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James Chapter Three


I. Content of the Chapter


The Second Trial of Christians’ Faith ---- the Necessity of Obtaining the Wisdom from Above

A.  Let not those who have wisdom become teachers hastily (v.1-2);

1. For there will be a stricter judgment (v.1);

2. For it is easy to stumble in word (v.2);

B.  He who has wisdom can bridle his tongue (v.3-12).

1. Though the tongue is small, it can boast great things (v.3-5);

a.    It is like the bit and the horse (v.3).

b.    It is like the rudder and the boat (v.4-5).

c.It is like the fire and the whole forest (v.5b).

2. The tongue is difficult to be tamed (v.6-8);

a.    The tongue is a fire (v.6a).

b.    The tongue is a world of iniquity (v.6b).

c.The tongue is an unruly evil (v.8b)

3. One mouth should not be with two tongues (v.9-12);

a.    Blessing and cursing should not be out of the same mouth (v.9-10).

b.    Take the water out of the fountain and the fruit of the tree as an example (v.11-12);

C.  He who has wisdom understands how to distinguish his heart and works (v.13-18).

1. He who has wisdom has to show his good conduct in the meekness of wisdom (v.13).

2. It is the earthly wisdom of having bitter envy and evil words (v.14-16).

3. Only the wisdom from above shall produce more good fruit of righteousness (v.17-18).


II. Verse by Verse Commentary


James. 3:1 “My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment.”

YLT: “Many teachers become not, my brethren, having known that greater judgment we shall receive,”

Meaning of Words: become”: come to pass, arise; “teachers”: instructors, masters; “stricter”: larger, more, elder; “judgment”: condemnation, avenge;

Literal Meaning:my brethren, let not many of you become teachers, become teachers”, it means they seek to become teachers. “Many … become teachers”, in the early church, teachers were much respected, so many believers desired to be teachers. 

  Note that here it is not the exhortation that “man should not be teachers”, but that “let not many become teachers”, for it is of the divine calling that men become teachers (see 1Cor. 9:16), not of human willingness or interests. Many a believer seek to be teachers according to their own interest and fleshly choice, thinking they are more eloquent. Finally, they merely serve their own ambition and belly rather than God.

“Knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment”, “knowing”, the following word explains the reasons for “letting not many become teachers”; “we” refer to teachers, including James who was a teacher in the church. “Judgment” refers to the judgment of the Lord upon the works of each one in the end (see 1Cor. 3:13; 4:4-5).

“Receive a stricter judgment”, it is because: 1) if a teacher teaches wrong, it will destroy the whole houses of the hearers (Titus 1:11), and he shall be strictly judged by God; 2) there will be many people who think they preach in the name of the Lord, but the Lord says they are lawless workers (Matt. 7:22-23); 3) a teacher is more entrusted than common believers, so the Lord is more strict to teachers (see Luke 12:48).

Enlightenment in the Word:

1)     In the churches now, many a believer desire to be teachers and become leaders without training and preach even without gifts, knowing not the importance of preachment and the sacrifice and cost a leader should pay.

2)     Testimony is a duty for every child of God. However, preaching and teaching are not fit for everyone, but for those who are called by God and recognized by all believers and sent by the Lord and entrusted by the church.

3)     If teachers are not watchful, different doctrines and views will be easily brought into the church and cause the troubles and divisions of the church (see 1Tim. 1:3-4, 7; 2Tim. 4:3; Eph. 4:14).

4)     The arrogant man can only see merely the mote in the eyes of others, but not the beam in his own eyes (Matt. 7:3). Therefore, he only teaches others but not himself.

5)     He who likes to judge or criticize thinks he is superior to others and wise enough to be a model of virtue for others, but does not know that he has put him under stricter judgment ---- not only the judgment of others, but also that of the Lord in the future (see Matt. 12:36-37).


James. 3:2 “For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body.”

YLT: “for we all make many stumbles; if any one in word doth not stumble, this one a perfect man, able to bridle also the whole body;”

Meaning of Words: stumble”: offend, fall, trip; “bridle”: control, curb;

Literal Meaning: “for we all stumble in many things”, “for”, the reason why teachers shall be under stricter judgment (see v.1); “stumble in many things”: it means that faults are unavoidable for man. According to the context, the main reason for man’s faults comes from his word.

