Ch. 3 expands on thread of controlling the tongue (Jam. 1:19, 26). more a word to saints.
Nature’s Use of the Tongue (3:1-12)
v.1 Speaking Authoritatively Without Humility. Not against teaching in general, else contradict (1 Tim. 4:13-16), but setting self up as authority without humility + self-judgment. Jews prone (Rom. 2:17-21); applies to all. Humble speak less + listen more. Tongue reveals state (Luke 6:45; Prov. 30:32). speaking increases responsibility. Judgment here present, government of God (1 Pet. 1:16-17; 3:10-12). May also be future sense, judgment seat (Matt. 12:36).
v.2 Controlling the Tongue. General tendency in all to offend in speech (Prov. 10:19). Jokes, lies, gossip, slander, insults, curses. Tongue is hardest member to control, if managed, he’s arrived at Christian perfection (Col. 4:6).
vv.3-8 The Treachery and Volatility of the Tongue. Four illustrations show how difficult control of the tongue is to master. (1) A small bit can turn the massive body of a horse, make them obey command of human master. (2) A relatively small rudder can easily maneuver the course of a huge ship, even in a storm. Tongue used with relatively little effort to produce proportionately massive consequences, for good or evil. If tongue under control, the whole body too. (3) A small fire can lead to a huge forest catching fire, tremendous destruction. Quickly gets out of control, unstoppable. Be careful, huge potential for destruction. Relationships destroyed through the tongue. Still responsible for results of our speech (see Ex. 22:6). Tongue is “fire” just in itself, can lead whole body into sin, can stir every passion of man’s fallen nature, lead to every other evil. Real source is Satan, father of lies (John 8:44), he uses the tongues of men. (4) An animal that cannot be tamed. “Every species” to a greater or lesser degree. Tongue is a poisonous animal that cannot be tamed. Untrustworthiness and harmfulness of the tongue. Four pictures give composite description of the volatile tongue. Doesn’t say the tongue cannot be tamed, only “no one among men”. With God all things possible! Can be bridled (Jam. 1:26), but requires dependence and humility.
vv.9-12 The Moral Inconsistency of Misusing the Tongue. How morally inconsistent to use tongue for evil, use same mouth for blessing and cursing. Men bless God in religious form, then curse fellow man. To the conscience: “It is not right”. “The Lord and Father”, referring to Son as “Lord”. Equally true that the Father is Lord also, though not His distinctive office (Acts 2:36). In vv.11-12 three more illustrations of things that defy a natural order to show the inconsistent use of the tongue defies a moral order. (1) A fountain cannot produce sweet and bitter. (2) A tree cannot produce the fruits of another species (Matt. 7:16-20). (3) Adding salt to water cannot produce sweet water. A common thread: something in the nature that logically cannot produce different outcomes. To do so would violate laws of nature. So with the tongue; to misuse it violates a moral law. Called unrighteousness.
Wisdom’s Use of the Tongue (3:13-18)
v.13 Wisdom Shown. Jews well acquainted with importance of wisdom and understanding (1 Ki. 4:29; Prov. 2:2). Tendency to think wisdom is displayed in teaching others; by words. But true wisdom and understanding shown in a good manner of life, through “works in meekness and wisdom”. Not a self-exalted place, but humility!
v.14 Hypocrisy Manifested. Opposite of true wisdom, false profession by those who have not judged the flesh, been humbled in God’s presence. If competition and contention in the hearts, they are hypocritical. Solemnly warned.
vv.15-17 Two Kinds of Wisdom. Two kinds of wisdom (ch.3), two kinds of faith (ch.2). Decrying fleshly wisdom of man. (1) “earthly” vs. heavenly, centered on self (Phil. 3:19). (2) “natural” vs. spiritual, ignorant of God (1 Cor. 2:14). (3) “devilish” vs. divine, positively evil (Eph. 2:2). Where competition and conflict are, also disorder and “every evil thing”. Wisdom “from above” that God gives has fruits.
(1) “pure”, free from moral defilement, pure motives.
(2) “peaceful” promoting unity, not at expense of purity.
(3) “gentle” rather than offensive.
(4) “yielding”, giving way to others, not insisting on one’s own will.
(5) Full of “mercy” and “goodness”, especially to the poor.
(6) “Unquestioning” vs. contentious and skeptical.
(7) “Unfeigned” or genuine, vs. pretended or hypocritical.
Heavenly wisdom looks like a gracious and humble attitude with good behavior and works. No mention of words or teaching.
v.18 Peace. What characterizes one with wisdom from above. True peace a “fruit” or result of righteousness (Heb. 7:2; Isa. 32:17). Peace viewed as a harvest planted earlier by the peacemaker (Matt. 5:9). When we walk in practical righteousness (also peace that flows from it) we sow (or God sows) a seed that later bears abundant harvest of peace. Government of God for the believer (Gal. 6:7).