The next topic James addresses is speech. What and how we speak is important. James teaches us God’s standard for speech. Jesus is our example.
My translation and notes on James 3:1-6
James Chapter 3
Teachers Judged More Strictly
1 My brothers, not many of youp should become teachers, because we know that we will receive stricter judgment,
[Being a teacher of Christian doctrine, worldview, lifestyle, and the Law of Christ, brings greater responsibility. Greater responsibility brings greater accountability to the Lord/Head of the congregation—Jesus Christ. Studying theology has its merits, but to be a correct Bible teacher is by spending time reading, studying, and thinking about Scriptures. The Psalmist writes: Psalm 119:97-100 CEV I deeply love your Law! I think about it all day. 98 Your laws never leave my mind, and they make me much wiser than my enemies. 99 Thinking about your teachings gives me better understanding than my teachers, 100 and obeying your laws makes me wiser than those who have lived a long time. Also, see 1 Timothy 1:7.
We must teach truth. We must know that what God says is true in its plain, normal sense. If it is a quote, then it is accurate. If an allegory, it will be obviously so. Prophecy must be interpreted in its plain, normal sense, too.].
2 For all of us often make mistakes. If anyone doesn’t make a mistake in what he says [literally speech], he [is] a matured man also [able] to control the whole body.
[Self-control is a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:23). As such, the Holy Spirit teaches and brings situations in the life of the believer for practice and strengthening. Compare 1 Corinthians 11:31-32, Proverbs 29:11, Romans 12:1-2. Some verses on self-control in various senses: Proverbs 25:28, Proverbs 24:29, 2 Timothy 1:7, and Proverbs 12:18].
Small Tongue Causes Big Trouble
3 Observe, we put bits in the horse’s mouth to be guided by us and turn around their whole body.
4 Also look at the ships, even though so huge and driven by fierce winds, yet are steered with a very small rudder, wherever the pilot wishes,
5 And so the tongue is a little thing but can speak arrogantly. See how great a forest fire is kindled by a little fire!
[The human can control the horse and the ship but cannot control the tongue].
6 The tongue [is] a fire, a world of evil. So is the tongue among the members [of our body]. It defiles the whole body and sets the course of nature on fire. It is set on fire by Gehenna.
[The ‘tongue’ is used to describe our organ of speech, thus speech itself. It is what we say. Fire is used not as a purifying agent but a destructive agent. The tongue defiles the whole body because if one part is defiled the whole is also. This evil is not of God; it is of hell. The Greek word for ‘course’ is (G5154), which means wheel, and here it is used in the sense of repetition of one thing leads to another and then starts over again. The tongue causes a destructive influence on all our and other’s lives. The passage’s sense is—The tongue [is such] a fire, a world of evil. So is the tongue among the members of our body. It defiles the whole body and sets on fire the course of nature (causing a repetitious destructive influence on all our life). It is set on fire by Gehenna. Gehenna equals Tartarus. See note in 2 Peter 2:4. Evil speech—see Proverbs 16:27, Proverbs 12:13, Jeremiah 23:16-17, and 2 Timothy 4:3-4. Good speech—see. Testing what one says—see 1 John 4:1. A false prophet lies—Deuteronomy 13:1-14. A false prophet has a sinful lifestyle, usually in private—Jeremiah 23:9-40. A false prophet/teacher appeals to the people’s desires—Jeremiah 8:11 Also, see Isaiah 8:20 NLT Look to God’s instructions and teachings! People who contradict his word are completely in the dark].
Animals Can be Tamed Tongue Cannot
7 For every animal, bird, reptile, and sea creature is tamed or has been tamed by humans,
8 but the tongue no one can tame. [It is] an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.
9 With it we bless God, even the Father, and with the same we curse people, who are made according to God’s likeness.
10 Out of the same mouth comes blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things must not be so.
[The Greek word for ‘cursing’ is (G2671) κατάρα katara. It means execration, imprecation, curse, uttered out of malevolence (Vine’s). Verbal abuse is always evil. It hurts. It does not build up anyone’s faith (1 Thessalonians 5:11). See Proverbs 12:18, Matthew 5:21-22, and Ephesians 4:29].
11 Does a spring bubble up sweet and bitter [water] at the same place?
12 Can the fig tree, my brothers, bear olive berries or a vine, figs? Likewise, no spring can yield both salt and freshwater.
[What we say shows our heart (Matthew 15:19). By the ministry of the Holy Spirit, our hearts are taught and disciplined to godly speech. Our speech should be like this: Psalms 37:30 NLT The godly offer good counsel; they teach right from wrong. See Matthew 12:34-37 for instruction from Jesus about speech].