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Bible Commentaries

Derickson's Notes on Selected Books

James 3

Verse 1

Mr. D’s Notes on James

James 3:1-5

I would like to let Gill introduce this section for us. "In this chapter the apostle cautions against censoriousness, and reproving others with a magisterial air; advises to bridle the tongue, and guard against the vices of it; and shows what true wisdom is, and from whence it comes. He advises the saints not to arrogate too much to themselves, and take upon them to be the censorious reprovers of others; which he dissuades from, by the consideration of the greater damnation such shall receive, and by the frailty of all men, and a common proneness to offend by words; for he must be a very singular man indeed that does not offend by words ...."

In the New Testament church the gathering time was patterned on the services of the synagogue. They would have a discussion or sharing of thoughts on the Lord and His Word.

Today the Plymouth Brethren follow this format as do some independent Bible people. They gather and share one with another as the Spirit leads them. Some share a passage of the word, some share a hymn, some a thought and usually someone has a more lengthy admonition for the group.

Acts 13:15-16 pictures some of this concept and in 1 Corinthians 14:26-36, though most agree the sign gifts have passed away, that the text pictures this type of freedom in the service.

We spoke in a church in Denver, CO years ago that sat in a square. The children were seated in front of the parents throughout the service. The Lord’s Table was set in the middle and was the focus of the entire service. The children were allowed only Bible story books for something to do, no toys, no candy, no pop, no goodies - and they were quiet little worshipers - they knew they were there to consider God.

The question arises, should we be doing worship and/or Sunday school in this manner today. Some suggest that discussion in the Sunday school fulfills this idea. I would disagree, because discussion is led by the teacher, not the Spirit of God.

The next problem is this. If we had this type of service, would you have enough time in the word during the week to have something to share on Sunday morning?

If all of us were in the Word enough; If all of us would share when led of the Spirit; If all of us were Christian enough to accept admonition from others; Then would we have any need for a full time paid pastor? Yes, there is the gift of pastor-teacher, however this would work out as the shepherd/teacher the gift is referring to. A teaching time is quite appropriate for the assembly, and might well fit perfectly within the time I have just suggested.

We have the clear thought that there should not be many masters in the church. This concept of worship eliminates the many masters and makes us all subservient to THE MASTER. Well, He is the head of the church you know.

This brings forth the thought of being up-front and spiritual in our speaking with others. There was a man called Latimer that was called to preach before King Henry VIII. Historians record for us some conversations that he had with himself. He first discussed the one he was about to speak before. The man that could put him in jail if he spoke out of line, the man that could have his head in a basket, the man that controlled his very existence - how should he preach in such a situation. Then he changed his perspective slightly and determined that since he really was speaking before the King of Kings, and Lord of Lord’s and since the King would stand before this Christ - well he said this to himself "Latimer! Latimer! Latimer! Be faithful to thy Master and declare all God’s Word."

If we all had this mind-set, we could meet in a common assembly and admonish one another without the usual commotion, hurt feelings, and anger.

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

"Knowing" is a perfect tense, something that continues into the future to a sure end. You know this is true, you will know this is true tomorrow and you will know it is true when it occurs. You won’t second guess this one, you know it as if it is fact and done.

Know that the master or teacher will be judged differently than others, and the indication is that it will be a harsher judgment.

"Master" is the normal word for teacher. The teacher is one that knows things that others do not, someone that can impart and share that knowledge with others in an effective way. The term master probably comes from the Old Testament and early New Testament thought of a teacher. A teacher in this time was someone that was very respected and honored.

To show this I would call upon Joseph Caro (1488-1575) a Jewish writer once mentioned some of the actions a young man should take when in the presence of a teacher.

He held that the student was to honor his teacher above his parents. He likened anyone striving or complaining with/to his teacher to striving or complaining with/to the Lord. A scholar was not allowed to answer a point of law if his teacher was present. To do so without permission was open to punishment. The student was never, even after death, to call his teacher by his first name. The student was never allowed to sit in the teacher’s seat. When a teacher died the student was to tear his coat as if his father had died. Basically the teacher in many ways was to be held as superior to one’s own father. The teacher however was also to honor the scholar as the scholar was to honor the teacher.

You can see that the student of old respected his teacher. Even in my own school days the teacher was held with respect. Today, on the other hand, the teacher in the public classroom is often just another piece of trash to be kicked aside, and I might add that this concept is often transferred to the Sunday school and church situation.

Some today talk back and argue with teachers openly in class. They don’t have enough respect to disagree in private.

I have had, more than once, women begin to argue and cause disruption in classes that I was teaching. This isn’t just a man/woman in the church issue; it is a respect of another believer issue as well as the man/woman in the church issue.

Not only are they throwing the thought of Scripture aside of a woman questioning and learning at home from her husband but they are just throwing out basic respect and action for their own prideful feelings.

Today, we have little respect for teachers, or pastors for that matter, and often the only respect we have is for ourselves, and that is the bigger mistake. Part of the bigger problem is that people have the concept that their opinion is correct and all others are incorrect. The opinion does not need to be backed by fact or even some indication from truth; it only needs to be held to be "true."

Due to this mind-set, you can argue no matter what is said or held by another person and know that you are "correct."

Note should be taken that James considered himself a teacher. He includes himself in the judgment by using the term "we." Thus we know something more about the man that authored the book.

James speaks to a problem that is going on - many masters. He admonishes, don’t do it. The reason? The master will be held to a higher standard when they are judged. The term condemnation is "judgments" in the American Standard Version.

Luke 12:48 speaks to this principle. "But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few [stripes]. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more."

The term translated "masters" is the word for teachers. It is translated that way in Acts 13:1 as well as elsewhere.

Verses 1-5


1. We have spoken of teachers and the mistakes that they make. Those gifted to teach will, in my mind, have fewer mistakes, because they are controlled and moved by the Spirit. The question might arise, what if you don’t have gifted teachers to fill all your teaching positions? I would suggest that you have too many positions.

God trains and gifts the men that are needed for an assembly. In one church where we ministered I went looking for the church’s teaching standards. When I asked one of the deacons, he just laughed and said, "We just take what we can get."

That is a way to fill positions, but it is not the way to see to the teaching of the Word in the Church. No wonder the church is in the condition it is in today. This is the teaching standard many churches use today and it is not a standard, it is a crime.

2. In verse two James uses the term "offend" and this term can mean to cause one to stumble, or to stumble oneself, or to fall or to make a mistake. The question might come up as to whether it is the teacher stumbles personally or if the teacher causes someone else to stumble.

None of the translations are definitive, but all seem to follow the thought of the teacher stumbling. It is also of note that of the three commentaries I checked all three followed the thought of the teacher stumbling.

In essence both are the same. If the teacher causes another to stumble he has stumbled himself, so there doesn’t seem to be a real difference in my mind. Any time the teacher stumbles the student is open to stumbling as well.

This is in the context of the verbal part of teaching, rather than overt sin. The teacher by their word, by their tongue has a tendency to stumble or make mistakes.

This is of interest to me. I don’t know that I have ever made a mistake in my teaching, though I am sure that I have. The point is that if we note a teacher making a mistake, we should help him to understand this and show them their error.

I do have many tell me that I am mistaken, but few have the sufficient proof of same. One example is in the case of water witching. I tend to relate it to the Devil, if indeed it works. I have had some write to me that they know through experience that it isn’t of the Devil. Well, I ask, how can you know that, since you can’t scientifically prove that it is natural.

I even had one man send me a book on the subject that he had written. He was convinced that it related to magnetic fields around moving water. He had many experiments that "proved" his point. Some of his experiments were quite suspect in my mind and he did not relate how water that was not moving could be found. He went with his presupposition and proved it correct, in his own mind.

I don’t, for a moment, want to say I have not made mistakes, but have not found any ---- yet! I am sure there are many; I just haven’t had them pointed out to me as yet.

We must be vigilant to watch our teaching, and our students to be sure we aren’t misleading them. If we do we must admit, and correct, or we will allow the student to go on to possibly teach others incorrectly.

I am not saying that all students will take in all that we teach, for many are quite sharp and will think about our comments in relation to the Word and many will see our error and correct their thinking to reflect the Word rather than the teacher - which ought to be the way of things.

The problem comes when people begin just soaking in all that we say. They err in not being alert to error, yet we err by not taking the time to prepare properly and acquaint ourselves with the Word properly

We should also consider letting our students know from time to time that they are free to discuss things with us if they see something inconsistent with Scripture. This freedom must be maintained both for their safety and the safety of others.

We must ever be watchful to be Biblical.

One of the most humbling things in my life is the fact that my theology has been included in commercial Bible software, and it is all over the world on the internet - what if I am wrong in some of my conclusions? And I probably am. I will be held accountable for damage caused; it would seem from this passage. I can only plead ignorance, for I certainly did not set out to mislead, but to share and teach.

