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James 3:1-12 – Unbridled teachers of truth

Updated: Feb 6, 2021

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 selection from the Episcopal Lectionary for the Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year B 2018. In the numbering system that lists each Sunday in an ordinal fashion, this Sunday is referred to as Proper 19. It will next be read aloud in an Episcopal church by a reader on Sunday September 16, 2018. It is important because James told how Christianity spread rapidly through Apostles being sent out as teachers, with God-given tongues of fire.

Twice in the verses of this selected reading, James wrote “adelphoi,” which means “brothers.” There are 145 occurrences of this usage in all the New Testament. While it is easy to stick one’s Big Brained head in the sand and deny “brothers” actually means “brothers,” and that must be understood, the modern tendency is to screw the Holy Spirit inspired writers of those books and act as god almighty (lower case purposefully written, to denote the smallness of this) and bless all womankind by changing the text to say, “brothers and sisters.”  That is missing the purpose of “brothers” being written.

The purpose is for an Apostle to address ALL OTHER APOSTLES as the sons of God (therefore, “brothers” in the name of Jesus Christ). This, undoubtedly included women, and the female Apostles back in the days of James knew that. Therefore, changing holy text for political correctness today speaks loudly as saying, “There are no longer any Apostles, so it is best not to piss off the women here, since that is where all the church’s donations come from.”

Re-painting the Last Supper to meet new standards of acceptance.

That is not a good place to be!

Please write that down somewhere and memorize it. “Brothers” is like me saying “married to God” and Christians are “the wives of God.” That has absolutely nothing to do with human sexuality, so one’s genitalia are inconsequential. A wife to God becomes completely subservient to the husband’s commands. James meant no harm to the female of Judaism and they who were truly Christian (reborn as Jesus Christ – a male Spirit) took no offense.  I imagine some version of political correctness existed in 30 A.D., but James was not writing to meet their needs.

This is the message James began this reading with: “Not many of you should become teachers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.” It implies that Apostles would rather not be a male and refer to other males as the wives of God, just like they would shy away from calling women Christians “brothers.” It becomes like the chorus of a Dave Matthews song: So much to say.

Actually, the literal translation of verse one says, “Not often teachers become  ,  brothers ourselves  ,  knowing what greater judgment we will receive  .” This is not a statement by James that Apostles “should not become teachers,” based on the “condemnations that will come,” as lawsuits and sentences, but quite the opposite. Apostles must teach, so there is no choice in the matter. Few, however, would be recognized as official “rabbis” by the Jewish communities. Instead of expectations of wearing special robes and being invited to speak in beautiful synagogues, Apostles would be called to teach wherever God would open their mouths, because a seeker of truth was near.

When James then clarified this by stating, “For all of us make many mistakes,” it means that that it is impossible for God to err, and His Son will never speak anything but the truth. What James was pointing out was the imperfection that is the human form of an Apostle, which makes all of them come from a background of mistakes (i.e.: sinners). God does not marry wives and expect them to become Him reborn. God does not fill the mouths of His wives that bear His Son in another human body at all times. Apostles will return to being normal human beings when they are not teaching for the Father, which lets them all know just how blessed they are to be married to God. His “greater judgment” will keep the mistakes minimal and the ones that sneak in from time to time will be forgiven through penitence.

Still, God and Christ are perfect.  They come to help those who make mistakes.

James then used the analogy of a bridle in a horse’s mouth, which says that God does not control the human brains and force humans to do anything against their will.

So, if everyone agrees, this will be the bridle that will guide you.

As such, true Christians are not made to preach God’s Word as beasts of burden. True Christians are not tamed by God, having been caught unwillingly, corralled in schools of teaching, and then saddled with the burden of riding children around in circles all day long, before being given a bale of hay to munch on.

Apostles want God to lead their lives.  They find great joy arises within them when they experience God flowing through their being, speaking the words of Jesus Christ through their lips.  Apostles have never been trained in the meanings of Scripture they speak, yet they take delight in completely understanding everything coming out of their mouths.

Likewise, James used the analogy of a ship, which are mechanical devices built by man to serve commercial needs. The larger a ship is the more commerce it allows.  All ships have relatively small rudders, which are controlled by just one man. Apostles are not built and used as vehicles of transport that are to be piloted by God. As to size, human beings can deliver the messages of God in small packages, so the size of the Christian (or the human gender) is unimportant. The pilot of a Christian is greater than the size of the Christian, as God is immeasurable. The rudder being steered is Jesus Christ.  Combined, they act to guide where the ship goes.  Still, the ship itself is made for a worldly existence and steered by the wrong pilot can sink on unseen rocks.


When James wrote, “the tongue is a fire,” which has to be recognized as the story in Acts of the first Apostles having the Holy Spirit descend upon them. They began to speak automatically, in foreign languages they had never been taught. The words that came out of their mouths were then spread to listening pilgrims in Jerusalem.  Just as suddenly, three thousand believers became Apostles set afire with the Holy Spirit. They were like a forest “set ablaze by a small fire” of twelve.

The “fire” is the truth of the Word, from which comes the light and warmth that Scripture contains. The Holy Bible, as was the Torah then, is a forest of words that the Holy Spirit can set ablaze in the teacher each Apostles holds within – Jesus Christ.  Anyone can navigate the words on a page, but it takes an higher power to ignite one to speak in tongues of fire.