  “If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man”, “does not stumble in word”: be able to bridle one’s tongue (see 1:26); “he is a perfect man”, here it suggests that there is no perfect man at all, for no one can tame the tongue (see v.8).

  “Able to bridle the whole body”, it means controlling all the members of the body and not making them become tools of sin (see Rom. 6:12-13).

Enlightenment in the Word:

1)     No one is worthy of boast according to the nature of man, for in the sight of God all have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23; 1John 1:8).

2)     Sin that the tongue has committed is more easily to entrap men than any other sin, and is of more destruction.

3)     A fool’s voice through a multitude of words (Eccl. 5:3). In the multitude of words sin is not lacking.

4)     We have to teach ourselves before teaching others (see Rom. 2:21). Moreover, we shall also learn to bridle our tongues before learning.

5)     One who can restrict himself to not stumble in word shall be able to bridle the whole body without making mistakes.


James. 3:3 “Indeed, we put bits in horses' mouths that they may obey us, and we turn their whole body.”

YLT: “lo, the bits we put into the mouths of the horses for their obeying us, and their whole body we turn about;”

Meaning of Words: bit”: bridle; “turn … away”: change the direction; 

Literal Meaning: “indeed, we put bits in horses’ mouths that they may obey us”, “bit”: a set of leather bands put around a horse’s head and used to control its movements; “put bits in horses’ mouths”, the purpose is to tame the horse and make it obey its master; “that they may obey us”, make it obey the director by force, which contains a meaning of “conquering”.

  “And we turn their whole body”, it means controlling its whole body and making it run or stop or turn according to the direction of the master.

Enlightenment in the Word:

1)     Believers shall take the word of God as the invisible bit as well as the direction and instruction of our whole life.

2)     The tongue is like the bit (see v.2). If the tongue is bridled, the whole body is governed, and the whole life is oriented unto the right direction. On the contrary, if the tongue is not bridled, the whole life will suffer loss because of the tongue.


James. 3:4 “Look also at ships: although they are so large and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires.”

YLT: “lo, also the ships, being so great, and by fierce winds being driven, are led about by a very small helm, whithersoever the impulse of the helmsman doth counsel,”

Meaning of Words: large”: mighty; “fierce wind”: strong wind, hard wind; “driven”: carry; “small”: little; “rudder”: a flat part at the back of a ship or aircraft that can be turned to control the direction in which it moves;

Literal Meaning: “look also at ships: although they are so large and are driven by fierce winds”, “look also”: it shows that another example is mentioned; “ships”: life in the world is like a ship in the sea; “are driven”: cannot help doing;

  “They are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires”, “a very small rudder”: it is a contrast to the big ship and fierce wind; “turn”: change the direction of the ship;

Enlightenment in the Word:

1)     Man can even direct the large ship by controlling the small rudder. Since the rudder can decide the ship’s direction, the tongue can also direct the destiny of a man. If a believer is careful to curb his tongue, he has put his whole life on the route directed by God.

2)     The rudder plays its role only when it is controlled by the pilot. Likewise, the tongue can also work beneficially only when it is directed by its owner. Otherwise, it will be harmful.

3)     When we are sailing on the sea of the life journey, we may easily be driven by the environmental elements and unable to control ourselves. However, if we let the Lord Jesus be the pilot of us, the whole members of us will be governed and directed by Him so that we shall move ahead at peace. 


James. 3:5 “Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles!”

YLT: “so also the tongue is a little member, and doth boast greatly; lo, a little fire how much wood it doth kindle!”

Meaning of Words: great”: large; “little”: small; “kindle”: enkindle, light;

 Literal Meaning: “even so”, it means that the following word is the conclusion of verse four and five;

    “The tongue is a little member and boasts great things”, “a little member”, it is a contrast to the previous “bit” and “rudder”. The proportion of the tongue to the whole body is like the bit to the horse and the rudder to the ship. “Boast great things”: it affects oneself as well as others.

  “See how great a forest a little fire kindles”, “a little fire”, here the fire has the meaning of destruction; “how great a forest … kindles”, kindling is not a result, but a starting point, and the final result is the destruction of the whole forest.