3. What might be the reason one would want to be a teacher when they aren’t really qualified for the position?

a. Ignorance. Some might suppose themselves wise unto teaching, but be in fact immature in the faith.

b. Some might want the position for the status that it carries with it. If the teacher was held in high regard as we have seen they were, then the person of pride in who they are, might well desire to be uplifted by the status of teacher.

c. In some cases today, we might see some that want the position for the monetary gain they might have. This is a warning for the elders in the qualifications. This is clear in 1 Timothy 3:3 "Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous;"

d. Some might desire the position on a serious, nonselfish basis because they feel the Lord has given them special knowledge that the assembly needs.

There are probably other reasons, but we need to guard against the wanna be that shouldn’t be. We need to be kind and loving toward these folks, and gently guide them into the preparation that they need for the position they desire.

4. One of the major evangelical seminaries found they had a sexual predator in their student body when he was arrested. After his legal responsibilities the man did two years of treatment and wanted to return to the seminary. He was allowed to return - everyone deserves a second chance was the thinking.

The man graduated and went on to take a pastorate. The church had contacted the seminary about his worthiness and nothing was said about the sexual problems, of which most today know are just about never cured.

The man went on to sexually abuse several boys, the seminary was sued and the rest is history.

Now, the reason I bring this up is that on a Southern Baptist board on the internet the seminary was drawn and quartered for their sin. The administration should have been pointed out in public and fired on the spot was the idea. Inexcusable, horrible and grievous was the type of terminology that was thrown around wildly.

One reading the thread would have thought the seminary was the predator not the man that had violated the children. Yes, they bore some responsibility if there was erroneous information given, but I rather doubt that there was any intentional wrong committed.

Some even called for the seminary to shut down immediately and permanently.

My question. Are there levels of sin? Some suggest that there are not, yet the same people on this board were labeling this as something more than just a sin that needed forgiving, but something that needed to be rooted out and burned to destruction.

I, for one do not feel that the reactions were logical or rational, but moved by disgust for the sin of the sinner. Yes, if the seminary consciously withheld information, lied or mislead the church, there is responsibility and it should be met with. However the over reaction of these "Christians" seemed way overboard especially since they did not have any of the details at the time.

Those that suggest there are no differences in sin seem to be corrected from this passage. The teacher has a greater condemnation in some manner. Now, this might be in the thought of just level of responsibility for those things done in this life. In other words, a teacher is teaching others and that is a responsibility he takes on for his life at that point in time. The non-teacher, on the other hand, does not have this responsibility, thus in a sense has a lesser judgment.

Others might suggest that there is a different level of how people will be judged, that a teacher doing wrong will be held to a higher level of judgment. I doubt this line of thinking and would prefer the former suggestion. God’s judgment is equal to all in my mind, but the teacher will be held responsible for his teaching whereby the non-teacher will not be judged for his teaching. Much like the man that commits adultery will be judged for having committed his sin, whereby the man that has committed no adultery will not be judged for adultery. The seeming difference in judgment should be clear.

5. Personal opinion, we allow men to teach that ought not today. God calls some to teach and gifts them for that ministry, yet we have a wide variety of teachers in our schools that were called to pastor, found they couldn’t pastor, or didn’t like it, so went into teaching. These men cannot be the teachers of choice, only the man called to teach, and trained to teach should be teaching. It would be good if all called to teach in the area of Pastoral ministries had experience in that area, but it does not take pastoral experience to teach books of the Bible, nor Greek, nor Hebrew etc.

To qualify what I have said, I have seen a number of men that couldn’t make it in churches, but ended up teaching in colleges/seminaries. I’ve seen men that were unable to properly care for discipline problems in their churches go into positions of leadership in other organizations. At the same time I know men that were called to teach, trained to teach rejected because they didn’t fit the "former pastor" mind-set. The "He isn’t just like us" syndrome.

6. There is a real possibility that this book is aimed at the church leadership rather than the congregation. At least this portion of the book. James seems to take direct aim at the leaders/teachers for their activities.

Leader, how do you treat your people? Leader, how do you seat people? Leader, how do you use your tongue with your people?

7. Might we list some ways the tongue could get the teacher/leader into trouble.

a. The seminary mentioned earlier had one or more that used their tongues to accept this student back into school, and one or more allowed him to be acceptable to a church with the inactivity of their tongue.

b. The perversion of the Word.

c. The problem of passing on gossip.

d. The mistake of sharp and cutting remarks toward others.

e. The lack of use in keeping gossips at bay, of not preaching the Word, of not warning the sheep of danger.

f. Of not speaking their mind when a group is making a decision for the body of believers. Some suggest not rocking the boat, but I say rock the boat so everyone knows what is really on the table so that a proper and informed decision can be made.

When teaching I was in a board/faculty meeting and had the distinct impression that the board had an agenda that they were not disclosing to the faculty. As the meeting drew to a close, I told the gathering that the board was in charge and that they needed to set the agenda and inform the faculty of that agenda so that the faculty could decide whether they could comply with that agenda.

I was right; within a few months the faculty was informed of the agenda that I was sure had not been brought forth in the meeting. Decisions are made on information and if information is withheld a proper choice cannot be made.

8. We must not miss the truth that the tongue is a tremendous force for good as well as for bad. We often dwell on the negative - in fact it seems that is what James is doing - he must be a legalist in the sense of modern day preachers - he dwells on the negative.

The bit in the horses mouth correctly used brings great good and joy to the rider, and the correct use of the rudder, likewise brings about great good on the part of the ship and its crew.

So, the tongue can bring great good as it teaches the Word correctly and as it admonishes, corrects and encourages the believers.

9. I would like to consider the role of teachers in the church. Oft times they are the folks that just kind of do their thing, but the preacher is the man of the hour. In the early church the elders were the teachers, they were the important part to every person spiritually. The new believer would look to them for advice on how to live their lives I am sure and look to them for their spiritual food.

I would submit that the elders of today should be the teachers, not allowing just anyone to fill in the teaching slots. The teachers, in Ephesians four were part of the training process that built new believers into witnessing parts of the body of Christ. This is not being done today I fear in most churches. In most churches, any training is from the pastor and that is not often centered on the witnessing and work of the Lord aspect.

We should have teachers that train people to do the work of God. That is the purpose of the church. Ephesians 4:11 "And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: 13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ: 14 That we [henceforth] be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, [and] cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; 15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, [even] Christ: 16 From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love."

Anything less than this is not a real church functioning as it ought. Teachers should be the cream of the crop, the best of the best, and they should be doing more than just teaching a Sunday morning class. They should be teaching new believers at every opportunity.

The problem, as most of you know is that most churches do not have enough new believers for anyone to train. The church is not growing by witnessing it is growing by propagation. We might grow due to new births in the congregation but that is often about it.

I was speaking at a missions conference in Nevada and stayed in the home of a dear old Christian that told me that he had watched the Mormon Church over many years in his town. He went on to tell me that he did not know of one towns member that had converted, that all their growth was from within. This is about where most Bible believing churches are today.

Teachers should be an important part of our church. Our elders should be doing the teaching, the training and bringing people to maturity in Christ. Now, that statement requires something. Did you catch it? Elders are men, and they should be teaching the people. Not women teaching the children, but the men teaching the people.

I don’t decry what women have done for years, but men should be teaching those little ones as well as the big ones. I don’t have a problem with women teaching children, but firmly believe that men should be doing the work. It is not that women should not be involved. I can’t think of a better thing than an elder and his wife teaching a children’s class. This would be a team that would produce some great results.

Our children are not being taught in most of our Sunday schools, they are being entertained. If there is teaching, it is often loosely coordinated with the teaching before and after the class. Curriculum is not used in a meaningful manner in most churches.

We gave our children a test once, and were shocked by the results. The quiz was over the Old Testament accounts and related to all the major Bible figures. The children knew who the different people were, but they had no idea of how they related to one another. They had a lot of facts and knowledge, but had little knowledge of how it all related.

This was the result of us having been in a number of Sunday schools over the years, filling in and coopastoring. They had not been subjected to a proper curriculum that would have taught in a meaningful, sequential manner. Result? Knowledge with no organization.

Teaching today is about the same. People are on the move so much that often there is little coordination of what children are taught. We might consider giving tests in our Sunday schools to see where children are and teach them from there.

A test might not be such a bad idea for new church members so that they can be trained properly. That would, by the way, require some work on the part of the "SPIRITUAL" elders to set up the tests, to know where the people should be spiritually etc. Yes, a trained eldership would be required.

