My brothers, can a fig tree grow olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.
I. THE UNTAMABLENESS OF THE TONGUE. (Vers. 7, 8.) We have here a fourfold classification of the inferior creatures. God gave man dominion over them at the creation, and intimated his supremacy anew after the Flood. There is no variety of brute nature that has not yielded in the past, and that does not continue to yield, to the lordship of human nature. The horse, the dog, the elephant, the lion, the leopard, the tiger, the hyena; the partridge, the falcon, the eagle; the asp, the cobra; the crocodile; - these names suggest ample evidence of man's power to tame the most diverse species of wild animals. But, says James, there is one little creature which human nature, in its own strength, finds it impossible to domesticate. The tongue of man is fiercer than the most ferocious beast, The rebellion of our race against good is far more inveterate than any insubordination of the brutes. Indeed, the revolt of the lower creatures against the authority of man is only the shadow and symbol of man's revolt against the authority of God. Year by year man is subduing the earth and extending his dominion over it; but his natural power to govern the tongue remains as feeble as it was in the days of Cain. This "little member" reveals the appalling depths of human corruption. "It is a restless evil;" unstable, fickle, versatile; ever stirring about from one form of unrighteousness to another; assuming Protean shapes and chameleon hues; its words sometimes filthy, sometimes slanderous, sometimes profane, sometimes angry, sometimes idle. And the untamed tongue "is full of deadly poison." It is a worse poison-bag than that of the most hurtful serpent. The words of a false tongue are fangs of moral venom, for which no human skill can supply an antidote. Is not calumny just a foul virus injected into the social body, which kills character, happiness, and sometimes even life? Its venom spreads far and wide, and man is powerless to destroy it.
II. THE INCONSISTENCY OF THE TONGUE. (Vers. 9-12.) The same person may just now put the faculty of speech to its highest use; and, almost immediately afterwards, wickedly abuse it. The tongue has been given us that therewith we may "bless the Lord and Father;" and to utter the Divine praise is the most ennobling exercise of human speech. The Christian calls him "Lord," and adores him for his eternal Godhead; he also calls him "Father," and blesses him for his adopting grace. Then, with melancholy inconsistency, the same mouth which has been praising God may be heard invoking evil upon men. How often do those who profess godliness speak passionate and spiteful words! Do not Christians who belong to the same congregation sometimes backbite one another? Do not believers of different communions often, out of mere sectarian rivalry, denounce one another's Churches? Even godly men sometimes cherish the spirit which would "forbid" others to work the work of the Lord, simply because these are not of their company. Now, such inconsistency is seen in all its aggravation when we consider the fact that truly to bless God forbids the cursing of any man. "The Lord" is the "Father" of all men, for men "are made after the likeness of God." In his princely intellect, and his hungering heart, and even in his uneasy conscience, man reflects the image of his Maker. God and he are so close of kin to each other - by nature, and through Christ's incarnation - that real reverence for God requires that we "honor all men." How inconsistent, then, for the same mouth to bless the Father and to curse the children! The inconsistency appears on the very face of the English word "curse." To curse means primarily "to invoke evil upon one, by the sign of the cross. The cross is the symbol of the highest blessing to the world; and yet those who enjoy the blessedness which it brings have used it as an instrument of cursing. We bless God for the cross; and then we curse men in the name of the cross. Such inconsistency, the apostle adds, is flagrantly unnatural (vers. 11, 12). None such is to be met with in the physical world. A spring of water cannot transgress the law of its nature. A fruit tree can only bear fruit according to its kind. How unnatural, then, that in the moral world the same fountain of speech should emit just now a rill of clear sweet praise, and soon afterwards a torrent of bitter slander, or a stream of brackish minced oaths! Where a true believer falls into this sinful inconsistency, it is because the fountain of the old nature within his heart has not yet been closed up. He needs to have the accursed tree on which Jesus died cast into the bitter stream within him, to sweeten it, and to make it a river of living water. In the case of a soul that has experienced the renewing grace of the Holy Spirit, this unnatural inconsistency of speech not only ought not so to be," but does not need to be. - C.J.
