Summary: God forbids arrogant hypocrisy
January 22, 2012
The main idea of James up to this point has been to show the difference between heartless religion and the pure religion of Christ. Faith without works is dead, and this little church was tearing itself apart fighting and holding grudges and showing preferential treatment. They had a serious issue with pride, and apparently some of them were assuming to be teachers. And so James writes,
My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation.
The people who aren’t called to teach shouldn’t vie for the opportunity because teachers are held to a higher standard. A man who isn’t called by God to teach is storing up a lot of judgment for himself. He says,
2For in many things we offend all.
We all stray from the teachings, and if teachers are held to a higher standard, then you’d better be sure you’re actually called to be a teacher. Let’s read the chapter and I think you’ll see how it all ties together:
God declares the evil of the tongue (:2-8)
If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body. 3Behold, we put bits in the horses' mouths, that they may obey us; and we turn about their whole body. 4Behold also the ships, which though they be so great, and are driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small helm, whithersoever the governor listeth. 5Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things.
Here’s their problem right here: “I’m rich.” “I’m a teacher.” “I’m better than you.”
Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth!
That one little spark sets the bush on fire, and then the whole forest is in flames.
6And the tongue is a fire,
Think of the little bush,
a world of iniquity:
It is the home of evil,
so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body,
I don’t think we have a real appreciation for the power of the tongue. It defiles the whole body,
and setteth on fire the course of nature;
The word for course means “wheel.” The word for nature means “source” or “origin” or “the life which follows origin.” You might say that hell sets your whole life on fire .
and it is set on fire of hell.
You think gossip isn’t a big deal? Insults don’t mean much? Griping is nothing? Consider that God reveals that the tongue is set on fire by hell and that men give an account at the judgment for every word (Mt. 12:36).
7For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind: 8But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil,
It WILL NOT be controlled because it is an unruly evil, and it is,
full of deadly poison.
Not many of you should assume to be teachers. Why not? Because in many things we offend all, and the teacher is held to a higher standard. That tongue of yours is a deadly poison, and
God forbids prideful hypocrisy (:9-16)
9Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. 10Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing.
Now we’re back around again to the difference between pure religion and dead religion. Jesus says that “of the abundance of the heart [the] mouth speaks” (Lk. 6:45). James has already shown us that if a man seems religious but doesn’t bridle his tongue, “this man’s religion is vain” (1:27). True believers are hearers and doers of the word, so that we obey the royal law to love our neighbors as ourselves. This church was full of deadly poison as one man cursed another,
My brethren, these things ought not so to be. 11Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter?
It’s not within the nature of a sweet fountain to pour out bitter water.
12Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either a vine, figs? so can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh.
Have we not been freed by the perfect law of liberty? Are we not hearers and doers? Is it within our nature as one body with one Lord to strive and fight and gossip and bicker?
13Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you?
Go back to 1:5—“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” Ok, so who is wise? Who is endued with knowledge (or experience)?