10. The above point may point out the need of some teacher qualifications for your teachers to live up to or to qualify to teach. Let’s consider some teacher qualifications.

a. Since they seem to be on the level of pastors in Ephesians four, maybe some good spiritual qualifications would be a good place to begin. You can find many in the list for elders/deacons in I Timothy three and Titus one.

b. Some evidence that they have the gift of teaching. Ability to communicate well, seeming growth in the students he has taught, and spiritual maturity in his own life.

c. Commitment to teach and not just dabble at it. Many churches have systems that allow their teachers off time so they can "recoup" or whatever they think they need. Consistency in the classroom is needed - same teacher all the time.

d. We have assumed salvation is a part of their life, but also some level of maturity as well. He doesn’t have to be perfect, but he should have some maturity.

e. Knowledge adequate to teach the level he would teach.

f. Ability to communicate with those he would teach. Now, I am not talking about an ability to talk, but an ability to communicate - two way communication. We have been under many a teacher that loved to talk but their communication skills were limited.

I have a section on my website about teaching if you are interested in further thought along this line.

Sad to say, but in our day, you might consider a background check since there are many sexual deviants on the loose that would not have a problem with dishonesty to get at children.

11. The tongue is a very powerful tool. It controls our own being, and the sad part is that it can control others as well. This control of others can be good or bad. In the case of the teacher they should be careful to teach only truth and proper doctrine.

On the other hand Hitler, Stalin, and many others over the years have exerted drastic, evil control over others and we know the results. So, in the church an evil tongue can cause terrible damage to the cause of Christ.

Within the church in general, we have seen different preachers go off into their own little world to the destruction of their followers. Often these men were within larger organizations in their beginning. I have to wonder if their false teaching had been properly condemned or if their spiritual abilities had been screened properly by a spiritual leadership. A different outcome might have been had if their character and doctrine had been condemned before they became a leader.

12. The damage caused by the tongue can be apologized for, but you can never undo the damage it can cause. Someone related the story of a child that had told a lie and that could not grasp the meaning of what he had done. The wise pastor asked the child to gather a bag of chicken feathers and to go to each house in the small town and leave a feather on the step. The next day the child returned and told the pastor that he had completed his task. The pastor then told him to go to each house in town and pick up the feather he had left there the day before. The child protested much, knowing that the wind had blown a gale the previous night. He knew that he could never locate all the feathers. The pastor had made his point quite clearly that the lie is easy on the lips but long on the minds of those it has damaged.

13. Let’s list some ways the tongue can be misused.

a. to teach incorrect doctrine

b. to gossip (Proverbs 26:20 applies well)

c. to put others down

d. bragging

e. exaggeration

f. building yourself up in the eyes of others

g. complaining

h. manipulation of others

I. to misrepresent or lie

j. falsely flatter

There are probably others as well.

I recently heard a message that contained a lot of application here. In the first place it was incorrect teaching in many ways, thus the man’s tongue had caused false teaching to go forth. The man will face his Lord one day for his teaching and will be held responsible for it.

His teaching was on Ephesians four where the church is told that God gave four gifts for the perfecting of the saints. Apostles, prophets, evangelists and pastor-teachers. He defined the apostles as missionaries, prophets as current day pastors, evangelists as evangelists and pastor-teachers as the teachers of the local church - completely ignoring the pastor/shepherd portion of the gift.

He mentioned, without proof, that the four in hierarchal order as well as in order of importance. Not sure why a missionary would be over local church pastors, but that is the application of his teaching.

He seemed to ignore literal interpretation; he seemed to ignore the common reading of the text and seemed to call for one prophet for each church rather than the multiple elders that Scripture seems to indicate.

I trust that as you teach, you do so carefully, as your teaching will probably steer the course of churches over many years time.

One of the dreads I have is facing the Lord and finding out how wrong I was and what damage it caused in the Lord’s church. I trust that there was good as well.

Verse 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.

The American Standard Version translates "in many things we offend all" as "We all stumble" "For in many things we all stumble. If any stumbleth not in word, the same is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body also."

Might we say teachers make mistakes? Might we also say that teachers will have a harder judgment because of our position? True in both cases. Teachers do make mistakes and they will be held accountable for those mistakes.

How should we handle a mistake in teaching?

Condemn them publicly as a heretic? Confront them privately? Condemn them in your mind - behind their back? Go to the pastor and tell him? Suggest the proper answer as a possibility?

Depending on the situation, I would suggest that you bring up a possible correct interpretation, if that is rejected soundly, go to the pastor and discuss it and let him make the next move.

We all make mistakes and a teacher is not above one now and then as well. The mistake is not a problem, the not making the correction is the real problem. Without admonition and correction there would seem to be pride.

This is a good text to show that we should beware of any man’s teaching. Since all can make mistakes, all should be suspect. That is why the Bereans were commended for their searching of the Word daily to check up on the preaching they were getting.

James goes on to state that if one does not stumble by his use of words, then he is a perfect man.

I rather think that this was hyperbole - exaggeration to make a point. No man can go through life without making a mistake in word, and no man is perfect. I rather think that this is exactly the point James was making to his readers.

Verse 3

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

Two illustrations to show the power of the tongue. The bit in the horse’s mouth. Similar to mom taking the child’s ear between her finger and thumb. With such a little member the whole body is controlled.

The ship also by the rudder is controlled. The word helm today is the wheel with which the ship is steered, but the Greek term used relates to the rudder or possibly the oar that actually steers the ship in the water.

I was on an aircraft carrier when it was in a dry dock for maintenance. The props on the ship were huge. There were four of them. The hole in the center where the props attached to the shaft were at least big enough to accommodate a man laying spread eagle, and probably room to spare. These props were large but the rudder was not as big and only one in number. It does not take a lot to turn a ship, nor does it take much to turn the human - a tongue will do a great job of it.

The smallness of the tongue has a drastic result when used. There are other illustrations that give us the thought here. The key to a car is a small member, but key to the running of the car if you don’t mind the pun. A small cutting word can control a relationship or a church.

In many churches you have to weigh every word that you use because if you cross someone it will become a divisive war. I suspect that this is partly due to the stress blown society that we live in but is also indicative of our skin deep love for one another.

The key to the tongue is Romans 6:12-13 "Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. 13 Neither yield ye your members [as] instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members [as] instruments of righteousness unto God."

Verse 5

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

This is only part of the story about the tongue, but I think we will cut the section in half and consider smaller sections for our study.

Sufficeth to say that the tongue is described thusly by James.

Little member

Boasteth great things

Is a fire

Is a world of iniquity

Defileth the whole body

Setteth on fire the course of nature

It’s set on fire of hell

Can no man tame

An unruly evil

Full of deadly poison

Bless God with it

Curse men

Not a nice cut of meat if you were going to purchase one.

Verse 6

Mr. D’s Notes on James

James 3:6-13

We have discussed the tongue and now we get some more on the same subject. James knows the tongue and knows that a lick and a promise won’t do, that we need to really deal with this little member.

Many a reputation has been ruined, many a person crushed, and many a church has split with only a small tongue out of control.

Just an example or two of a man with a sharp tongue. When registering for my senior classes, I wanted to take Chemistry. The principle told me, "Stan, you are too dumb to take chemistry, you wouldn’t make it." The same man told a friend that the only way he would be worth anything is if he were to be sent to the state reform school.

Both of us were hurt to the quick. I signed up for Drivers Ed. and extra shop classes. Neither of us were star students, but his comments were off base.

It was of great interest late in life to talk with this friend and find out that both of us held Doctorate degrees, and in fact he had three and had published several books. The tongue can hurt, but not always overcome. However, just because good came from bad in these two cases, does not excuse the miserable use of the principal’s tongue.

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.

Wish James could make up his mind as to whether the tongue is good or bad - wow; could he not get a little more explicit? What a blast from the past we have been subjected too.

Some points about the tongue:

a. It "is a fire." When I was a child, we often spent Sunday with my grandmother in a little town fourteen miles west of our hometown. One Sunday night we were traveling home on the old highway, a graveled road that in years past had been the main route between the towns, and not far out of my grandmothers town we noticed a bright glow in the sky. My folks were quite concerned about what it was. As we drove along the glow became larger and larger. As we neared town it looked as though they entire town was ablaze, when in reality only about a square block in the downtown section was on fire.

The fire was seen for miles around as the fire of the tongue can be known for miles and miles. Often gossip transcends miles and becomes universal knowledge. A school I was associated with had some problems and the day after I heard of the problems, I received a phone call from a publisher in the East, several states away asking what in the world was going on. News travels fast when it is bad.

b. It is a "world of iniquity" and if you don’t have personal knowledge of this you probably will before too long in your life. "Iniquity" relates to unrighteousness or injustice. The tongue can be both, quite easily. It is sin the way some use their tongues and often it leads to injustice.

The venom we see in the media these days is not only unjust but is also sinful. The media reports anything anyone wants to say without a word of opposition or hearing of the other side. There is no accountability and the politicians know that, so say what they will whether it has any basis in fact or not. They know there will be no reckoning, they know that no one really cares if they speak lies, and they have no reason not to make political gain at the expense of someone else.

