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James 3:1-12 - Being a teacher of faith

Updated: Aug 7, 2021

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Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers and sisters, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For all of us make many mistakes. Anyone who makes no mistakes in speaking is perfect, able to keep the whole body in check with a bridle. If we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we guide their whole bodies. Or look at ships: though they are so large that it takes strong winds to drive them, yet they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great exploits.

How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire! And the tongue is a fire. The tongue is placed among our members as a world of iniquity; it stains the whole body, sets on fire the cycle of nature, and is itself set on fire by hell. For every species of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by the human species, but no one can tame the tongue-- a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse those who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and brackish water? Can a fig tree, my brothers and sisters, yield olives, or a grapevine figs? No more can salt water yield fresh.


This is the Epistle reading selection to be read aloud on the sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost [Proper 19], Year B, according to the lectionary for the Episcopal Church. This will be preceded by a variety of readings, based on Track 1 and Track 2 pairings of Old Testament and Psalms, based on the track preselected by a church for Year B. If track 1 is to be read, it will place focus on Proverbs 7, where Solomon wrote, “I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when panic strikes you.” If Track 2 is the path for that church year, then the focus will be placed on Isaiah, who wrote, “I did not hide my face from insult and spitting.” All will accompany the Gospel selection from Mark, where Jesus asked his disciples, “But who do you say that I am?”

I wrote about this reading the last time it came up in the lectionary cycle, in 2018. It can be read by clicking on this link. I offered some opinions then that are still valid today; so, I welcome all to read those views and compare them to the additional views I now offer. Because Scripture can mean many things, all true, I want to focus on some truths that I did not shine light on three years ago.

In 2018, I placed focus on the need to look deeper into the translations that have become English paraphrases that mislead. That is always a problem that needs to be addressed, as Scripture is divine language that is freer to express than the English language allows. Still, with my observations of 2018 addressing that need, I want to focus solely now on the content of James’ words. In that, “Not many of you should become teachers” is the theme throughout this selection. His adding, “From the same mouth come blessing and cursing,” which “ought not to be so,” is then relative to Jewish "teachers," not everyone in the world. I will now speak about what that means (in my humble opinion).

The Greek word written by James that has been translated as “teachers” is “didaskaloi.” In the singular, “didaskalos” means, “an instructor” (Strong’s Definition), implying “a teacher, or master” (Strong’s Usage). According to HELPS Word-studies, this is written:

didáskalos (a masculine noun derived from 1321 /didáskō, "to teach") – a teacher, an

instructor acknowledged for their mastery in their field of learning; in Scripture, a Bible

teacher, competent in theology.”

From this, James – a devout Jew, whose ministry was directed wholly on Jews rather than Gentiles – wrote the Greek equivalent to what Jews today (and to some degree then) call some “rabbi.” Therefore, the point of his adding what “ought not to be so” is not focused on normal speech, from normal teaching, but that of being a “master” of the meaning of Scripture.

In the Wikipedia article entitled “Rabbi,” which is worth reading, they say the term “rabbi” was not used prior to the first century CE. The original intent was rooted in “raising” the children to be “great” in mastery of the tenets of servitude to Yahweh. This meant the teaching of the children was relative to the role of the “father.” This should be seen as why priests of Catholicism take on the name “Father,” as it is not a statement of equality to Yahweh [THE FATHER], but a statement of “teacher of children.” * [ see footnote] Thus, the title “rabbi” took on that same meaning; and, because the title was still new when James wrote his Epistle, he used the word “teacher” to refer to those who were entrusted to teach Mosaic Law to the children of Israel.

This understanding then allows one to see that James wrote, “we who teach will be judged with greater strictness” as a statement about the judgment of Yahweh. Thus, when James wrote, “all of us make many mistakes,” those “mistakes” [the Greek “ptaiomen” was written, meaning “stumbles”] are references to the sins and transgressions of the “teachers,” who were saying one thing, but doing another. James was not referring to simply “mistakes” that come from reading a law of Moses and teaching it meant one thing, when it would later be found out popular opinion changed and said it meant another. The mistakes of “teachers,” as “fathers” setting the examples of the Law for their children to follow, were relative to being an adulterer or murderer (for examples), while teaching, “Do not do that.” Teaching demands practicing what one preaches - leading by example.

This means that control of how one acts, more than the control of what one says, is the purpose behind James using the parallels of a bridle on a horse-mule and a rudder on a boat. In both cases, the animal and boat become metaphor for the way one proceeds in life. One is either aimless or aimed. As far as all the talk goes, a farmer will perfectly plan how to plough a field or make a quick long-distant journey, just as a sea captain will set a course from one port to another, planning to take the shortest route possible. Those plans are parallel to “teaching” the Word of Yahweh, as rote memorization of Mosaic Laws; but the problem is always the reality of what happens once one sets out to do that which has been planned. Life becomes the horse-mule and the boat, which is completely ignorant of any planning. Life goes where it wants, unless it is controlled. Those controls are then why a bridle and a rudder become absolutely necessary – not optional attachments.

