The Tongue Is a Fire
3 Not many [of you] should become teachers [serving in an official teaching capacity], my brothers and sisters, for you know that we [who are teachers] will [a]be judged by a higher standard [because we have assumed greater accountability and more condemnation if we teach incorrectly]. 2 For we all stumble and sin in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says [never saying the wrong thing], he is a perfect man [fully developed in character, without serious flaws], able to bridle his whole body and rein in his entire nature [taming his human faults and weaknesses]. 3 Now if we put bits into the horses’ mouths to make them obey us, we guide their whole body as well. 4 And look at the ships. Even though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are still directed by a very small rudder wherever the impulse of the helmsman determines. 5 In the same sense, the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things.
See [by comparison] how great a forest is set on fire by a small spark! 6 And the tongue is [in a sense] a fire, the very world of injustice and unrighteousness; the tongue is set among our members as that which contaminates the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life [the cycle of man’s existence], and is itself set on fire by [b]hell (Gehenna). 7 For every species of beasts and birds, of reptiles and sea creatures, is tamed and has been tamed by the human race. 8 But no one can tame the human tongue; it is a restless evil [undisciplined, unstable], full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God. 10 Out of the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. These things, my brothers, should not be this way [for we have a moral obligation to speak in a manner that reflects our fear of God and profound respect for His precepts]. 11 Does a spring send out from the same opening both [c]fresh and bitter water? 12 Can a fig tree, my brothers, produce olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Nor can salt water produce [d]fresh.
Wisdom from Above
13 Who among you is wise and intelligent? Let him by his good conduct show his [good] deeds with the gentleness and humility of true wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not be arrogant, and [as a result] be in defiance of the truth. 15 This [superficial] wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly (secular), natural (unspiritual), even demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder [unrest, rebellion] and every evil thing and morally degrading practice. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure [morally and spiritually undefiled], then peace-loving [courteous, considerate], gentle, reasonable [and willing to listen], full of compassion and good fruits. It is unwavering, without [self-righteous] hypocrisy [and self-serving guile]. 18 And the seed whose fruit is righteousness (spiritual maturity) is sown in peace by those who make peace [by actively encouraging goodwill between individuals].
- James 3:1 Lit receive greater judgment.
- James 3:6 See note Matt 5:22.
- James 3:11 Lit sweet.
- James 3:12 Lit sweet.