It is among our members, is kind of like that phrase, "Who me?" "That sort of thing isn’t among my inventory of tools to relate to the outside world!" Oh, yes, it is, we all have one and James is not selective in how he speaks to its presence in our body for use by our mind.

That is the real key - the tongue can do nothing without the express permission of the mind. That sets the responsibility squarely upon the individual and how that person uses his/her tongue.

c. It can "defileth the body" and indeed it often does. Oh, the big mess that the tongue can get us into if we do not carefully use it. The term "defileth" means to "spot," or, deminish the quality of, might be a good suggestion. The improper use of the tongue can spot the body; it can detract from the body.

I was sitting at a stop light recently and looked over at a realllllly neat red sports car convertible, and sitting in that car was a beautiful blonde --- picking her nose and eating the result thereof. Now, that was a beautiful woman, a great looking finger, I would guess, and really, that finger ruined the entire image that was before me - and I am sure my wife was well pleased.

The tongue that swears detracts from the whole, in a massive way. The tongue that gossips ruins the demeanor of any man or woman. You might have the perfect look, the perfect intellect and the perfect moral character, but that tongue, when used improperly can ruin any image that anyone has of you.

d. It can set "on fire the course of nature." The media can swing the attention of the public almost any way that it wishes, just by the content of their news. They can turn a word, a phrase, an action into something terrible with the spin of a newscast.

John Dean found this out the hard way. His outburst at a youth get together was inappropriate, in most people’s minds, but it was not set into its proper context for some time and the public saw him as a raving lunatic. I have no use for the man’s position or beliefs, but he was incinerated by that one little lack of context which didn’t show up in my news for a day or two. To this day I would guess that scene of him hollering and raving is the only thing that comes to mind when they hear his name. (Not that his actions since with his tongue haven’t shown him to be a poor choice for president of our nation. Democrats and Republicans alike have distanced themselves from his rhetoric at times.)

If you live anywhere near forests, you know that a spark can result in acres and acres of good forest land burning. If you have seen these fires, you know the terribleness of the fires and the way they consume everything in their path - man is hard pressed to control those big fires.

e. It "is set on fire of hell" gives us clear evidence of the true nature of the tongue if we haven’t understood this before.

"Fire" is the same word that Christ used for hell in the Gospels. It was the Jerusalem city dump where all the trash and dead animals were cast and burned. The fire is said to have burned twenty-four seven and depicted well to the Lord’s Jewish listeners, what he was talking about when He spoke of eternal torment.

This is the hell of the Devil, the eternal resting place of Satan and his co-workers. Revelation 20:10 "And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet [are], and shall be tormented day and night forever and ever."

This word is a word that is used exclusively in the synoptic gospels. This is the only occurrence of the word outside of Matthew, Mark and Luke. I personally see this as another indication of the early date of the book. James must have known the word with great clarity and wanted to bring to the readers mind that same image that the Lord often used to describe eternal punishment.

John makes it clear that the Devil is the source of the lie in chapter eight verse forty-four "Ye are of [your] father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it."

If you tell a lie, you know who is happy and who is not.

Verses 6-12


1. I think that many of us, if we are any judge of human nature at all, can tell when someone’s smile and sweet words are a front for trouble headed our way. With that in mind, why would someone knowingly do that to a person that knows what they are doing? You look like a total fool, you are taking your own self respect and grinding it under your feet, and you are showing yourself to be petty, puny and pitiful.

Why in the world do people spew forth syrup while plotting trouble and deception? Guess they seek to look like a total fool.

2. Gill mentions of the tongue, ""when Adam sinned, God laid hold on him, and slit his tongue into two parts, and said unto him, the wickedness which is, or shall be in the world, thou hast begun with an evil tongue; wherefore I will make all that come into the world know that thy tongue is the cause of all this."" I was not sure where this quote came from, possibly the Talmud that was mentioned later in the context, but he gave assent to the idea by quoting it in his work.

Let us consider the validity of the statement. This is from a much respected old time theologian. Yet, is this statement based in truth, is it based in the Word of God? Let us consider.

a. Is it Biblical? I know of no verse that would suggest that Adam’s tongue was split into two parts. I know of no verse that tells us that it was Adam’s tongue that caused the problem of sin for him or for the world. I know of no verse that states that it was Adam’s tongue that caused evil in the world. On the correct hand, it was his action that caused sin - it was the eating, not the tasting of the fruit that was the problem.

b. Is it truthful? I don’t know of any reason to believe that it is truth.

I wonder if the original quote spoke of Satan rather than Adam, and Gill just didn’t notice. Don’t know.

At the least Gill should have been more careful to footnote his quotes, but at most he seemed to agree with the comment. Moral of the story, consider all you read, and match it up with Scripture, if it is wanting, reject it.

3. Proverbs 26:20-28 has a great message for us today! "Where no wood is, [there] the fire goeth out: so where [there is] no talebearer, the strife ceaseth. 21 [As] coals [are] to burning coals, and wood to fire; so [is] a contentious man to kindle strife. 22 The words of a talebearer [are] as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly. 23 Burning lips and a wicked heart [are like] a potsherd covered with silver dross. 24 He that hateth dissembleth with his lips, and layeth up deceit within him; 25 When he speaketh fair, believe him not: for [there are] seven abominations in his heart. 26 [Whose] hatred is covered by deceit, his wickedness shall be shewed before the [whole] congregation. 27 Whoso diggeth a pit shall fall therein: and he that rolleth a stone, it will return upon him. 28 A lying tongue hateth [those that are] afflicted by it; and a flattering mouth worketh ruin."

I think the passage is clear enough on its own.

4. Just yesterday I read on a forum that a pastor had been confronted in a church assembly by people that were upset with him for some reason. The man’s wife and children were present and the language became quite ugly, even to name calling from the congregation. If the pastor’s children were present, I assume other children were present as well.

a. Consider the effect this will have on all those children as they mature. Will they ever see cross words, or even name calling as wrong action as a believer? When they have had this example, I would doubt it.

b. Consider the effect on the wife. How can anyone expect her to ever want to support her husband going into another ministry? She may, but I wouldn’t blame her if she didn’t.

Those same tongues that asked God for the man of His choosing when calling the man were using those same tongues to lash the man God sent to them.

I do not know who was right and who was wrong, indeed the pastor may be a lemon, but the use of the tongue in this manner is definitely wrong.

c. Consider the effect on the pastor. How open and honest do you think he will be able to be with a new congregation when they start asking him questions?

When the church has problems, it seems that the tongue is always out of control in one way or another and James says, "these things ought not so to be."

Now, I won’t even claim to have a proper handle on my emotions/tongue when someone is attacking me, but I must admit one time I was in full control of my emotions and faculties. When pioneering a work years ago, we were meeting in our home. It was the first house we had ever lived in as a family where we had the run of the entire house.

We loved that old place and were so very thankful for what God had provided for His work and our living accommodations.

The church group was on the verge of outgrowing our large living room that we cleared of furniture and set up folding chairs in each Sunday. I had been pursuing a number of options and felt that the best option would be for our family to buy a house we had been checking into and making the basement into a meeting place and we would gain a building for the church at no cost. Our plan would then be to sell the house to the church when we moved on, for the church to use as a church building or as a parsonage.

I presented this idea to the congregation at a meeting, thinking that there would be some discussion and decision one way or another. I thought this was a great plan for the church, but it would not bother me if they rejected the idea.

I finished presenting about half of the idea when one of the men of the church literally, verbally attacked me. He accused me of many many things which were not true. One of which was that the house we (the family) were renting (and paying the rent on) was not good enough for me and that I was forcing the church to spend money (which was not true, we were going to make the payments) so I could live in a nicer house.

My children were looking at their dad wondering what was going on, then looking at my wife quietly on the front row with tears streaming down her cheeks. Me? I was having a terrible time holding in a side-splitting belly laugh. This situation was so ridiculous that it was terribly laughable, yet this man, his family and others in the church were so serious about their total ignorance of the situation and verbalizing it via their wagging tongues. Their self righteous "assumings" about my character and motivation were so off base and they had no idea.

I closed the meeting, cleared the house and had a great laugh and soon resigned. I’m not sure my wife ever saw the humor of the situation, and I can’t say as this was my usual reaction to a tongue-lashing but it worked out for the better. They did not view me as a shepherd but as an adversary, and there is no way that I could minister to them in that situation.

Spirit controlled tongues can benefit so many in the church situation, and self-controlled tongues can cause so much hurt and discord in the church situation. Please, allow God control of this area of your life, it is so important to you, your family and your church.

5. Christ spoke well to this topic in Mark seven. Mark 7:14 And when he had called all the people unto him, he said unto them, Hearken unto me every one of you, and understand: 15 There is nothing from without a man, that entering into him can defile him: but the things which come out of him, those are they that defile the man. 16 If any man have ears to hear, let him hear."