By understanding this, James was saying the controls that must be added to a human being – in particular a Jew who claims to have belief in Yahweh, the One God of Israel – is divine possession by Yahweh. That can only come from one’s love of Yahweh leading a soul to do the works that attract a divine proposal for marriage, until one has proved its soul worthy to be a bride and be called into the most holy of all matrimony. In that word – “matrimony” – the root means a bride is called to become a mother, which makes all bridesmaids of Yahweh be feminine [Yahweh is the Father, thus masculine], who receive His Spirit and give birth to the Son, which means the resurrection of Jesus’ soul within one’s being [i.e.: soul]. James was the brother of Jesus, sharing the same mother; but James was not a strong supporter of Jesus during his ministry. It was after Jesus died and resurrected and stayed with his disciples for forty days that James fell in love with Yahweh, married Him, and then became Jesus reborn into his flesh. James added Jesus to his ‘vehicle,’ meaning James ceased being aimless, as Jesus then directed him according to God’s plans.

When James had his divine bridle-rudder installed within his soul, he knew the truth behind his words: “the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great exploits.” The Greek word “glossa” not only translates as “tongue,” but also as “a language, a nation (usually distinguished by their speech).” (Strong’s Usage) Because all Jews allowed into the synagogues could speak [the mutes were outcast as sinners], they all had bridles-rudders self-installed that led their course of action. James ceased letting his “tongue” be about what James was led by the world to do. Instead, James became led by the Spirit of Jesus to be righteous AND to speak magnificently about all the Spirit of Jesus had led him to understand and do. Others, unfortunately, bragged about how much money they made from teaching, while having nothing to show for their words other than material things.

When James was then led to write, “the tongue is a fire,” that spoke of how great the effects of what one says [about one’s beliefs, or religion] can have on others [of the same beliefs, or religion]. A few good words can enflame the heart of another and make he or she burn with desire to please Yahweh. On the other hand, a few bad words can act as the go-ahead to sin and have no worry about the consequences. For those who cannot teach the truth that leads others to marry their souls to Yahweh, James wrote: “For every species of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by the human species, but no one can tame the tongue-- a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” That says no human being can lead others to Yahweh, if that one’s soul has never been in love with Him and brought forth His Son in their own flesh. The Law being written on scrolls cannot make man nor beast do anything that isn’t natural; and, man is naturally inclined to sin. Thus, to have the tongue of a teacher [a "father"], one needs to have been taught to teach first; and, a teacher ["father'] sets a fire that can often be more destructive than beneficial.

It was about the failures demonstrated by those who were the elite of Jerusalem – the Pharisees, Sadducees, scribes, and high priests – that caused James to write: “From the same mouth come blessing and cursing.” They were the epitome of the axiom: “Do what I say, not what I do.” Those who forgave those of stature [for a sizable donation to the cause], but condemned those who did the same sins, but could not afford to buy the judges, they were the ones who spoke out of two sides of the same mouth. The native Americans called that “speaking with a forked tongue.”

When James used the metaphor of “fresh and brackish water,” fig trees yielding olives and grapevines bearing figs, he was saying a human being is a soul alone in a body of flesh that can only do what the world leads the body of flesh to do. The only way to stop doing wrong and do right is to submit one’s soul to Yahweh in marriage, which means the sacrifice of self-will and self-ego, so one’s soul-flesh is no longer influenced by worldly things. The well of only fresh water is the eternal water of Jesus in one’s soul. The presence of Jesus forbids any brackish water from ever entering the well, which springs from the mouth. The rebirth of Jesus means one can only bear the fruit of the truth of Yahweh, the Father.

As a reading selected to be read aloud on the sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost, when one’s own ministry to Yahweh should already be well underway, the lesson is clearly to stop being rudderless or stop being led by natural, knee-jerk reactions. It is impossible to be righteous without Yahweh’s Spirit within one’s being. It is impossible to do the acts of faith without having been reborn in the name of Jesus, as the Christ resurrected. It is impossible to pretend to “teach the children” how to marry their souls to Yahweh, when one’s soul has never known that love.

James had been a believer of Yahweh, as a devout Jew; but he was one who saw Jesus with disdain. One needs to see oneself as James, before he became Jesus reborn. James was speaking in this selection about knowing himself, before his soul married Yahweh and Jesus became resurrected with his soul. He had been a teacher with a poor education. That means all the brackish water and all the condemnation that had flown from his mouth hole before James became Jesus, is no different that the 'garbage in, garbage out' teachings of all Christian readers of his Epistle. The lesson is to set the hearts of others on fire for Yahweh, not to burn in hell for spreading the fire of lies. To do that, one has to have one's own heart be set on fire by Yahweh.


* With the advent of women's lib in Christian ministry, there should be not change in this aspect of "fathering," relative to Scripture. The traditional role of "father" is as disciplinarian, such that strict adherence to that taught must be maintained. "Mothering" is not the equal to that, as a mother kisses booboos and makes them well, forgiving lots of crap until pushed to the limits, saying, "Wait until your father gets home." A "mother" is the opposite of a "father," as the generality of women is to be emotional, such that being strict is not their forte. Female priests are proving to be too emotionally weak to make principles be strongly enforced. They act as if hugging the world will make all sins go away. It will not. Men and women should teach the same principles, thus human gender should not be a "teacher of children religious studies."

I am not in favor of female priests being called "Mother," as sexual gender is not a value that should receive attention. From what I have heard about the nuns in parochial schools, they used rulers under the axiom: spare the rod, spoil the child. That is a teacher that is "fatherly." Since Roman Catholic male priests have been found (too many times) not acting "fatherly," as far as being a "teacher of children," they should be stripped of the title of "father." All who cannot teach (the point of what James is writing in this selection) need to go by Mr., Ms., or Hired Hand, like any other regular school teacher.

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