Enlightenment in the Word:

1)     In the world, “a word can prosper a nation” and can also “destroy a nation”. Though the tongue is small, it can hold the whole future of a man. Therefore, we cannot say the tongue’s function is small.

2)     If “fire” can be controlled by man, it will serve man. However, if it is not controlled by man, it will cause terrible troubles. Likewise, if the “tongue” is tamed by man, it will bring a lot of benefits to men. Otherwise, it will cause endless troubles.

3)     There are three matters in the world that cannot be recaptured again once they are lost ---- the arrow flown out of the bow, the word that is spoken and the favorable opportunity that is lost. As a Chinese saying goes, a word spoken can never be taken back. Once an improper word is uttered, it will bring great harm to oneself and others.


James. 3:6 “And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell.”

YLT: “and the tongue a fire, the world of the unrighteousness, so the tongue is set in our members, which is spotting our whole body, and is setting on fire the course of nature, and is set on fire by the gehenna.”

Meaning of Words: defile”: spot, defect, disgrace; “nature”: generation, nativity, origin; “course”: runner, circuit; “hell”: Gehenna, a valley in which rubbishes are burned all the year around outside of city of Jerusalem;

Literal Meaning: “the tongue is a fire”, it means that the word of man has the destructive power.

  “A world of iniquity, the tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body”, “…so set among our members”, the tongue is a member of the body set by God (see 1Cor. 12:18). “A world of iniquity”, it means that the tongue commits many sins and also provokes a lot of sins. If there is no tongue, there will be fewer sins in the world. “That it defiles the whole body”, all the evil and filthy thoughts uttered by the tongue can defile the whole body (see Matt. 15:11, 18-19).

“And set on fire the course of nature”, “course”, the circuit rotating round and round; here it is used to describe a period of time or process; “the course of nature”, it refers to the “journey of life”, namely, the whole life of a man; “set on fire”: destruction; here it suggests that the tongue is of great destructive power that can destroy the whole life of a man. 

“And it is set on fire by hell”, both fire and hell may cause men suffer fatal destruction. “Hell”, the fire kindled by hell is the quenchless fire (see Mark 9:48) that makes the soul of man suffer the affliction of flame. Therefore, man will be harmed by the tongue not only in this age but also in the coming one forever.

Enlightenment in the Word:

1)     The tongue is “fire”, and “watering” is the best way to quench the fire. Out of believers’ belly shall flow rivers of living water (John 7:38) that will quench a lot of fire of sins.

2)     Another passive way of putting out the fire is to cut off the fuel ---- “where there is no talebearer, the contention ceases” (Pro.6:20) ---- not convey any meaningless word.

3)     The spiritual way of dealing with the unclean lips is: let the burning coal touch the mouth (see Is. 6:5-7) ---- fight fire with fire ---- deal with our soul life by the cross (see Matt. 16:24-25).

4)     The tongue is a world of iniquity ---- the world is full sins and unrighteousness, most of which are caused by the filthy and corrupted tongue.

5)     The tongue is the “ornament” (one of the meanings of the “world” in the original) of sin. In other words, the tongue is the tool that beautifies sins. Man may cover facts by the tongue’s sophistry and thus conceal and even connive at sins.

6)     The days of man’s life move in cycles and go round unceasingly just like a wheel. If our tongue is not restricted but kindles the fire everywhere, the destruction will become unimaginable.

7)     Man’s tongue is even closely connected with the hell. The destructive power comes from the hell, and finally man will be led into the hell. How could we believers be careful with our tongues!


James. 3:7 “For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind.”

YLT: “For every nature, both of beasts and of fowls, both of creeping things and things of the sea, is subdued, and hath been subdued, by the human nature,”

Meaning of Words: reptile”: creeping animals; “tame”: control;

Literal Meaning: “every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea” refer to all the animals (see Gen. 1:20-25).

  “Is tamed and has been tamed by mankind”, “is tamed”, in God’s creation, man is gifted by wisdom and intelligence and empowered to have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the heavens and over every animal that moved on the earth (Gen. 1:28). Therefore, man has the capability of taming and controlling them. “Has been tamed”, though some of the wild beasts may attack men, most of them make men fearful and dreadful (Gen. 9:2) and live far from human beings. Even though there are some exceptional cases, the final winners are still human beings.