The translation that reads, “The tongue is placed among our members as a world of iniquity” is wrong and confusing. Verse six literally begins by stating: “And the tongue afire  ,  the world that is unrighteous  .” That says the Holy Spirit speaks the truth to the unrighteous so they can hear the truth be told. The verse then continues to state: “The tongue is set among the members of us  ,  people defiling all the body  ,  and setting on fire the course this of lineage  ,  and set on fire by what is hell  .

Whoever can give a blessing to mass murder must daily live in a fiery hell of existence.

This series of segments says (paraphrasing): Apostles are given tongues of fire to go forth into a world that is filled with iniquities, one not knowing the truth of the Word. Apostles of God who go forth and speak the truth are set among other Apostles who support those ministries. Together, they open the eyes of those who are defiling their bodies and thus their souls, offering them the cleansing of the Holy Spirit’s baptism by spiritual fire. Apostles speak the truth so the course of their souls can be changed from sinner to Saint, becoming part of the “brothers” of Jesus Christ. The alternative is to remain in the fiery hell their souls are already amidst.

When James wrote, “no one can tame the tongue– a restless evil, full of deadly poison,” the implication is that the “tongue” is the body part that inner spirits love to gain control over. This is confirming what Jesus told the Pharisees, who complained about his disciples not following the laws of handwashing. When Jesus said, “What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them” (Matthew 15:11) the “tongue” is the member that speaks for what controls one’s soul.  Inner demons use the tongue to be defiled by deadly poison.

James is then saying that God comes from the “tongues” set afire in His Apostles, acting as a counter to the “restless evil” that controls the unrighteous. The “deadly poison” they spew is the death sentence they have set upon their own souls.  That poison is from self-ego, doing self-harm, more than the damage they could possibly do to anyone else already mortally dead. The “tongues” of Apostles is then the remedy that offers them the cure for their poison.

This opposition of tongues speaking for inner controlling forces is then stated by James as: “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.”

This makes better sense when one realizes the pause (a comma) after “and we curse those [men],” where the translation omits the word “men” or “others” (from “anthrōpous“).   As such, the focus is on the “men” cursed, as  “those” who are unrighteous, led by “a restless evil.” Following that pause, “those” cursed are the ones “who are made in the likeness of God,” as false shepherds. Their “resemblances” (from “homoiōsin“) of holiness are the robes they wear that advertise them as holy teachers; but their tongues say otherwise. Therefore, it is from those mouths that comes forth both blessings and curses.

James then addressed his fellow “brothers,” saying this split personality ought not to be. It confuses those who are seeking the truth, when the message they teach is: “Do as I say, not as I do.”

Such contradiction was then stated as comparisons of impossibility, when James wrote, “Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and brackish water? Can a fig tree, yield olives, or a grapevine figs?”  The obvious answer says, “No more can salt water yield fresh.”

It must be grasped that James was not saying Apostles speak in such contradictory terms; as the message is how to tell those who speak the truth of God and those who speak as if in possession of intellectual prowess.  The focus was placed on those who are bad teachers.

As the Epistle selection for the seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost, when one’s own personal ministry for the LORD should be underway – one’s tongue is on fire with the truth of God – the message here is how to measure the impact of teachers (rabbis, pastors, priests, ministers, and preachers). True teachers have tongues of fire that ignite the passion of the Holy Spirit in those who hear them speak. True teachers spread a forest fire of faith that can only be stopped by a lack of seekers of truth. Others are those who speak out of both sides of their mouths, blessing those who sin and condemning those who do not like those blessings.

The spread of Christianity has turned from a forest fire of faith to sporadic burning embers here and there.

Gone are the days when twelve men could stand before a flood of religious pilgrims and speak the truth in such a way that many lives were instantly changed. The seekers of truth have changed into cults of personality worship. We give our blessings to politicians that then go condemn whole swaths of citizenry, those innocent beings that do not swear allegiance to the same philosophies.  The tendency now is to want the laws changed and to demand freedom be given … to allow the masses to determine what should be held near and dear. Today there is a restless evil that prevails.

Rather than be bridled by the Laws of Moses, our government has set many free to roam as wild horses, while jamming the bridle of government laws into the mouths of those broken and tamed.  Many are made the beasts of burden to laws that call the minority’s rights superior to the majority’s reasoning, based on religion having been the way of the land.

Rather than be a ship built for a specific purpose and given pre-planned routes of transportation, we have surgically removed the rudder of Christianity from Western nations.  Now, what was expected has become chaos.  The laws of nations cause many to circle aimlessly and carelessly steer on to collision courses, with no pilots capable of steering the ship to safety.

We now bless iniquity and curse goodness.  What was known is questionable.  What was up is now down.  What was elemental has become complicated.

This Epistle focuses on teaching, accompanying two Old Testament readings that tell of the goddess of wisdom and marriage to the Lord God as the influences that teach the teachers. Apostles choose the later, while all others choose the former. This leads into a Gospel lesson from Mark, where Jesus taught of the responsibility of following in his footsteps. James, the brother of Jesus, who was reborn as Jesus Christ, becoming a brother to all Apostles, knew firsthand the difference between acting holy and being righteous. His words still speak loudly today.

We all are born human, thus we all make mistakes. No one is going to bridle us with laws that will transform the flawed into perfection. Still, we know that God is perfection. It is then up to each individual to give of themselves to God, requesting that He become one with him or her, so that God’s perfection can be a fire renewed on the earthly plane.

The perfection that comes from a tongue of fire is Jesus Christ. God will not force His Son upon anyone. To be an Apostle of Christ, one must desire God first and foremost in one’s life.

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