HOW TO SAIL THROGH LIFE
James 3:1-8 August 16 2009
The apostle here reproves ambition, and an arrogant magisterial tongue; and shows the duty and advantage of bridling it because of its power to do mischief. I. Those who profess religion ought especially to govern their tongues (James 3:1-12). II. True wisdom makes men meek, and avoiders of strife and envy: and hereby it may easily be distinguished from a wisdom that is earthly and hypocritical (James 3: 13-18).
1. Those who profess religion ought especially to govern their tongues (3:1-12)
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. 3:2 We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check. 3:3 When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. 3:4 Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. 3:5 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. 3:6 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. 3:7 All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, 3:8 but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 3:9 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. 3:10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. 3:11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 3:12 My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.
Judged more strictly . Because a teacher has great influence, he will be held more accountable (Luke 20:47; Matt 23:1-33). Perfect man . Since the tongue is so difficult to control, anyone who controls it perfectly gains control of himself in all other areas of life as well.
World of evil . Like the world in its fallenness. Set on fire by hell. A figurative way of saying that the source of the tongue’s evil is the devil (John 8:44). ( Matt 5:22; Luke 16:23). In God’s likeless . Since man has been made like God (Gen 1:26-27), to curse man is like cursing God (Gen 1:26;9:6).
. Not to use our tongues so as to lord it over others: My brethren, be not many masters, (James3: 1). These words do not forbid doing what we can to direct and instruct others in the way of their duty or to reprove them in a Christian way for what is amiss; but we must not affect to speak and act as those who are continually assuming the chair, we must not prescribe to one another, so as to make our own sentiments a standard by which to try all others, because God gives various gifts to men, and expects from each according to that measure of light which he gives. "Therefore by not many masters” (or teachers, as some read it); "do not give yourselves the air of teachers, imposers, and judges, but rather speak with the humility and spirit of learners; do not censure one another, as if all must be brought to your standard.” This is enforced by two reasons.
Those who thus set up for judges and censurers shall receive the greater condemnation. Our judging others will but make our own judgment the more strict and severe, (Matt. 7:1, 2). Those who are curious to spy out the faults of others, and arrogant in passing censures upon them, may expect that God will be as extreme in marking what they say and do amiss.
2. True wisdom makes men meek and avoiders of strife and envy : and distinguished from a wisdom that is hypocritical (James 3:13-18)
James 3:13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. 3:14 But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 3:15 Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. 3:16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. 3:17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.
Wisdom . (James 1:5). From heaven . From God (James1:17; 1Co 2:6-16). Disorder . “God is not a God of disorder but of peace” (1Co 14:33). Impartial . (James 2:1-13). Peacemakers . Contrast (James 3:16). Discord cannot produce righteousness.
We have some account of true wisdom, with the distinguishing marks and fruits of it: Who is a wise man, and endued with knowledge among you? Let him show out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom, (James 3:13). A truly wise man is a very knowing man: he will not set up for the reputation of being wise without laying in a good stock of knowledge; and he will not value himself merely upon knowing things, if he has not wisdom to make a right application and use of that knowledge. These two things must be put together to make up the account of true wisdom: who is wise, and endued with knowledge? Now where this is the happy case of any there will be these following things:-
We have the glorying of those taken away who are of a contrary character to that now mentioned, and their wisdom exposed in all its boasts and productions: "If you have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, (James 3:14-16). Pretend what you will, and think yourselves ever so wise, yet you have abundance of reason to cease your glorying, if you run down love and peace, and give way to bitter envying and strife. Your zeal for truth or orthodoxy, and your boasts of knowing more than others, if you employ these only to make others hateful, and to show your own spite and heart-burnings against them, are a shame to your profession of Christianity, and a downright contradiction to it. Lie not thus against the truth.” Observe,
We have the lovely picture of that wisdom which is from above more fully drawn, and set in opposition to this which is from beneath: But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, etc., (James 3:17,18). Observe here, True wisdom is God’s gift. It is not gained by conversing with men, nor by the knowledge of the world (as some think and speak), but it comes from above. It consists of these several things:-
The foregoing chapter shows how unprofitable and dead faith is without works. It is plainly intimated by what this chapter first goes upon that such a faith is, however, apt to make men conceited and magisterial in their tempers and their talk. Those who set up faith in the manner the former chapter condemns are most apt to run into those sins of the tongue which this chapter condemns. And indeed the best need to be cautioned against a dictating, censorious, mischievous use of their tongues. We are therefore taught,
As the sins before condemned arise from an affectation of being thought more wise than others, and being endued with more knowledge than they, so the apostle in these verses shows the difference between men’s pretending to be wise and their being really so, and between the wisdom which is from beneath (from earth or hell) and that which is from above.