James Chapter 3

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Introduction

The evil which the apostle seems to have referred to in this chapter, was a desire, which appears to have prevailed among those to whom he wrote, to be public teachers, (didaskaloi, Jam 3:1,) and to be such even where there was no proper qualification. It is not easy to see any connexion between what is said in this chapter, and what is found in other parts of the epistle; and indeed the plan of the epistle seems to have been to notice such things as the apostle supposed claimed their attention, without particular regard to a logical connexion. Some of the errors and improprieties which existed among them had been noticed in the previous chapters, and others are referred to in chapters 4 and 5. Those which are noticed in this chapter grew out of the desire of being public teachers of religion. It seems probable that he had this subject in his eye in the whole of this chapter, and this will give a clue to the course of thought which he pursues. Let it be supposed that there was a prevailing desire among those to whom he wrote to become public teachers, without much regard for the proper qualifications for that office, and the interpretation of the chapter will become easy. Its design and drift then may be thus expressed:

I. The general subject of the chapter, a caution against the desire prevailing among many to be ranked among public teachers, Jam 3:1, first clause.

II. Considerations to check and modify that desire, Jam 3:1, (last clause,) Jam 3:18. These considerations are the following:

(1.) The fact that public teachers must give a more solemn account than other men, and that they expose themselves to the danger of a deeper condemnation, Jam 3:1, last clause.

(2.) The evils which grow out of an improper use of the tongue; evils to which those are particularly liable whose business is speaking, Jam 3:2ff. This leads the apostle into a general statement of the importance of the tongue as a member of the human body; of the fact that we are peculiarly liable to offend in that, (Jam 3:2;) of the fact that if that is regulated aright, the whole mall is -- as a horse is managed by the bit, and a ship is steered by the rudder, (Jam 3:2ff;) of the fact that the tongue, though a little member, is capable of accomplishing great things, and is peculiarly liable, when not under proper regulations, to do mischief, (Jam 3:5f;) of the fact that, while everything else has been tamed, it has been found impossible to bring the tongue under proper restraints, and that it performs the most discordant and opposite functions, (Jam 3:7ff;) and of the impropriety and absurdity of this, as if the same fountain should bring forth sweet water and bitter, Jam 3:10ff. By these considerations, the apostle seems to have designed to repress the prevailing desire of leaving other employments, and of becoming public instructors without suitable qualifications.

(3.) The apostle adverts to the importance of wisdom, with reference to the same end; that is, of suitable qualifications to give public instruction, Jam 3:13ff. He shows (Jam 3:13) that if there was a truly wise man among them, he should show this by his works, with "meekness," and not by obtruding himself upon the attention of others; that if there was a want of it evinced in a spirit of rivalry and contention, there would be confusion and every evil work, (Jam 3:14ff;) and that where there was true wisdom, it was unambitious and unostentatious; it was modest, retiring, and pure. It would lead to a peaceful life of virtue, and its existence would be seen in the "fruits of righteousness sown in peace," Jam 3:17f. It might be inferred that they who had this spirit would not be ambitious of becoming public teachers; they would not place themselves at the head of parties; they would show the true spirit of religion in an unobtrusive and humble life. We are not to suppose, in the interpretation of this chapter, that the apostle argued against a desire to enter the ministry, in itself considered, and where there are proper qualifications; but he endeavoured to suppress a spirit which has not been uncommon in the world, to become public teachers as a means of more influence and power, and without any suitable regard to the proper endowments for such an office.

Text

1: My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation. edit

2: For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body. edit

3: Behold, we put bits in the horses' mouths, that they may obey us; and we turn about their whole body. edit

4: Behold also the ships, which though they be so great, and are driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small helm, whithersoever the governor listeth. edit

5: Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! edit

6: And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell. edit

7: For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind: edit

8: But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. edit

9: Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. edit

10: Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be. edit

11: Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter? edit

12: Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either a vine, figs? so can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh. edit

13: Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom. edit

14: But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. edit

15: This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. edit

16: For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work. edit

17: But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. edit

18: And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace. edit

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