Confraternity Bible: New Testament and Supplemental Commentary

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JAMES - Chapter 3

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James 3

Supplemental Commentary:


3, 1-12:  Abuses of the Tongue.  The relation between the preceding and this section is seen in the grave dangers in false teaching and abuse of speech to faith and morals.  The Apostle warns his readers against undue eagerness to teach (cf. Matt. 12, 37; Rom. 2, 19 ff; 1 Cor. 12, 28; 14, 26-40; Eph. 4, 11).    1.  Not many teachers: i.e., let not many of you strive to become teachers, seeking the honor but with insufficient appreciation of the responsibility; this thought leads St. James to speak of the sins of the tongue.  The Greek text reads for the latter part of the verse "we shall receive the greater judgment," that is, a stricter judgment (Luke 12, 48).    6.  The very world of iniquity: the tongue resembles the wicked world in so far as it can inspire and cause all kinds of sin.  Course of our life: literally, "the wheel of our nativity" or "nature," that is, man's life from beginning to end.  Set on fire by hell: i.e., the source of its evil activity (Matt. 5, 22; Mark 9, 43).    7 f.  All kinds of animals can be tamed, but no human skill or industry can tame the tongue; for and the rest the Greek text reads "and sea creatures."    9 f.  St. James goes on to point out the evil and incompatible uses to which the tongue is put.    11 f.  The justice of this rebuke is illustrated by several examples taken from nature: the purposes of nature are clear, and what is true of the natural order, is true also of the moral order (cf.  Matt. 7, 16 ff).

3, 13-18:  True Wisdom.  After the digression of 3-12, regarding the vices of the tongue, St. James returns to the subject mentioned in the beginning of the chapter, namely, the inordinate desire of teaching.    13.  The qualities of a true teacher are knowledge, good example, and meekness.  True wisdom is at once practical and gentle.    14.  On the other hand, false wisdom is characterized by strife and party spirit.    15-17.  A further description of the qualities of earthly and heavenly wisdom.    18.  The effect of true and heavenly wisdom is peace; peace and righteousness go hand in hand.  The fruit of justice may mean justice itself reaped by the peacemaker, or the fruit which the seed of justice produces.

Confraternity Bible:

Abuses of the Tongue  1 Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that you will receive a greater judgment.  2 For in many things we all offend.  If anyone does not offend in word, he is a perfect man, able also to lead round by a bridle the whole body.  3 For if we put bits into horses' mouths that they may obey us, we control their whole body also.  4 Behold, even the ships, great as they are, and driven by boisterous winds, are steered by a small rudder wherever the touch of the steersman pleases.  5 So the tongue also is a little member, but it boasts mightily.  Behold, how small a fire---how great a forest it kindles!  6 And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity.  The tongue is placed among our members, defiling the whole body, and setting on fire the course of our life, being itself set on fire by hell.  7 For every kind of beast and bird, and of serpents and the rest, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind; 8 but the tongue no man can tame---a restless evil, full of deadly poison.  9 With it we bless God the Father; and with it we curse men, who have been made after the likeness of God.  10 Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing.  These things, my brethren, ought not to be so.  11 Does the fountain send forth sweet and bitter water from the same opening?  12 Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a vine figs?  So neither can salt water yield fresh water.

True Wisdom  13 Who is wise and instructed among you?  Let him by his good behavior show his work in the meekness of wisdom.  14 But if you have bitter jealousy and contentions in your hearts, do not glory and be liars against the truth.  15 This is not the wisdom that descends from above.  It is earthly, sensual, devilish.  16 For where there is envy and contentiousness, there is instability and every wicked deed.  17 But the wisdom that is from above is first of all chaste, then peaceable,  moderate, docile, in harmony with good things, full of mercy and good fruits, without judging, without dissimulation.  18 The fruit of justice is sown in peace by those who make peace.