Enlightenment in the Word:

1)    If God entrusts some responsibilities and things to anyone, He will firstly equip man with the power of ministry to enable him to fulfill the ministry. If the origin of Christian’s service is really out of God, he will obtain the gifts of service from God.

2)    Religions except for Christianity have requirements but no provision for men. However, there is provision first and then requirements in the Christianity. This is the greatest difference between the Christianity and other religions, which proving that Christianity is the only religion revealed by God.


James. 3:8 “But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.”

YLT: “and the tongue no one of men is able to subdue, an unruly evil, full of deadly poison,”

Meaning of Words: unruly”: unrestrainable; “evil”: harmful, wickedly; poison”: rust, venom;

Literal Meaning: “but no man can tame the tongue”, “no man can tame the tongue”, there are two aspects of meanings: a) the tongue is more fierce than all the wild beasts, and it cannot be tamed by man’s power or wisdom; b) it suggests that “with men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible”. One of the normal works of faith is taming the tongue.

It is an unruly evil, it carries several meanings: a) the tongue is unstable and changeable, so it gives out both blessing and cursing (see v.9-11); b) it is unceasing and works all the time and brings troubles to the master; c) it is difficult to be tamed. The dealing with the tongue is not once for all, but shall be careful till we see the Lord.

“Full of deadly poison”, “deadly”: it is fatal; “poison” has two meanings: a) the poison therein is harmful (see Rom. 3:13); 2) it is like the flying arrow that makes it difficult to defend for men.

Enlightenment in the Word:

1)     Augustine said, “James does not say no one can tame the tongue but that there is no one among men that can do. Therefore, when the tongue is tamed, we have to confess that it is accomplished by God’s mercy and help and grace.”

2)     Even the best Christian has to confess that man cannot completely tame his tongue and the only way is to live by the divine life, for we know that he was begotten of God keeps himself and the wicked does not touch him (1John 5:18).

3)     The tongue itself is not sin (see the commentary of verse six). The problem lies in the uncontrollable tongue that can turn the inner malignancy into a sharp arrow and thus kill men unconsciously.


James. 3:9 “With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God.”

YLT: “with it we do bless the God and Father, and with it we do curse the men made according to the similitude of God;”

Meaning of Words: bless”: praise, speak well; “similitude”: image, resemblance, assimilation; 

The Background: “with it we bless our God and Father”, to the Jews, the blessing of God is rather important. Every pious Jew read “the Eighteen Eulogies” thrice a day. Each eulogy starts by the praise of God’s name.

Literal Meaning: “with it we bless our God and Father”, “our God and Father”, it means that God is lord and origin of life. We express our gratitude and praise to God by the tongue.

  “And with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God”, “curse”, pray to God for judgment upon men; “who have been made in the similitude of God”, it refers to all the mankind (see Gen.1:26-27), including believers and unbelievers. Since men have been made in the similitude of God, the cruse to men expresses dissatisfaction with God’s will and works of creating men, namely, showing complaint of God.

  It is a contradiction that we bless and complain about God with the same mouth.

Enlightenment in the Word:

1)     Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name (Heb. 13:15).

2)     Our tongue is made for the purpose of expressing the worship to God in truth and in spirit (John 4:24) as well as uttering the words of exhortation and encouragement and edification to men (see Rom. 15:14; Col. 3:16-17; 2Thess. 3:16-17), but in no wise cursing men.

3)     Some believers think they are the guardians of the truth and righteousness. When they see brothers in the church whose views are different from them, they dare to criticize and judge and even curse them. How terrible!


James. 3:10 “Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so.”

YLT: “out of the same mouth doth come forth blessing and cursing; it doth not need, my brethren, these things so to happen;”

Meaning of Words: ought not”: need not, should not; 

Literal Meaning: “out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing”, “blessing” is the noblest and purest word; “curse” is the lowest and filthiest word; “out of the same mouth”: one mouth, two tongues. It is rather abnormal that two extreme opposite kinds of words proceed out of the same mouth.

  “My brethren, these things ought not to be so”, “my brethren”, it shows that the above-mentioned improper words are even out of the mouth of a believer. “These things ought not to be so”, such condition should not exist.

