The Tongue and
the Person (3:1-2)
The Tongue Is A
The Tongue Has
Not Been Tamed (3:7-8)
The Tongue Needs
to Be Consistent (3:9-12)
judgment, stumble, tongue, perfect, bridle.
The ability to teach is a
divine gift that the Holy Spirit distributes to individuals in the church
according to His will (Rom 12:6-8; 1Cor 12:28-30; Eph 4:11). James’ command has
to do with those who have not been given the spiritual gift to teach but
presume to be teachers.
Teachers were in a position to
educate the congregation and speak out against the wrongdoings of individuals.
Those who presumed to be teachers probably desired the prestige associated with
this responsibility or the opportunity to judge others.
Teachers must teach with
humility, gentleness, patience, and love (2Tim 2:24,25; 1Cor 4:14,15; 8:1;
Teachers are supposedly more
knowledgeable of God’s word. Having more knowledge, more will be required of
them (Lk 12:47,48). Their
own teaching will also judge them (Rom 2:1). Furthermore, if they are not
careful with their tongues but mislead others with wrong teachings, they will
be judged all the more severely.
Since we all stumble in many
things, especially in our speech, no one should take the role of a teacher upon
themselves. But if we have been given the divine gift to teach, we should teach
with humility because we ourselves have many shortcomings.
Since the tongue is the most
difficult to control, anyone who is able to control his tongue and not sin in
his speech would be able to also keep himself from committing other sins.
For references on various kinds
of evil speech, see Ex 22:28; Ps 12:3; 106:33; Prov
6:16-19; 10:11; 15:1; 16:28; 25;23; Rom 1:29,30; 3:13,14; Eph 4:31; 5:4; Tit
1:10,11; 3:2; 1Pet 2:1; Jude 8-10.
Bits that bridle horses;
rudders that turn ships; fire that kindles a forest.
Although it’s small, the tongue
can have a great influence. With the tongue, a person can mislead multitudes or
turn the course of events by “boasting great things” (5).
The tongue itself, in the sense
of a physical organ, cannot defile the body. Rather, this verse refers to the
wicked mind that causes the tongue to sin that is able to defile the person (Mt
“Course of nature” is also
translated as “course of life.” The tongue can have a life-long destructive
influence. Another translation renders the phrase as “whole round of existence”
(The New Berkeley Version). This existence may include the entire human
existence. In other words, the tongue is able to impact the whole human race.
The source of the tongue’s
destructive power is hell (6). In other words, this power comes from the evil
one (cf. Mt 5:37).
Man’s inability to tame his
tongue shows that no one has power over his sinful nature (See verse 2, which
states the universality of sin: “We all stumble in many things”).
A person who curses his fellow
human beings, who are created in the likeness of God, despises God Himself.
Praising God while cursing others constitutes hypocrisy and false worship.
We will love everyone equally
with the love that God deserves from us.
James wants us to learn the
consistency in nature. We cannot have double standards in our speech and
Since evil speech comes from
evil thoughts, controlling our tongues starts with having a pure heart (Prov 4:23). If our hearts are filled with God’s love, and
if our mind always meditates on the word of God, we will naturally speak words
8:1-3); Abigail (1Sam 25:26-34); the wise woman of Sheba (2Sam 20:15-22); Naaman’s servant girl and servant (2Kgs 5:1-3,13,14); Philip (Jn 1:43-46); Gamaliel (Acts 5:33-40). Besides these examples, the
prophets and apostles have left us good examples where the tongue was used for
God’s glory. The greatest example of all is the Lord Jesus Christ, who spoke
with authority and grace (Lk 4:22, 32).