "If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless." Jas 1:26 and "My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry." Jas 1:19

It Only Takes a Spark

James 3:5,6
Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

Do not underestimate the effect of speech. On the upside, people are saved by speech. For as foolish as it would seem, "God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe." 1Cor 1:21 Paul speaks of those who "displease God and are hostile to all men in their effort to keep us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved." 1Th 2:15,16 "For we maintain that a man is justified by faith" Rom 3:28 and "faith comes from hearing the message" Rom 10:17a For "how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?" Rom 10:14

On the downside speech can destroy on a massive scale. Consider for example the hatred expressed towards the Jews in Nazi Germany and how that escalated. Such is the case throughout history. Pr 18:21 "The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit."

Taming the Tongue

James 3:7,8 All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

Just as it says in Jer 17:9 "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.", so also as one's speech is a reflection of one's heart it is inclined to evil. For this reason with regards to control over one's tongue the Bible primarily advocates silence. For "when words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise." Pr 10:19  And "a man of knowledge uses words with restraint" Pr 17:27a This is particularly a challenge to teachers and preachers. Such people I advise to consider how much of their teachings are facually based, to what degree do they utilize the Bible, and how much is their own opinion.

Sometimes it's best just to "cage" your speech as you would a wild animal. For if it cannot be tamed, then best not to speak. Paul characterizes the human condition saying, "Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit." "The poison of vipers is on their lips." Rom 3:13  Beware when you think you have tamed your speech, like making a house pet out of a wild animal. "No man can tame the tongue". All you can do is cage it.

The Tongue's Antithetical Nature

James 3:9-12  With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be.  Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.

While it should not be, such is the case due to our dual nature. Paul writes, "Live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want." Gal 5:16,17

"Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice." Eph 4:29-31

"Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving." Eph 5:4

JAMES 3:1-12 RAP

3:1 Not many should presume to teach.
God strictly judges what they preach.
2 We all in many ways stumble.
If you don't think so, you're just not humble.
The tongue is like a small rudder,
4 Steers ships through the wind, just like butter,
3 Or like a bit in a horse's mouth,
You can make him turn north or to the south.
5 It seems it has so much control.
With it we gain and lose our soul.
A forest can burn from a little spark.
6 So our tongue can make our whole life dark.
7 All kinds of animals we can tame,
8 But controlling the tongue is just no game.
9 But let me tell you something worse,
10 With it we praise and then we curse.
This is not suppose to be.
12 Can figs and olives come from the same tree?

The Berean Christian Bible Study Resources

Nov 02,2011