Wow, what a condemnation of our mind and tongue from the Lord, yet Christians still spew forth venom at every turn. Some of the foulest language I’ve heard in break rooms over the years was spoken by "believers" that wanted to fit in, I suppose. Not that they did, they usually seemed to stick out like the proverbial sour thumb.

6. There is a reverse side to the tongue issue. When the tongue is unloosed on you personally how do you react? Do you unbridle your own and blast them out of the water? That is certainly the natural reaction, but it is not the Biblical reaction. Matthew 18:21-22 speaks of forgiving seventy times seven times. Personal opinion, that totals four hundred and ninety, a number that represents completeness of God’s program in Daniel.

When someone gives you a tongue lashing, before you react, engage your thought processes and allow the Spirit to have opportunity to control your reaction, you will be much more pleased with the results.

7. We have focused on the deliberate misuse of the tongue, but there may be an inappropriate use of the tongue that we don’t recognize as a true misuse. When you make a thoughtless remark to a person or don’t think before you speak. These things can hurt just as bad as the well thought out cutting remarks.

We had ministered in a small church a few years earlier and had been back a couple of Sundays to see how the church was doing. The curious part of the people in this church was the fact that between our ministering there and our return visit, the only time we had heard from anyone in the church was when they wanted something from us. They called now and then to ask my wife to play the piano, they called several times when they had electronic equipment that needed repair, and that is all - no interest what so ever except when they wanted something.

After the two Sunday visits I was sitting in the living room when one of the men of the church showed up to "call" on us. About three minutes into the visit he mentioned that they sure could use my wife to play the piano and help in the Sunday school. (They had several people in the church capable but not willing to do the Sunday school job.

Needless to say I was hurt because I knew my wife would ask how the visit went (she was upstairs), but on the other hand I could hardly keep from breaking out in laughter at the man’s comments.

Be careful of your motivations and their outworking in the use of your tongue.

8. We might also consider the inconsistent use of the tongue. How about using it to proclaim a double standard? You know, the college that does not allow Rock and Roll music on campus because the beat is straight from heathen Africa and their music, yet allows their choir to cross the country singing Negro spirituals that seem to have the same beat.

Or how about the church that preaches against the movies because of the terrible content, and especially those terrible previews that might have "R" rated stuff in them, yet the church leaders and most of the congregation sit at home watching the three year old movies, with all the previews of "R" rated stuff as well as the terrible commercials.

May we use our tongues to be consistent as well as loving and nurturing?

Verse 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:

This is illustration that man can tame anything except his tongue. I could note that wives are not included here, but I won’t put myself in jeopardy. We can control the animal world as a whole, but cannot control such a small thing as our tongue. It doesn’t say much for man does it?

The term translated "every" is that word that means most - it is a generic "every" saying that all are controlled but not every single one. The Gospels use the term of John the Baptist when it says that "all Judea" went out to him. We know that not every single person went out.

As a result, not every single creature is controlled. For example a hungry tiger may or may not be controlled by man. A shark that is on a feeding frenzy may not be controlled by man, but most animals are controlled by man and his actions, even the tigers and sharks are now controlled fairly well now that we have guns, repellants and understanding of their habits.

If you think about this, you will note that man has a special relationship to the animals in nature. We have control over them. Can you imagine a world where we had no control over the animal, bird and fish worlds? That would be a rather scary thing. We would not have the freedoms that we have today, and they would probably be much more prevalent in number.

Verse 8

But the tongue can no man tame; [it is] an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.

I would submit that this is speaking of lost man specifically and to saved man in his unspiritual state. We can control our tongues if we are controlled by the Spirit, but look out if we aren’t under the Spirits control.

Two points further about the tongue:

a. The tongue is "an unruly evil" thing. "Unruly" is a term that means "unruly" or something that cannot be restrained. It is an evil that is not restrained - unleashed evil might be the idea. When you fail to control your tongue, you unleash evil upon those around you.

Christian, is that the way you want to be known? Certainly, this is not the way God wants us to be known.

b. The tongue is "full of deadly poison" thus avoid the uncontrolled tongue. "Full" is the idea of a person’s mind that is full of emotion. If you have ever lost a loved one, the first hours are full of thought for the loss, and little else enters your mind. This is the idea of full. The tongue is consumed with this poison. "Poison" is a word that is used of the poison of snakes, or can be used of rust. Something that contaminates the whole thing.

Years ago we were given a Chevy II station wagon. It was a great little car and served us well however when we received it there were little dimples of rust around the headlights on the top of the fender. I took the sander out and went to work. It wasn’t long before I had a hole the size of a fist on both front fenders. I finished cleaning the rust away and filled in the holes with epoxy and painted it.

The idea of "rust" and "poison" was quite visible within a few months. There was a little line of rust around the epoxy and fresh paint of a few months earlier. Within weeks there were holes showing up and not long after the epoxy fell out. So some further grinding and cleaning and filling and painting, and I am sure that epoxy fell out not long after we traded the car for another.

Rust contaminates and continues to grow in its contamination. So the tongue rusts the body of Christ. It doesn’t take but a small poisoned area to ruin an entire assembly if the rust is not completely eliminated. Had I cut back an inch or two into good metal, I am sure the problem would not have kept recurring. So, in the church if you see rust you need to do some serious damage control as soon as possible.

Often I have seen pastors on inter-net forums ask for advice about how to control problem situations that are beginning to show their face. Most pastors that have experienced the rust of the tongue tell them to immediately act and stop the problem before it grows. Others suggest a wait and see attitude, and these are those that have not seen the poison of the tongue in action.

Verse 9

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

James gives us a look into the foolishness of man in how they use their tongue. I am sure most of you have seen this sort of inconsistency in other believers. Some might even admit to it in themselves :-)

There is indication of the trinity in this passage. It states we bless God, "even the Father" which could be translated also the Father. We bless Christ or the Spirit, and "even" (or also) The Father.

Have you ever noticed that when people swear they usually defame Christ, but seldom do they defame the Father? I don’t know that I have ever heard anyone use the Spirit in swearing. Wander why they seem to have this division of acceptability. Possibly, they relate to Christ in His humanity and He is readily available to their thoughts and tongue.

We bless God yet curse men that are made in the image of God. One of the grand applications to the teaching of our being created in His image is that when we curse men, we are actually near to cursing God for we are quite similar in our created state.

We ought never to curse men, for they are created in His image. Not to speak of the fact that some men are God’s children as well.

Verse 10

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

"Blessing" is the term we gain eulogy from. It means speech, blessing, bounty, praise or fair. It is the giving of good words, not speaking with forked tongue as the old western movies put it. This is contrasted with the word for the opposite of blessing, that which is a curse. Two ends of the spectrum. The best and the worst of man’s mind can come forth by way of his tongue.

James has a simple statement - "these things ought not so to be."

Think about that the next time you lie - "these things ought not so to be."

Think about that the next time you degrade - "these things ought not so to be."

Think about that the next time you give false witness - "these things ought not so to be."

Think about that the next time you gossip - "these things ought not so to be."

Think about that the next time you ....... - "these things ought not so to be."

These things are wrong - all that should come from our tongue is good, uplifting, and blessed.

There is a man on one of the internet forums where I read a lot. He is a wise man, a reserved man, intelligent man - a real Christian from all appearances. Recently I found that he posts on another board. I went to that board out of curiosity and I found the same man that had none of the qualities that I knew him for. He was caustic, confrontive, nasty, and as pagan an acting man as you can find.

What a contrast between the two personas - the perfect illustration of James words and "these things ought not so to be." He would make good sweet and sour sauce.

Verse 11

Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet [water] and bitter?

To prove that "these things ought not so to be" James observes that a water source does not put out two types of water at the same time. It is impossible. It is against nature. It is not logical.

"Fountain" can mean a fisure or spring. When in my early years I went to a Bible camp in north-eastern Nebraska. It was rustic and built by a lake. The lake was fed by a natural spring in the side of the hill above the lake. The spring was on the way between the boys’ cabins and the dinning hall. It was our custom to stop and drink from that spring every time we passed by it. The water was clean, cool and so good. We always knew that when we stopped we would get clean, cool and good water. It never entered our mind that we might one day find the water dirty, warm and terrible. The later is impossibility for it is not in the nature of the spring to do so.

Gill mentions that Pliny wrote of "a lake with the Trogloditae, a people in Ethiopia, which becomes thrice a day bitter, and then as often sweet; but then it does not yield sweet water and bitter at the same time:"

James continues.

Verse 12

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

Just as a water source can give only one type of water, so a fig tree can only give one type of fruit and the olive vine only one type of fruit. It is against nature to expect anything else from a fig tree than a fig. What mentally delinquent person would look for an apple on a fig tree? Yet, we see blessing and cursing from the same tongue.

James 3:13

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.

OHHH, ouch. I can just feel the pain for politicians when they read this passage. It must cut to the quick and deeper if that is possible.

