How are death and life in the hands of the tongue? Yaakov/James expounds on the importance of controlling what it is that we say. The use of the tongue is what separates wisdom from foolishness.

James the Just - Chapter 3

by Matthew Nolan | James the Just

James the Just – Chapter 3

James 3:1 My Yisraelite brothers, not many should be teachers knowing that we shall receive a stronger mishpat.

‘didaskalos’ Est. 6:1 where the king ‘commanded’ the book of records to be read to him because he couldn’t sleep.

Yaakov is dealing with a problem of ungifted or untrained teachers.

The Greek literally reads, ‘do not press yourself into the role of teaching,’ i.e it has to be a calling!

The tongue is a deep-seated work – Yaakov mentions it in each chapter – for a total of nine times!

James 3:2 For in many things we offend all people. If any man offend not in speech, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body.
James 3:3 Behold, we put bits in the horses’ mouths, so that they may obey us; and we turn their whole body.
James 3:4 Behold also the ships, which though they be so great, and are driven by fierce winds, yet they are turned around with a very small rudder, in any way that the captain desires.

Silence is better than speech, hearing, not speaking, is the pathway to divine wisdom.

Proverbs 13:3 ‘The one who guards his mouth preserves his life, the one who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.’

Proverbs 15:4 ‘A soothing tongue is a tree of life, but perversion in it crushes the Ruach.’

Proverbs 18:21 ‘ Death and life are in the hands of the tongue, and those who live it will eat its fruit.’
What’s going on here? Does the tongue have a hand?

Several statements:

  • we all offend/stumble including teachers. Yaakov includes himself in this with the first
    person plural. Beware – stumbling arrests our progress!
  • offending/stumbling in word, the reference is to speech such as in teaching. Don’t be afraid to admit your mistakes. Don’t hold on to your dogma to save face! ‘Perfect’, not sinless, means having reached a goal of spiritual maturity. If we consistently don’t stumble in ‘word’ then we have attained a certain point of spiritual maturity!
  • he’s then able to bridle his whole body also, i.e the control of the tongue is the product of genuine faith. If faith can control the tongue it can control everything – THE KEY TO A bit is a small piece of metal placed in a horses mouth, the proper place of control. Put the bit somewhere else in the body and you have no control, its placement is key or else you gain no leverage over sin! Placed correctly you can master the whole body!

Sirach 28:24: ‘See that you fence up your property with thorns, lock up your silver and gold, make balances and scales for your words, and make a door and a bolt for your mouth.’

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James the Just – Chapter 3

How are death and life in the hands of the tongue? Yaakov/James expounds on the importance of controlling what it is that we say. The use of the tongue is what separates wisdom from foolishness.

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