Be not many masters
I. PERSONAL RELIGION is a necessary qualification in the Christian teacher. Those must be clean that bear the vessels of the sanctuary. Their Master is holy, their work is holy, and therefore it becomes them to be holy also. They engage in the work of the ministry, not seeking their own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved (1 Corinthians 10:33). Having tasted that the Lord is gracious, they are unwilling to eat their spiritual morsels alone, and earnestly wish to have others partakers of the same grace of life. Animated by such a spit it, the pious minister is vigorous and active, diligent and unwearied, in his Master's service. Grace, in lively exercise, makes the teacher honest and impartial, bold and courageous. He will not, through a slavish dread of man, put his candle under a bushel, or withhold the truth in unrighteousness; but endeavours to keep back from his hearers nothing profitable, however distasteful, and to declare to every one of them the whole counsel of God. He is no respecter of persons; but warns every man, and teaches every man, in all wisdom, that he may present every man perfect in Christ. With sacred sincerity, what the Lord saith that will he speak; though philosophers should call him enthusiast, the populace salute him heretic, or the statesman pronounce him mad. This integrity and uprightness preserves the minister from fainting under a prospect of outward difficulties and a sense of his own weakness. Grace, in lively exercise, not only animates the teacher to his work, but assists him in it, and greatly tends to crown it with success. It does so by disposing him to give himself to prayer, as well as to the ministry of the Word. He is a favourite at the court of heaven, and improves all his interest there for his people's good. Further, personal religion promotes knowledge of the truth and aptness to teach, both which are indispensably necessary in the spiritual instructor. And as piety thus prevents men from mistaking the duties, so it preserves them from prejudices against the doctrines of Christianity. Just as one who perceived the light and brightness of the sun would be little moved by any attempts to prove that there was nothing but darkness around him. But, above all, inward piety assists in understanding and explaining experimental religion. Those are best suited to speak a word in season to weary souls who can comfort them in their spiritual distresses with those consolations wherewith they themselves have been comforted of God. True religion will promote in ministers a pious and exemplary behaviour.
II. ORTHODOXY, or soundness in the faith, is highly necessary in a spiritual instructor. Much more stress is laid upon this in the sacred writings than some seem willing to allow (1 Timothy 1:3; 1 Timothy 6:3, 5, 20, 21; 2 Timothy 1:13; Titus 1:9; Titus 2:1, 7, 8; Jude 1:2). Is it either ridiculous or hurtful to judge of things as they really are? If orthodoxy, in this sense, has done evil, let its enemies bear witness of the evil; but if good, why do they reproach it? Do superstition, enthusiasm, bigotry, or persecution for conscience sake, flow from just sentiments of religion and of the proper means to promote it? or rather do they not flow from wrong sentiments of these? Truth and general utility necessarily coincide. The first produces the second.
III. A TOLERABLE GENIUS AND CAPACITY, WITH A COMPETENT MEASURE OF TRUE LEARNING, are requisite to fit for the office of a spiritual instructor. Infidels may wish, as Julian the apostate did, to see learning banished from the Christian Church. And men of low education, or of selfish spirits may think meanly or speak diminutively of a gospel ministry, as if the weakest abilities sufficed to qualify for it. But a Paul cried out, "Who is sufficient for these things?" (2 Corinthians 2:16). Elihu tells us that scarcely one of a thousand is qualified to deal with the conscience (Job 33:23). Uncommon talents are necessary to explain obscure passages of Scripture, to resolve intricate cases of conscience, and to defend the truth against gainsayers — services to which ministers have frequent calls. But, above all, one who would teach others to be religious, must himself have a clear and distinct notion of religion. We cannot avoid despising the man who is ignorant in his own profession, whatever his knowledge may be of other matters. The spiritual instructor should be mighty in the Scriptures, able not only to repeat, but to explain them, having the Word of God dwelling in him richly, in all wisdom and spiritual understanding.
IV. Ministers have need to be persons of PRUDENCE AND CONDUCT, and to know men as well as books. A minister should study himself. He should not only be acquainted with his own spiritual state, but with the particular turn of his genius; for our usefulness will in a great measure depend upon knowing what our gift is. A minister should study the make and frame of the human mind; for till the springs of human nature are, in a good measure, disclosed to him, and he has learned how far the bodily passions, or a disordered imagination, may either cloud genuine piety or cause a resemblance of it, he will be often at a loss what judgment to frame of religious appearances. He should know all the avenues to the soul, and study the different capacities and tempers of men, that he may be able, with becoming address, to suit himself to them all.