Those in the political realm can switch from the sweets and cream to the fire and ranker in the twist of a tongue. They can greet someone in the media with the velvet of quality chocolate and before their mouth closes begin to tear and mangle the opposition. James says, "these things ought not so to be."

Imagine that glorious day when the politician spoke sweetness of all men that he works with no matter they be Democrat or Republican. Ah, there are dreams but alas, little hope.

Verse 13

Mr. D’s Notes on James

James 3:13-18

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.

Show your wisdom meekly. Let others discover your wisdom instead of telling them about it.

There are some on internet boards that are all wise and are not humble about telling you so. They are usually always right and you are very definitely always wrong, no matter what.

One such person took a sarcastic remark of mine and twisted it into one of the most hateful paragraphs in history. The person twisted what I said to great lengths, and then when I corrected the mistake she had made, the person continued making application and innuendo from what she assumed I meant. I didn’t know what I said in the first place, and I didn’t know what I meant when I told the person they were incorrect. Thus, the person was right about me, that I was a person with a soul full of hate, and a few other choice comments. ALL based on what they had incorrectly assumed and in face of complete correction by the one originally speaking.

Now, that is wisdom, but it isn’t the wisdom James is talking about. One that is wise and has knowledge is to show works by their conversation or living, and use wisdom with meekness.

Verses 13-18


1. Barnes notes that the term translated "gentle" appears here only in the Bible. Constable makes the observation that the term is used in classical Greek of a horse that has been broken and that will submit to the bridle.

Interesting to me is the fact that he chose this particular word when he has just given the illustration of a bridle in relation to the tongue. Godly wisdom bridleth the tongue, might be a person’s observation.

This wisdom of God will allow you to know when to speak, how to speak and what to speak - that is a very good thing, I wish many Christians would realize this - ask for wisdom before they speak.

I recently saw a report on the culture in Japan that has shifted. Before World War II the Japanese held elders with very high regard, they were viewed as having great wisdom due to their age and life experience.

After the war the Japanese created a climate of dedication to the corporate home. All workers gave themselves whole to the corporation that supported them. This shift has left the younger generations feeling slighted and they see no reason to uphold the respect for elders that once was. This probably comes from the fact that the fathers and probably many mothers were not around to teach, to counsel, to guide the younger generation, thus they don’t know the parents have life experience, and they don’t know that there is wisdom tucked away in those grey heads.

America is not much different. Our fathers have sold out to the gaining of stuff - read that as committed to the corporation that gives the money that buys the stuff. The young see little reason to respect someone that is not there.

American teens have little respect for the aged - they are to be shoved aside. Back thirty years ago, I saw this mind-set in place. I was riding in a van with another man and a teenager. An older person was driving a little slow ahead of us and the teen, after a mile or so, exclaimed very loudly, "Get out of the way, why don’t they put him out of his misery so we can get going."

I reminded the teen that when he was old there would be a whole new generation with his thinking and voting and they might just vote in euthanasia.

Bingo, our state voted in assisted suicide a few years ago. We have heard government people voice the opinion that the older generation needs to get out of the way so the newer generation can move ahead - context being assisted suicide. Soon it won’t be assisted, but forced.

In fact news reports mention that people in a coma in Europe are euthanized daily. This ought not to be true in any form, yet man has found "wisdom" to say that this is the right and true thing to do.

2. Constable defines wisdom as seeing life from God’s perspective. I have mentioned that good wisdom is from God, so this might be a good definition. Take some time to consider his definition.

I have a brief study on wisdom as it is found in the Word on my website. I conclude with a listing of the main points. I will include this listing at the bottom of this file. It includes a little about the unwise as well.

3. Constable makes the observation that incorrect wisdom is actually worldliness. I had never thought of worldliness in that manner, but he is right on target. Worldliness usually is related to the material realm, but in fact it is the whole mind-set of the world, be it the material stuff, or the intellectual stuff - all comes from the world’s influence on us and the Devil’s control over the world.

The Pop singer Madonna calls herself the material girl - she is correct to a fault. Her life, her mind-set, her being is wrapped up in the world and all it has to offer. We shouldn’t be overly judgmental of her and her character, since many of us are in the same mind-set. We may not be outward with it as she is, but many Christian’s minds run in the same gutter and the same intellectual moral climate as she does.

The incidence of Christian men involved in pornography is staggering if you believe the reports circulated today. I have seen evidence on internet forums that would indicate these surveys and reports are accurate. Even to the extent that many pastors are tied up in pornography’s grip.

Christians, we are not pure, we are not Christ centered if our minds are drawn to the filth of the television. I find it hard to believe some of the shows that Christians admit to watching on a regular basis. I find the commercials for some of these programs vile.

I assume that these believers figure the rating system is for the nonbeliever because they seem to ignore it for themselves, and what is worse, their families.

4. In verses fourteen through sixteen there is a discussion on envy and strife. This is in between the fact that James is speaking of many teachers, and wisdom from above. There is a topic that relates to this that I have seen discussed often on the internet. The educated, versus the uneducated, the accredited degree people versus the nonaccredited degree people.

I was on a board recently where there were three different threads on similar subjects. One was on lay people that are uneducated and the educated thinking the former were dumb. Another spoke to the subject of whether a certain seminary was "up to the proper level" of education. The final one was discussing degrees from nonaccredited institutions versus the other end of the spectrum.

In all three the "educated, accredited degreed" were quite arrogant and condescending toward all but any on their own level. What an example of causing strife with the tongue and wisdom from the world. Wisdom from God would not hurt and demean people that are serving God in the manner in which He led them.

How dare snobs look down their noses at the education that God desired for the others. Yes, some may seek "degrees" for the improper reasons, but I’d venture a guess that most feel what they are doing or have done has resulted from direction from the Lord via prayer and the Word.

This sort of strife ought not to be a part of the Christian realm, yet it is common. The educated, in this case, were causing strife among the brethren. I must be honest and say I have seen the uneducated causing strife by looking up their noses at the educated and blaming them of the same thing - that they are just chasing degrees. Both are seemingly wrong and should confess their sin.

The key for those looked down upon is to ignore such ignorance and go on walking with God and keep their eyes off of man. An old Webster’s dictionary mentions of envy "Whoever envies another, confesses his superiority." That is quite true, so don’t.

The more important point is that each one of us is responsible for ONLY our own actions. If any, whether educated or uneducated does wrong, that person will give accounts to God and God alone.

Probably the more clear and present problem is that Christians are going to strangers on the internet for advice on something they should be clearing with God, not man.

5. Verse fourteen mentions envy. Envy has a couple of aspects. There is the thought of being uneasy or a feeling of inferiority in light of someone we perceive to be superior to us. There is also the aspect of feeling bad that we don’t have what other people have.

Now, to boil both of these down, we should find that it is a lack of being satisfied with what we have or are. If I am satisfied with what God has done in my life, and what He has given me, then there will be no envy when I see a rich man or someone that has talents that I do not.

My wife and I watch a real estate show now and then and we enjoy seeing all of the modern homes that are built and all of the goodies inside. We also love to see the space available in these homes. We have an eight hundred square foot home on two levels and are somewhat cramped, especially when we have visitors. We think about how nice it would be to have more room, you know, one of those homes that have more room in their living room/dinning area than we do in our entire house.

Then we think of the cost of furnishings, then of upkeep, then of cleaning it, then of heating it, then of lighting it and soon we are so very satisfied with our little eight hundred square footer that we can heat and cool for eighty dollars a month (Just had to change the eighty from a seventy that I had entered in a few months ago :-). There may be twangs of envy, until we consider what we have and what we don’t have and then become satisfied with what we do have and what we don’t have to heat, light, and maintain.

6. Verse sixteen brings up the subject of strife within the church. I have observed a strife, and division within the church as a whole in America. There are actually, in politics, the liberal and the right, I won’t comment on the various meanings of "right" but we all know that these two political areas exist. In the Bush/Kerry campaign we found that the liberal side found that they could say anything that they wanted to, truth or lie, and get away with it in the media. The media seldom called for proof or apology, just reported it as it was, and the public was left to find out on their own whether it was fact or fiction.

Very sadly, this rhetoric has been adapted by the liberal side of the church and they blast the right side of Christianity with their venom and rhetoric. I read a letter to the editor recently that accused the Christian right of about everything there was, then the author ended his comments with "My Jesus" is thus and so, depicting the namby pamby weakling we know that the liberal side of Christianity portrays. This is blatantly divisive and purposely causing strife within the church. It is bad enough in politics, but it is worse in the church. My Jesus is your Jesus in my Bible, but the liberal mind sees him in a very different way than the Bible seems to picture Him.

Within church congregations we seem to be seeing more and more strife and problems. People are causing division, they are causing unrest, and they are causing all sorts of envy and upset by their words and actions.

Even one person stirring up trouble will begin to find others that will partake in their beef with others. One person can split a church if given enough time.