Enlightenment in the Word:

1)     The conduct of a man of God must be in keeping with his inner life. If there is any disharmony, there must be something wrong with his life.

2)     Passive words show a passive heart, and words of reproaches show an angry heart, and filthy words show a corrupted heart, and words of curse show a bitter heart. Of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks (see Matt. 12:34-35).

3)     The most urgent and difficult work in the life of Christians is taming the tongue ---- prevent it from uttering two opposite kinds of words, but only speak the words that God pleases.


James. 3:11 “Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening?”

YLT: “doth the fountain out of the same opening pour forth the sweet and the bitter?”

Meaning of Words: spring”: fountain; “opening”: hole, cavern; “send forth”: swell out, gush;

Literal Meaning: of course, the answer is no. In the original, it contains a meaning of “cannot…” or “how can…”. “Blessing and curse” in the previous verse and “fresh and bitter water” are symmetrical. Fresh water is like blessing, and bitter water is like curse (see Num. 5:23). Moreover, the quality of water is decided by that of the spring, and the condition of “water” manifests that of the source. This verse man’s words are compared as water, and the condition of one’s words shows that of his life.

Enlightenment in the Word:

1)     The dealing with of our words shall be started from that of our inner life. One whose life is full and mature will naturally outpour pure words.

2)     “Naomi” (which means sweetness) and Mara (which means bitterness) cannot exist together. If we desire to turn bitterness to sweetness, we have to put “that tree” into the water (see Ex. 15:25) ---- let the cross of Christ deal with our natural life.


James. 3:12 “Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh.”

YLT: “is a fig-tree able, my brethren, olives to make? or a vine figs? so no fountain salt and sweet water to make.”

Meaning of Words: bear”: produce, yield;yield”: have, do work;

Literal Meaning: “can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs?” It is negative question like the previous verse, and the answer is no. The quality of the fruit is decided by that of the tree (Luke 6:43-44). An only exceptional case is grafting (see Rom. 11:17). 

  “Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh”, it is the conclusion of verse 11. “Salt water” and “bitter water” share the same meaning (see v.11), referring to the water that is unclean and improper to drink. “Fresh water” refers to the clean water that is clear and cool. 

Enlightenment in the Word:

1)     The Lord is the vine and we are the branches. If we often abide in the Lord, the Lord will also abide in us, and we shall bear much fruit (John 15:5).

2)     If someone is in Christ, he is a new creature (2Cor. 5:17). We Christians should be sweet, and our words shall also be sweet (see Cant. 4:11).

3)     If our behavior does not match the divine life we have received, it shows that we are not walking by faith. Moreover, we shall be reminded to not walk by the natural life any more.


James. 3:13 “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom.”

YLT: “Who wise and intelligent among you? let him shew out of the good behaviour his works in meekness of wisdom,”

Meaning of Words: understanding”: intelligent, professional words; show”: manifest, prove;good”: fait, well;conduct”: conversation, walking;

Literal Meaning: “who is wise and understanding among you?” “Wise”: a kind of insight of discerning the truth; “understanding”, a kind of professional knowledge for the purpose of knowing about the fact; such understanding is acquired by learning and accumulated through experience. “Wise and understanding”, it is a direct and sharp warning to those who think they are qualified to be teachers (see v.1) that there may be many problems with their self-assumed wisdom and understanding. 

  “Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom”, “meekness”, a kind of gentle and humble attitude opposite to the aggressive curse (see v.9-10); “the meekness of wisdom”, meekness is produced out of wisdom; “show by good conduct”, the good character is manifested in one’s conduct

Enlightenment in the Word:

1)    He who is truly wise is humble and gentle. All those who are arrogant and conceited have no true wisdom, but only foolish and void of understanding.

2)    He who speaks vain words without any good conduct is not a wise and understanding.

3)    Conduct tends to be more persuasive than words. Therefore, he who has real wisdom knows how to remain silent and manifest his wisdom by good works.


James. 3:14 “But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth.”