V. A due mixture OF A STUDIOUS DISPOSITION AND OF AN ACTIVE SPIRIT is necessary in teachers of Christianity. The ministry is no idle or easy profession, but requires an almost uninterrupted series of the most painful and laborious services.
(J. Erskine, D. D.)
2. Censuring is an arrogation of mastership over others. It is a wrong to God to put myself in His room; it is a wrong to my neighbour to arrogate a power over him which God never gave me.
3. Christians should not affect this mastership over their brethren. You may admonish, reprove, warn, but it should not be in a masterly way. How is that?(1) When we do it out of pride and self-conceit, as conceiving yourselves more just, holy, wise, etc.(2) When we do it as vaunting over their infirmities and frailties in a braving way, rather to shame than to restore them: this doth not argue hatred of the sin, but envy, malice against the person.(3) When the censure is unmerciful, and we remit nothing of extreme rigour and severity; yea, divest the action of extenuating circumstances.(4) When we infringe Christian liberty and condemn others for things merely indifferent.(5) When men do not consider what may stand with charity as well as what will agree with truth; there may be censure where there is no slander.(6) When we do it to set off ourselves, and use them as a foil to give our worth the better lustre, and by the report of their scandals to climb up and commence into a better esteem. In the whole matter we are to be actuated by love, and to aim at the Lord's glory.
4. A remedy against vain censures is to consider ourselves (Galatians 6:1). How is it with us? Gracious hearts are always looking inward; they inquire most into themselves, are most severe against their own corruptions.(1) Most inquisitive after their own sins.(2) Most severe against themselves.
5. Rash and undue judging of others, when we are guilty ourselves, maketh us liable to the greater judgment. The apostle proceedeth upon that supposition. Sharp reprovers had need be exact, otherwise they draw a hard law upon themselves, and in judging others pronounce their own doom; their sins are sins of knowledge, and the more knowledge the more stripes.
(T. Manton.)Romans 2:17-20). There were some corrupters also of the gospel — mixing up its simple provisions for human salvation into a heterogeneous compound with the observances of the Mosaic ceremonial who manifested the same propensity to become teachers of others; their character, too, is graphically touched by the same apostle (1 Timothy 1:5-7; Titus 1:9-11). In the latter passage, the motive to which the teaching of such false doctrine is attributed — doctrine that trimmed itself to the prejudices and likings of the hearers for selfish ends — is inexpressibly base. But by various other motives besides avarice may the same desire be prompted. It may spring from vanity — from the ambitious love of distinction and fondness for pre-eminence — even when the teaching is not that of false doctrine, but of the true gospel, the doctrine of the Cross. Envy of the eminence of others, it would appear from Paul's representation, had actuated some in his day — a motive even more unworthy than the simple love of distinction for themselves (Philippians 1:15-18). What a shocking way for malice to adopt to give itself indulgence! — preaching Christ from rivalry, and under the idea that the success of such rivalry might be a new element of distress to the suffering apostle! How little such men — who judged of others by their own narrow-minded selfishness — knew of the elevation and nobleness of principle and feeling by which this servant of Christ was animated. Still further. Ill-directed zeal, where there is a deficiency of prudence, or of self-diffidence and experience, may produce, without any morally-evil motive, the same effect. This is frequently the case with new converts. Undue eagerness, then, for the office of teachers in the Church — whether thus arising from such corrupt motives as vanity, avarice, ambition, and envious rivalry, or from the less censurable ones of self-ignorance, inconsideration, and misguided zeal — the apostle seeks to repress. The meaning plainly is, that the believers should be in no haste to become public instructors, in order that the number might not be multiplied of such as, in knowledge and in character, were not suitable for the office. The ground on which James here rests his caution, is that of the specially solemn responsibility with which the office of teacher is invested: "Knowing that we" (we who are, or become, teachers namely) "shall receive greater condemnation" — we shall be subjected to "stricter judgment," as by some the words have been rendered — of which, as a necessary consequence, the result must be, when there is wilful or careless failure, or failure even from incompetency, "greater condemnation." The errors of teachers — whether arising from want of proper and sufficient investigation and study, from prejudice and partiality, or from whatever other corrupt or defective source — as they are more extensively mischievous than those of others, so are they proportionally more criminal; the obligation lying upon them being the greater to find out, by diligent search and careful discrimination of truth from falsehood, what they ought to teach and what to shun, so thus they may faithfully and fully, without alteration, addition, or abatement, declare "the thing that is right." And, while such considerations constitute the ground of a specially solemn account which public teachers have to render for what they teach, hasty aspirants after the office should further bear in mind that a station of public eminence exposes its occupant to observation, that the sins and failings of such a one are more marked, and are more injurious to the cause of God and of His truth than even grosser misdemeanours on the part of Christians in more private spheres; and hence, even in the present life, we need not be surprised should we observe discipline peculiarly severe dealt out by Providence to those who either, from any corrupt motive, go aside in their teaching from the Divine standard, or who, while they publish truth, fail to adorn it by their own consistent deportment.
