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The Control of the Tongue
Summary —Aspiring to Teachership. The Power of the Tongue. Its Untamable Nature. Its Contradictory Uses. Wisdom Shown in Its Proper Control. The Wisdom from Above Described.
1, 2. Be not many masters. Do not many of you seek to be teachers. The office of public teaching in the church is meant. Shall receive the greater condemnation. Those who profess to teach others will be judged more strictly than those of humbler professions. Of those who have much, much is required. See Matt. 7:1. A lesson is to be given on the tongue. He who teaches will be held strictly to account for the manner in which he uses it. 2. For in many things. All are liable to stumble and make mistakes. These can hardly be excused in the teacher. Same is a perfect man. He who controls his tongue gives proof of his ability to maintain entire self control.
3–5. We put bits. The word bridle (verse 2) suggests a figure. The bridle bit controls the whole horse. 4. Behold also the ships. These are controlled by so small a thing as the helm. Governor. Helmsman. James abounds in the sea figures. See 1:6. 5. So the tongue. Though so small it can control the body like a bridle, or the helm of a ship. It is a power. Boasteth great things. Claims great powers. How great a matter … fire. As a spark may burn a house, a little thing like the tongue may stir up great trouble.
6–8. The tongue is a fire. It will kindle up anger. A word often causes a war. A world of iniquity. It can stir up a world of sinfulness. The tongue moves man and he makes the world a world of sin. It defileth the whole body. Leads all the body into sin. Setteth on fire the course of nature. Literally, “wheel of nature.” The idea is probably “putteth nature in a blaze,” referring to the wars and commotions due to its influence. Set on fire of hell. It is often inspired by hell itself. A bad tongue is the organ of the devil. 7. Every kind of beasts. “Every nature of beasts,” literally. Four orders are named: beasts, or quadrupeds, birds, reptiles, in the Greek “creeping things,” and fishes, or “things in the sea.” All of these have been subjected and controlled. 8. But the tongue can no man tame. Man has never tamed this organ as a whole. Some may have ruled their own, but the organ itself still does its evil work in the world. It is an unruly evil. Not only an evil, but unruly. Generally used. Full of deadly poison. Often charged with malice, envy, anger, slander, etc.
9–12. Therewith bless we God. Its opposite uses are shown. We use it to pray and to bless God, and, sometimes, the same tongue will be used to curse his creatures. James rebuked evils that he had observed. 10. Out of the same mouth. These utterly inconsistent things come out of the same mouth. 11. Doth a fountain. In nature such incongruity is not shown. A fountain does not give out two kinds of waters. 12. Can the fig tree. Neither does a tree bear two opposite kinds of fruits. Nor should the mouth bear blessing and cursing, good and evil.
13–16. Who is a wise man? Discreet and well informed? It must be shown in conversation, that is, in life, both words and deeds, meekness of wisdom. True wisdom will not speak boastfully. 14. Glory not. If there is bitterness in the heart, let there be no boasting of your goodness. That would be to lie against the truth. 15. This wisdom. Wisdom (not real wisdom but false) which gives rise to envy and strife is not from heaven. It is earthly, of the passions, of the devil, not of God. 16. For where, etc. Where these exist in the heart every evil work will follow.
17, 18. But the wisdom that is from above. The divine wisdom imparted by communion with God is put in contrast with the false, sensual wisdom named in verse 15. It is first pure. The other is sensual; this is pure. Then peaceable. The other is full of strife, this seeks for peace. Gentle. Not too rigid and exacting. Easy to be entreated. Not obstinate, but capable of persuasion. Full of mercy. Not unforgiving and unkind. Good fruits. The other shows evil works; heavenly wisdom is full of good fruits. Without partiality. Not a respecter of persons. Without hypocrisy. Sincere. 18. The fruit of righteousness. This wisdom not only bears righteousness as a fruit but sows this fruit as seed to produce peace. Them that make peace. These sowers are peacemakers. See Matt. 5:9. Sowing righteousness makes peace, because wrong is the fruitful mother of strife.
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