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Chapter 3

Power of the Tongue.[a] Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you realize that we will be judged more strictly, for we all fall short in many respects. If anyone does not fall short in speech, he is a perfect man, able to bridle his whole body also.(A) If we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we also guide their whole bodies. It is the same with ships: even though they are so large and driven by fierce winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot’s inclination wishes. In the same way the tongue is a small member and yet has great pretensions.

Consider how small a fire can set a huge forest ablaze. The tongue is also a fire. It exists among our members as a world of malice, defiling the whole body and setting the entire course of our lives on fire, itself set on fire by Gehenna. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by the human species, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.(B) With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings who are made in the likeness of God. 10 From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. This need not be so, my brothers. 11 Does a spring gush forth from the same opening both pure and brackish water? 12 Can a fig tree, my brothers, produce olives, or a grapevine figs? Neither can salt water yield fresh.(C)

True Wisdom.[b] 13 Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show his works by a good life in the humility that comes from wisdom.(D) 14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. 15 Wisdom of this kind does not come down from above but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every foul practice. 17 But the wisdom from above is first of all pure, then peaceable, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without inconstancy or insincerity.(E) 18 And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace for those who cultivate peace.(F)

Footnotes

  1. 3:1–12 The use and abuse of the important role of teaching in the church (Jas 3:1) are here related to the good and bad use of the tongue (Jas 3:9–12), the instrument through which teaching was chiefly conveyed (see Sir 5:11–6:1; 28:12–26).
  2. 3:13–18 This discussion of true wisdom is related to the previous reflection on the role of the teacher as one who is in control of his speech. The qualities of the wise man endowed from above are detailed (Jas 3:17–18; cf. Gal 5:22–23), in contrast to the qualities of earthbound wisdom (Jas 3:14–16; cf. 2 Cor 12:20).

Taming the Tongue

Not many of you should become teachers,(A) my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged(B) more strictly.(C) We all stumble(D) in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say(E) is perfect,(F) able to keep their whole body in check.(G)

When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal.(H) Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts.(I) Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire,(J) a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body,(K) sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.(L)

All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.(M)

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness.(N) 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. 11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 12 My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs?(O) Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.

Two Kinds of Wisdom

13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it(P) by their good life, by deeds(Q) done in the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition(R) in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth.(S) 15 Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven(T) but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.(U) 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition,(V) there you find disorder and every evil practice.

17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven(W) is first of all pure; then peace-loving,(X) considerate, submissive, full of mercy(Y) and good fruit, impartial and sincere.(Z) 18 Peacemakers(AA) who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.(AB)

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