James calls us to speak with care, and to seek godly wisdom. Both controlled talk and cultivated thought are necessary. [UPDATED]
A great passage to read alongside this one is Sirach 28:12-26. Be very careful about what you say.
VERSE 1. Let not many of you be teachers, my brothers, knowing that we will receive heavier judgment.
VERSE 2. For we all stumble in many things. Anyone who doesn’t stumble in word is a perfect person, able to bridle the whole body also.
in many things we all stumble. Whether by sin, or by mistake, or by force of bad habit, we all have lots of ways in which we stumble.
doesn’t stumble in word. That is, “if we do not say things we regret.” That is a very common way to stumble, so much so that James talks about it for ten verses.
a perfect person. To not stumble by saying things we regret is to have arrived at human perfection.
able to bridle the whole body also. If you can control your tongue, you can control the rest of your body as well.
VERSE 3. Indeed, we put bits into the horses’ mouths so that they may obey us, and we guide their whole body.
VERSE 4. Behold, the ships also, though they are so big and are driven by fierce winds, are yet guided by a very small rudder, wherever the pilot desires.
Psalm 141:3. Set a watch, LORD, before my mouth. Keep the door of my lips.
Sirach 28:13. Curse the whisperer and double-tongued: For he has destroyed many that were at peace.
VERSE 5. So the tongue is also a little member, and boasts great things. See how a small fire can spread to a large forest!
VERSE 6. And the tongue is a fire. The world of iniquity among our members is the tongue, which defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature, and is set on fire by Gehenna.
VERSE 7. For every kind of animal, bird, creeping thing, and sea creature, is tamed, and has been tamed by mankind;
VERSE 8. but nobody can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
VERSE 9. With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men who are made in the image of God.
VERSE 10. Out of the same mouth comes blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.
VERSE 11. Does a spring send out from the same opening fresh and bitter water?
VERSE 12. Can a fig tree, my brothers, yield olives, or a vine figs? Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh water.
VERSE 13. Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by his good conduct that his deeds are done in gentleness of wisdom.
Who is wise and understanding? Some people see themeselves as wise. Or understanding. Or both. But are they really?
deeds are done in gentleness of wisdom. This is a litmus test to see if a person is wise or understanding. Are they gentle?
VERSE 14. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, don’t boast and don’t lie against the truth.
VERSE 15. This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, sensual, and demonic.
where jealousy and selfish ambition are. The Christian community is rife with people who exhibit jealousy and selfish ambition. These traits are common among Christian leaders.
confusion and every evil deed. Jealousy and selfish ambition take people to dangerous places.
They adapt a distorted view of what is right and what is wrong. They see things only in light of how they will benefit themselves. They are willing to do sinister deeds to other people in order to benefit themselves.
VERSE 17. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceful, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.
wisdom that is from above. A godly person lives a life that is very different from the person who is infested by jealousy and selfish ambition.
James says the following traits stand out in godly people:
pure. The Greek word is ἁγνή (“hagnē”). It means free from ceremonial defilement.
peaceful. The Greek word is εἰρηνική (“eirēnikē”). It means peaceable, disposed to peace.
gentle. The Greek word is ἐπιεικής (“epieikēs”). It means gentle, mild, forbearing, fair, reasonable.
reasonable. The Greek word is εὐπειθής (“eupeithēs”). It means compliant, ready to obey.
mercy. The Greek word is ἐλέους (“eleous”). It means pity, mercy, compassion.
fruits. The Greek word is καρπῶν (“karpōn”). It means fruit, deed, action, result, profit, gain
without partiality. The Greek word is ἀδιάκριτος (“adiakritos”). It means impartial, without uncertainty, unambiguous, undivided, whole-hearted.
without hypocrisy. The Greek word is ἀνυπόκριτος (“anypokritos”). It means sincere, unhypocritical, unfeigned.
VERSE 18. Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.
Unless otherwise noted, all Bible quotations on this page are from the World English Bible and the World Messianic Edition. These translations have no copyright restrictions. They are in the Public Domain.