YLT: “and if bitter zeal ye have, and rivalry in your heart, glory not, nor lie against the truth;”

Meaning of Words: bitter”: acrid, sharp; envy”: emulation, zeal, jealousy;self-seeking”: intrigue, faction, strife;boast”: rejoice against, glory;

Literal Meaning: “but if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, bitter envy”, it means dissatisfaction with the words and works of others which causes one’s excessive zeal. Moreover, it makes man overwhelmed by the hostile mind and unbearable jealousy; “self-seeking”: it is like the politicians’ selfish ambition for the purpose of purging the rivals. Finally, it will cause divisions and discontent in the church.

“Do not boast and lie against the truth”, “boast”: it refers to the one who exalts and justifies himself and always considers himself right and better than others so as to depreciate others. Such man always regards him as a teacher and teaches and corrects others as he wishes. “Lie against the truth”: to achieve the purpose by any kind of means and even lie to justify him but actually violate the truth;

This verse speaks of the common mistakes that those who desire to be teachers (see v.1) may often make:

1)    Have bitter envy: be hostile to those whose views are opposite to them and always desire to eliminate them instead of teaching them;

2)    Self-seeking: seek only to praise oneself and let his own views be accepted and thus adopt the strategy of attacking others;

3)    Boast: boast of what one has known about but not be humble on account of what he has not understood; man in keeping with such condition is too conservative to make any progress.

4)    Lie against the truth: contend for one’s own ideas and ignore right and rational evidences and finally sacrifice the truth;

Enlightenment in the Word:

1)     Envy in the original means zeal. If man starts from his natural zeal, even in the preachment of the gospel and the ministry of the Lord, there will cause envyings and contentions and disputes (see Phil. 1:15, 17).

2)     Theologians are often habitually convinced that their biblical views are right and despise the different views of others and do all they can do to deny others with bitter envy.

3)     The mistake that preachers and teachers are easily made is self-conceit. They get used to teach and think unconsciously that others should merely hear with silence.

4)     Anyone who has bitter envy and self-seeking is unworthy of wisdom and understanding, for their conduct in life is not in keeping with faith and has utterly gone against the truth and morality.


James. 3:15 “This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic.”

YLT: “this wisdom is not descending from above, but earthly, physical, demon-like,”

Meaning of Words: from above”: from the beginning, the top; “earthly”: in earth, worldly; “sensual”: natural, sensitive; “demonic”: demon-like, devilish;

Literal Meaning: “this wisdom does not descend from above”, “such wisdom” refers to the opinions out of an extreme mind; “does not descend from above”, it is not the real wisdom from God above (see 1:5, 17).

  “But is earthly, sensual, demonic”, “earthly”: worldly ---- measure by the worldly standard and elements; “sensual”: that is of the flesh and lust ---- judge according to one’s mind and thoughts without any working and guidance of the Spirit; “demonic”: be controlled by the devil and cause confusion and contention for the purpose of making men depart from God;

Enlightenment in the Word:

1)    All the wisdom that is not from above seems to be rational and even subtle and unfathomable (see Rev. 2:24), but is actually out of the reasoning of soul and is controlled by the evil spirit. Finally men are enticed away from God and fall into darkness and confusion.

2)    The devil is skilled in transforming itself into an angel of light (see 2Cor. 11:14) in order to engraft some apparently reasonable words into us. Thus, many children of God are subtly influenced by them and struggle for those theories at any cost and even turn against some real children of God.


James. 3:16 “For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there.”

YLT: “for where zeal and rivalry , there is insurrection and every evil matter;”

Meaning of Words: confusion”:; “evil”:;

Literal Meaning: “where envy and self-seeking exist”, here it is the explanation why the wisdom described in verse 14 and 15 is not the wisdom from above. Envy and self-seeking are the connotation of the false wisdom.

  “Confusion and every evil thing are there”, “confusion and every evil” are the necessary result of false wisdom ---- the truth becomes disordered and indistinguishable. And many troubles arise among believers. Moreover, there is no peace in the churches and various evil things appear. 

Enlightenment in the Word:

1)    The most terrible condition of the church is the possession of some apparently intelligent men, but actually they have only false wisdom. They ought not to be teachers or preachers. Finally, they do not build the church, but destroy the church and bring huge loss to the church.

2)    The worldly wisdom is differential wisdom, establishing “the wall of enclosure” among men (see Eph. 2:14) that makes brothers and sisters unable to draw near one another.