The key to a peaceful church is to stop these little problems as soon as possible. Get in touch with church leadership if you know of someone starting to stir and see if things can’t be corrected before serious division becomes a real problem.

If someone comes to you complaining, or causing strife, stop them - ask them to not do that in your home. Encourage them to go to those that they complain about and settle things Biblically rather than by church split.

I read recently of a church where the pastor was coming up for a vote of confidence forced by the part of the church that thought he wasn’t doing a good job. He was in a whirl, trying to figure out what to do, whether to resign and beat them to the punch or stick it out and fight if need be.

As the vote came closer, he still hadn’t made up his mind, when one of the deacons came to him and confessed that his poor spirit had caused all the problems and asked forgiveness. The entire division of the church was caused by this one man and his constant stirring of strife. The vote did not come to pass when the congregation realized there really wasn’t a problem with the pastor.

The sad part is, the culprit in so many churches, has not found their error and many a pastor has been forced to leave God’s chosen place for them, and many churches have split due to the strife. If those individuals don’t find the sour side of their spiritual life, they will answer to the Lord face to face for it one day. I don’t think they will be envied in that day!

7. There may be reason, in our day, to suggest that some with Godly wisdom and are not using that wisdom in the battle for God. A radio talk show host in California has recently called for the mega church pastors to become more outspoken in the homosexual/marriage problems in the state. The problem is being seen country wide, but California state government is poised to okay such things and there seemingly is going to be no Christian outcry from the churches most visible leadership.

When God has given wisdom, He expects it to be used for His purposes, not for some pastor’s gain. If you are a wise person, then you ought to be sharing the benefit of that wisdom with others. There is no reason for you to have it if you aren’t going to use it.

There are a couple of reasons for the need to use wisdom. First, the good of the world at large can be changed by Godly wisdom. Secondly, the congregation is to be warned. The shepherd protects the sheep, yet in these large churches the people are wondering why there is no warning coming from their shepherd.

This is one of the drawbacks to big churches. They grow and grow and the budget grows as well and there is a pressure not to rock the financial boat lest people leave and the finances go under.

It is also one of the big drawbacks to the paid pastor. When the finances start to be a problem, the pastor’s salary becomes a problem so there is a pressure to raise the finances and keep the boat afloat for personal reasons. I am not saying all pastors allow these pressures to affect them, but some do and it is a problem.


Wisdom in a man is profitable to the man and God Job 22:2.

Wisdom is learned and should be sought Psalms 2:10.

Wisdom abandon is a mark of the unwise Psalms 36:3.

Wisdom is a hard worker in the harvest Proverbs 10:5.

Wisdom is favorable Proverbs 10:19.

Wisdom in a parent brings forth discipline Proverbs 17:2.

Wisdom avoids hell or any unpleasantness Proverbs 15:24.

Wisdom is a choice for and toward God Daniel 12:3.

Wisdom produces understanding Daniel 12:10.

Wisdom does right even when no one is looking 1 Samuel 18:5.

Wisdom is circumspect even when no one is watching 1 Samuel 18:14.

Wisdom has the respect of those without 1 Samuel 18:30.

Wisdom is examined by the lost Psalms 101:2.

Wisdom seeks to live a perfect life Psalms 101:2.

Wisdom in decision making will produce good Proverbs 16:20.

Wisdom considers the wicked Proverbs 21:12.

Wisdom is instructed Proverbs 1:3.

Wisdom is not solely for the believer Genesis 41:8.

Wisdom stands out among the crowd Genesis 41:33; Genesis 41:39.

Wisdom is discrete Genesis 41:33; Genesis 41:39.

Wisdom is not bribed Exodus 23:8.

Wisdom serves Exodus 28:3.

Wisdom gives to God willingly Exodus 35:25.

Wisdom desires the best for God Exodus 36:1.

Wisdom leads Deuteronomy 1:13.

Wisdom holds forth a good testimony Deuteronomy 4:6.

Wisdom is gender nonspecific - women can be wise as well as men Jud. 5:29.

Wisdom has been given to the angels 2 Samuel 14:20.

Wisdom knows its times Esther 1:13.

Wisdom surrounds itself with others which are wise Esther 6:13.

Wisdom utters wisdom Job 15:2.

Wisdom shares itself Job 15:18.

Wisdom may be scarce Job 17:10.

Wisdom listens to others Job 34:2; Job 34:34.

Wisdom can come to the simple Psalms 19:7.

Wisdom does not counter death Psalms 49:10.

Wisdom understands the loving-kindness of the Lord Psalms 49:10.

Wisdom will learn Proverbs 6:6; Proverbs 8:33.

Wisdom will receive glory Proverbs 3:35.

Wisdom keeps it quiet Proverbs 9:12.

Wisdom makes a father glad Proverbs 10:1; Proverbs 15:20.

Wisdom receives commandments Proverbs 10:8.

Wisdom lays up knowledge Proverbs 10:14.

Wisdom is a soul winner Proverbs 11:29-30.

Wisdom accepts counsel Proverbs 12:15.

Wisdom’s tongue is health Proverbs 12:18; Proverbs 14:3.

Wisdom listens to his father’s instructions Proverbs 13:1.

Wisdom leads to life Proverbs 13:14.

Wisdom rubs off on others Proverbs 13:20.

Wisdom buildeth the home well Proverbs 14:1.

Wisdom avoids evil 14:16.

Wisdom’s crown is its riches Proverbs 14:24.

Wisdom uses knowledge aright Proverbs 15:2.

Wisdom disperses knowledge Proverbs 15:7.

Wisdom is avoided by the scorner Proverbs 15:12.

Wisdom hears the reproof of life Proverbs 15:12.

Wisdom counters wrath Proverbs 16:14.

Wisdom is prudent Proverbs 16:21.

Wisdom educates its mouth Proverbs 16:23.

Wisdom accepts reproof Proverbs 17:10.

Wisdom holds its peace Proverbs 17:28.

Wisdom’s ear seeketh knowledge Proverbs 18:15.

Wisdom scatters the wicked Proverbs 20:26.

Wisdom is prepared Proverbs 21:20.

Wisdom is strong Proverbs 21:22.

Wisdom conquers over strength Proverbs 21:22.

Wisdom is listened to Proverbs 22:17.

Wisdom listens Proverbs 23:19.

Wisdom brings joy to its father Proverbs 23:24.

Wisdom brings war when necessary Proverbs 24:5.

Wisdom is not a respecter of persons Proverbs 24:23.

Wisdom reproves Proverbs 25:12.

Wisdom answers the fool Proverbs 26:4-5.

Wisdom has no conceit Proverbs 26:12.

Wisdom in the son is the father’s answer to reproach Proverbs 27:11.

Wisdom keepeth the law Proverbs 28:7.

Wisdom turneth away wrath Proverbs 29:8-9.

Wisdom contends with the fool Proverbs 29:8-9.

Wisdom keeps his mind Proverbs 29:11.

Wisdom is illustrated by insects Proverbs 30:2.

Wisdom strengthens Ecclesiastes 7:19.

Wisdom changes countenance Ecclesiastes 8:1.

Wisdom is discerning Ecclesiastes 8:5.

Wisdom may not be remembered Ecclesiastes 9:15.

Wisdom is heard Ecclesiastes 9:17.

Wisdom prods Ecclesiastes 12:11.

Wisdom builds on solid foundations Matthew 7:24.

Wisdom may not know all Matthew 11:25.

Wisdom bows to all costs Matthew 23:34.

Wisdom acts Matthew 24:45.

Wisdom recognizes value owed Romans 1:14.

Wisdom is not conceited Romans 12:16.


The unwise are wasteful and troublesome Psalms 94:8.

The unwise detract from the wise Proverbs 10:19.

The unwise rush to hell and unpleasantness Proverbs 15:24.

The unwise parent Proverbs 17:2.

The unwise reject God and His Daniel 12:3.

The unwise do not understand Daniel 12:10.

The unwise are less than trustworthy apart form authority 1 Samuel 18:5; 1 Samuel 18:14.

The unwise person’s decisions produce less than desired results Proverbs 16:20.

The unwise uttereth not knowledge Job 15:2.

The unwise do not become great Job 32:9.

The unwise can be deceived by drink Proverbs 20:1.

The unwise may be conceited Proverbs 28:11.

The unwise may be conceited Romans 11:25.


Those that think themselves wise will find that God scoffs at them Job 37:24.

Those that think themselves wise seem to be doing evil Proverbs 3:7.

Those that think themselves wise are fools Romans 1:22.


It is sought at times Exodus 7:11.

It may not be real wisdom Job 5:13.

It is desired, and possibly faked Job 11:12.


Wisdom is often misunderstood and ignored Job 34:35.

Verse 14

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

"Envying" is a word that is also translated "zeal" in the New Testament. It is that drive of the zealous person to do the very best that they can in their effort to please God. Zeal often gets a bad name in Christian circles and this is definitely wrong.