(R. Wardlaw, D. D.)1 Corinthians 9:27). The most eminent ministers of the Church in all ages have felt this, and to such an extent that they have often shrunk back at first from the sacred office altogether. It was so with , who, when elected Bishop of Milan, fled from the city, and had to be searched out and brought back from his place of concealment. It was so with the still more celebrated Father , who went forward to receive ordination only after the most urgent solicitations. It was so with John Knox, for he, when called to the ministry in the Castle of St. Andrews, first made an ineffectual attempt to address the congregation that had chosen him, and then, bursting into tears, rushed out of the assembly and hid himself in his own chamber. "His countenance and behaviour, from that day till the day he was compelled to present himself in the public place of preaching, did sufficiently declare the grief and trouble of his heart, for no man saw any sign of mirth from him, neither had he pleasure to accompany any man for many days together." What a lesson is here to all who either have entered on, or are looking forward to, the work of spiritual teaching I
(E. J. Hardy, M. A.)
(Pirke Aboth. 1:10.)
(A. Plummer, D. D.)
(H. O. Mackey.)
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
TopicsAble, Bear, Berries, Brethren, Brothers, Either, Fig, Figs, Fig-tree, Fountain, Fresh, Grapevine, Olive, Olive-berries, Olives, Produce, Salt, Spring, Sweet, Thus, Tree, Vine, Yield, Yields
Outline1. We are not rashly or arrogantly to reprove others;
5. but rather to bridle the tongue, a little member,
9. but a powerful instrument of much good, and great harm.
13. The truly wise are mild and peaceable, without envy and strife.
Dictionary of Bible ThemesJames 3:12
5547 speech, power of
LibraryJanuary the Twenty-Sixth the Fire of Envy
"Where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work!" --JAMES iii. 13-18. In Milton's "Comus" we read of a certain potion which has the power to pervert all the senses of everyone who drinks it. Nothing is apprehended truly. Sight and hearing and taste are all disordered, and the victim is all unconscious of the confusion. The deadly draught is the minister of deceptive chaos. And envy is like that potion when it is drunk by the spirit. It perverts every moral and spiritual sense. …
John Henry Jowett—My Daily Meditation for the Circling Year
How to Make Use of Christ for Taking the Guilt of Our Daily Out-Breakings Away.
Whether Wisdom Should be Reckoned among the Gifts of the Holy Ghost?
Whether Prudence of the Flesh is a Sin?
Whether Inconstancy is a vice Contained under Prudence?
Whether Wisdom is in all who have Grace?
Whether the Seventh Beatitude Corresponds to the Gift of Wisdom?
Whether Backbiting is a Mortal Sin?
Whether Fasting is a Matter of Precept?
Whether any one Can be Perfect in this Life?
Whether Our Atmosphere is the Demons' Place of Punishment?
Whether a Religious Sins More Grievously than a Secular by the Same Kind of Sin?
Whether the Separated Soul Can Suffer from a Bodily Fire?
The Doctrine of Man
Man's Inability to Keep the Moral Law
Of the Weight of Government; and that all Manner of Adversity is to be Despised, and Prosperity Feared.
"If we Confess Our Sins, He is Faithful and Just to Forgive us Our Sins, and to Cleanse us from all Unrighteousness. If we Say We
Whether it is Lawful to Swear?
Attributes of Selfishness.
Unity of Moral Action.
The Tribute Money
The Third Commandment
LinksJames 3:12 NIV
James 3:12 NLT
James 3:12 ESV
James 3:12 NASB
James 3:12 KJV
James 3:12 Bible Apps
James 3:12 Parallel
James 3:12 Biblia Paralela
James 3:12 Chinese Bible
James 3:12 French Bible
James 3:12 German Bible
James 3:12 Commentaries