3)    Once the worldly wisdom is brought into the church ---- e.g. the usage of political power, faction, the over-emphasis on talent than spirit, the more attention to wealth than virtues etc. ---- there will give room for the devil, and thus the church will be trapped in confusions, contentions, disputes, hostilities and even divisions.


James. 3:17 “But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.”

YLT: “and the wisdom from above, first, indeed, is pure, then peaceable, gentle, easily entreated, full of kindness and good fruits, uncontentious, and unhypocritical: --”

Meaning of Words: pure”: clean, innicent; peaceable”: pacific, salutary; gentle”: moderate, patient, mild; willing to yield”: easy to be intreated, good for persuasion, complaint; full of mercy”: compassion; good”: benefit, well; fruits”: harvest; without partiality”: impartial; without hypocrisy”: without dissimulation, unfeigned, sincere; 

Literal Meaning: “but the wisdom that is from above”, the heavenly and spiritual and divine wisdom, opposite to the earthly and sensual and demonic wisdom (see v.15). The connotations and characteristics of the wisdom from above are the following virtues.

  “Is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield”, “pure”: it is the inner purity and cleanness just like a pure virgin (see 2Cor. 11:2); it is the premise f seeing God (Matt. 5:8); “peaceable”: it refers to the inner tranquility and rest without any contention and confusion that make the interpersonal relationship peaceable; it is the necessary virtue of being called sons of God (Matt. 5:9); “gentle”: it is the inner meekness and humility and patience and respect to men; “willing to yield”: it refers to the willingness of obedience to the truth with no stubborn persistence in one’s own opinions, and the delight of accepting reasonable views of others.

  “Full of mercy and good fruits”, “full of mercy”: be merciful and sympathetic and be disposed to be gracious and forgive; “good fruits”: be willing to help those who are in need and disperse abroad and increase the fruits of righteousness (see 2Cor. 9:9-10); according to the original, “mercy” and “good fruits” are closely linked and both of them mean being good to others.

  “Without partiality and without hypocrisy”, “without partiality”: be impartial and apply one’s mind to the truth and not alter the standard or principles because of anyone or anything; “without hypocrisy”: sincerity without dissimulation or confusion;

Enlightenment in the Word:

1)     Except for the wisdom of God, Christians should have a pure heart and obtain the peaceful spirit in Jesus Christ, and bear fruits of peace in life ---- namely, gentleness, willingness to yield and full mercy and goodness.

2)     True wisdom is “pure” and innocent without any hidden motivation that makes man see God in boldness (see Matt. 5:8).

3)     True wisdom is “peaceful”, which always fosters the normal relationship between men and God and that among men. However, false wisdom always creates estrangements between men and God and that among men.

4)     He who has true wisdom is “gentle” and understanding and good at communication. On one hand, he expresses his own ideas. And on the other hand, he tries to understand that views and opinions of others.

5)     When the words of God come, he who has true wisdom is “gentle” and will obey to the end unconditionally. Besides, in the face of rational ideas of others, he does not adhere stubbornly to his own ideas.

6)     True wisdom makes men “full of mercy” and sympathetic to men and “full of good fruits”. Besides, it lets men deeply know that “it is more blesses to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35) and put it into practice.

7)     The effect made by peaceful fruit is without partiality and without hypocrisy, for it brings peace and purity to men.

8)     A Christian who has real wisdom must have “no partiality”. That is to say, he is able to distinguish between right and wrong and between true and false and is faithful to the truth.

9)     The conduct of a Christian who has the foundation of heavenly wisdom and goal of the truth must be in keeping with the faith and love therein without hypocrisy.


James. 3:18 “Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”

YLT: “and the fruit of the righteousness in peace is sown to those making peace.”

Meaning of Words: sown”: scattered; “righteousness”: equity, justification, justice;

Literal Meaning: “those who make peace”, “make peace”: be peace-makers (Matt. 5:9);

  “The fruit of righteousness is sown in peace”, “sown”, in the original, it means “scattering the seed for the purpose of harvest”; “sown in peace”: scatter the seed of peace; “the fruit of righteousness”: the righteous fruit, namely, the production of the fruits that God pleases; such fruit is sown by the peace-makers in peace. The fruit of righteousness is the righteous fruit, namely, the fruit (works) that God accepts and delights in. Here, righteousness does not mean justification by faith, but the end that God pleases. And it is also fulfilled by the peace-makers in peace. In other words, although those who have envy and self-seeking boast and lie, the fruit they yield is not pleasant to God, for actually they can merely bring about confusion and all evil things.