Zeal is a good thing and more Christians should be zealous. This is one of the great faults of Christianity in America. Few are zealous about their Christian living.

In this context, it is used in a most negative way to describe the incorrect strivings of your life - for things, for power, for glory, for position etc.

"Strife" could be depicted very easily by taking short clips of the Bush/Kerry presidential campaign. It is the strife or conflict of campaigning. The word relates to putting one’s self forward for a position and doing most anything to gain that position.

If you have envy, if you have strife in your heart, you are admonished to take no glory and not lie. People that envy and have conflict in their mind/heart often set themselves to glory at any cost to truth.

Verse 15

This wisdom descendeth not from above, but [is] earthly, sensual, devilish.

The reader is instructed to realize that envy and strife are not from God, but that it is from the world, the senses and the Devil. It is not Christian by any masking of reality.

When a church is having problems, you can almost taste the evil that is surrounding the problem. It is not something Christian, it is not something that is "almost right" it is something evil and worldly, not spiritual and Christian.

Church trouble is not caused in the open. It is caused behind closed doors. Trouble is hatched in the inner most mind of one that is not walking with God. Trouble is spread in secret, not openly around those that it would poison. Often this trouble is based on the sensual, the breathing of words, and the moving of information from one to another. Gossip spreads like the dog flu that we heard about in the year 2005. The new strain of flu that affected dogs was spread naturally because dogs always lick and breath, nose to nose in their greetings. Gossip is the same, when you get two noses together you have transfer of all that is bad.

Verse 16

For where envying and strife [is], there [is] confusion and every evil work.

What a description of church trouble. Confusion and every evil work. To get what they want those causing trouble, will cause confusion and will use any reason/tactic to gain what they want. Often, when there are problems, they all can be traced to one person that is using every tactic that they can muster to accomplish their purpose.

"Confusion" is just that, confusion, or turmoil or instability or state of disorder. Having been in situations where someone was causing this sort of strife, I can attest to the instability that it causes. It becomes the focus of all that you do. You want to be on your guard not to say anything that would cause more trouble; you walk on eggshells, not knowing what side the person you are talking to is on.

There is little focus on anything good. You are focused on the problem. Your prayer life tends to be focused on the problem, and sadly your family and personal life are often focused on the problem to the detriment of your work and your family.

Paul calls this carnality. 1 Corinthians 3:3 "For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?"

When you see envy and strife in this list, you might give second thought to being involved in it. Galatians 5:20 "Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, 21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God." (Strife is the same Greek word, while envy is a different word for envy.)

At this point the reader should be fully aware that it is their responsibility to turn away from anyone showing these characteristics. They are not Christian, they are not Godly and they are not appropriate. Turning away will give clear signal that you are not interested in ungodliness and it may cause the perpetrator to rethink their incorrect activity and thought life.

Verse 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.

One of the conclusions I came to in my study in wisdom was that real wisdom comes from God, but that assumed and flaunted wisdom is from self. Beyond all that this distinction makes is seen in the list that James sets forth here.

Wisdom from God is:

"Pure" James says "first pure," not that pure is the first in the list, even if it is, but that most importantly it is pure. Or, truly it is pure. The word speaks of moral purity, being immaculate, or something that excites reverence. Without blemish, might be a good line of thought.

When you speak forth out of your wisdom is it as pure as the driven snow, or is there something not quite so pure about what you say?

"Peaceable" would relate to being undisturbed by trifles or free from agitation. It relates to being undisturbed by trifles. I didn’t watch much of the Supreme Court Chief Justice confirmation hearings but I was impressed with Judge Roberts as he listed to the questions of the lunatics on the committee and made good answer in spit of their total lack of wisdom. He was not swayed or upset or disturbed with the little stuff, because he knew what the result was going to be. He concentrated on the majors and allowed the minors or trifles to blow on by.

This peace among men comes from our peace with God. If the up and down relationship is correct then the horizontal relationships will also be correct.

Of course the committee was irritate that they couldn’t upset the man, they goaded him, they shot barbs at him, were very rude and cantankerous with him, but he made his point - let’s deal with the big, correct issues not this petty stuff you are toying around with.

"Gentle" is, according to the lexicon, related to being patient, to moderation, to being suitable or equitable and fair. Someone suggested that it might mean to allow for the limitations of others, being patient with those that are less able to.

Yesterday I was entering an intersection on a green light when a woman made a left hand turn in front of me. I was very "gentle" with her; I just called her dingbat, rather than some of those other words that she so richly deserved. I was allowing for her limitations, which was her limited ability to drive, as well as her limited mental capacity. That was sarcasm; don’t take me too literally :-)

"Easy to be entreated" indicates that the person is open to reason, open to be talked to, open to possible change. It has the idea of compliant.

Now, that has a wide set of ramifications in the church today. Complaint takes on a whole different character if your pastor is a dictator. YOU WILL BE COMPLIANT probably isn’t the thought of James, it would be more the thought of when someone comes to you with a problem, you are open to listen and work out the solution. Compliant would carry with it the idea of compliant with what is right. You don’t want to comply or become part of error.

"Full of mercy" Full means full, or topped off - it is used of a person full of thought toward good or bad. "Mercy" is a desire for kindness toward another with the desire to extend that kindness. When the big storm hit New Orleans great mercy was shown by the public toward the survivors. They opened their cupboards, they opened their pocket books and they even opened their homes to the plight of the people. The desired to help and they took action on that desire.

"Full of good fruits" is simply a person that fills their time doing good. "Fruit" relates to the fruit you eat, fruit of the field or fruit of your physical being, your children. The joy of doing good, should be evident the first time that one does a good thing. The joy of doing is a great reward. When traveling I would often stop to give assistance to people having car trouble.

What a joy to help them get themselves out of a terrible situation. One night late we stopped and a man was stranded. He had no flashlight nor tools with him and we were in a deserted part of the freeway. We towed him down off the interstate and took a look at the car. His battery terminals were in need of attention and within a few minutes he was up and running. I gave him a tract as I left.

As we drove off the man was in his car reading the tract by the light of the dome light. What a feeling of accomplishment and a real feeling that I existed for a purpose that night.

I am afraid, I don’t stop any more due to the danger, well now and then I do if it looks like it is safe. I changed this custom one day when I stopped to help two fellows. One had a big wrench in his hand but they didn’t know what was wrong with the car. I wondered to my self, so why does he think it will take that big a wrench to fix it when he doesn’t know what is wrong. I stuck my head under the hood and could see him moving around behind me, so I casually moved around to the front of the car and when he moved around behind me again, I moved to the side and headed for my car wishing them good luck. I really didn’t want my head to become an extension to that wrench.

"Without partiality" relates to being fair, no matter who the person is, be they black or white, Jew or Gentile, rich or poor. Treat all the same way. In the above illustration of our helping travelers, we stopped to assist families, old clunker cars, and nice new cars, anyone that was in trouble. The joy of those we helped was the same, and the joy we received was the same - all are equal, and all should be treated equally.

"Without hypocrisy." Absolute honesty with yourself as well as with others. The church is to be a place of openness and honesty among its people but I find all too often that there are secrets, lies and half truths within believer’s relationships with others.

I find that boards are not totally honest with the people, pastors are not necessarily honest with their people, and I rather doubt that the congregation is all that honest toward the leadership either.

How do we think we can function when we treat one another with so little respect? We have no trust, we have no respect and we have little honest communication. That makes for a rather stunted church.

And so, with this long list of advantages to Godly wisdom why don’t we relate to James 1:5 more often? "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all [men] liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him."

It seems to me that if we were wise Paul’s exhortation to the Ephesians would be our gain. Ephesians 4:29-32 "Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. 30 And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: 32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you."

Verse 18

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

If you are a peacemaker, you sow peace and the fruit of peace is righteousness. The reverse of this is also true, if you are the center of discord, you sow uneasiness and the fruit will be unrighteousness.

The Israeli/Palestinian conflict in 2005 saw the Jewish people extend olive branches to their enemies. They desired a peace that was acceptable to both parties. They withdrew many of the Israeli settlers from occupied territories as a gesture of peace. This was certainly the right thing to do. However, on the Palestinian side we saw the disrupters, the trouble makers that would take this gesture of peace and twist it into something ugly for their own gain.

Constantly, as in this passage, we see good and evil compared - with the obvious "good" of good, why would anyone choose the "evil" of evil? Because their nature is evil, might be the answer.

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Copyright 2008. Used by Permission. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording or otherwise without the prior permission of the author, except as provided by U.S.A. copyright laws. Do feel free to make copies for friends that might be interested as long as you do not make profit from the copies. This is God's work and I don't want anyone to profit from it in a material way.
Bibliographical Information
Derickson, Stanley. "Commentary on James 3". "Derickson's Notes on Selected Books".