Enlightenment in the Word:

1)     The earthly wisdom must cause contention and confusion (see v.14-16), but the heavenly wisdom can bring peace and righteousness.

2)     “Peaceable” (see v.17), “make peace” and “sown in peace” ---- “peace” is mentioned thrice in the two short verses. The heavenly wisdom works through peace and aims at making peace. Any situation in the church that makes believers contentious is in no wise out of heavenly wisdom.

3)     One who loves peace and delights in making peace must have a seed of peace. And such seed can only be obtained from God who gives wisdom and peace.

4)     Anything that pleases God cannot be fulfilled by man’s anger (see 1:20), but grow and flourish and bear fruit merely in peaceful condition.

5)     The seed of righteousness can only be sown and reaped by those who are willing to make peace. Besides, it grows well and yields abundant fruit merely in peaceful interpersonal relationship.


III. Outlines of the Spiritual Lessons


The Fearfulness and Vileness of the Tongue

A.   The tongue often makes man stumble (v.2); can defile the whole body and consumes the whole life of man

B.   Though the tongue is a little member, it boasts great things (v.3-5);

C.   The tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity (v.6a);

D.   The tongue can defile the whole body and consumes the whole life of man (v.6b);

E.   The tongue is an unruly evil and no man can tame the tongue (v.7-8a);

F.    The tongue is full of deadly poison (v.8b);

G.   The tongue is often capricious without control (v.9-12);


Tame Your Tongue

A.  Though it is small, its influence is great (v.3-5);

1. It is like the bit and the horse (v.3).

2. It is like the rudder and the boat (v.4-5).

3. It is like the fire and the whole forest (v.5b).

B.  Though it is small, it is alarmingly destructive (v.6-8);

1. The tongue is a fire ---- that can destroy the whole life of man (v.6a, c).

2. The tongue is a world of iniquity ---- that can defile the whole body (v.6b).

3. The tongue is an unruly evil ---- that can poison men and is difficult to be tamed (v.7-8).

C.  The works of the tongue is unstable (v.9-12);

1. The double works should not be (v.9-10).

2. The double works cannot be (v.11-12).


Three Characteristics of the Untamed Tongue

A.  It is a fire burned from the hell (v.6) ---- defile the whole body and make man commit sins;

B.  It is an unruly evil (v.8b) ---- its unceasing works bring about destruction;

C.  It is full of deadly poison (v.8c) ---- spread poison and harm oneself and others;


Distinguish the True and False Wisdom

A.  True wisdom;

1. Manifestation: let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom (v.13);

a.    To oneself: first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield (v.17b);

b.    To others: full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy (v.17b-18a);

2. Origin: from above (v.17a);

3. Result: the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace (v.18b);

B.  False wisdom;

1. Manifestation: have bitter envy and self-seeking and boast and lie against the truth (v.14);

2. Origin: earthly, sensual, demonic (v.15);

3. Result: confusion and every evil thing (v.16);


The Orientation of Wisdom

A.   Why do we need wisdom? ---- let good conduct of wisdom be manifested (v.13);

B.   What kind of wisdom do we need? ---- wisdom from above (v.14-17a);

C.   The orientation of wisdom (v.17b-18);

1.    A wise man has a godly mind ---- pure and peaceful and gentle and willing to yield (v.17b).

2.    A wise man has godly works ---- full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy (v.17c).

3.    A wise man has the fruit of righteousness (v.18).


Characteristics of the Heavenly Wisdom (v.17-18)

A.   Pure ---- innocent motivation;

B.   peaceable---- inner rest;

C.   Gentle---- patience and forbearance;

D.   Willing to yield---- obedience to the truth;

E.   Full of mercy---- charity;

F.    Good fruits---- be gracious;

G.   Without partiality ----- give priority to the truth;

H.   Without hypocrisy ---- sincerity and clearness;

I.      The fruit of righteousness ---- please God;


── Caleb HuangChristian Digest Bible Commentary Series

   Translated by Mary Zhou