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Power of the Tongue.* 1Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you realize that we will be judged more strictly, 2for we all fall short in many respects. If anyone does not fall short in speech, he is a perfect man, able to bridle his whole body also.a 3If we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we also guide their whole bodies. 4It is the same with ships: even though they are so large and driven by fierce winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot’s inclination wishes. 5In the same way the tongue is a small member and yet has great pretensions.
Consider how small a fire can set a huge forest ablaze. 6The tongue is also a fire. It exists among our members as a world of malice, defiling the whole body and setting the entire course of our lives on fire, itself set on fire by Gehenna. 7For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by the human species, 8but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.b 9With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings who are made in the likeness of God. 10From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. This need not be so, my brothers. 11Does a spring gush forth from the same opening both pure and brackish water? 12Can a fig tree, my brothers, produce olives, or a grapevine figs? Neither can salt water yield fresh.c
True Wisdom.* 13Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show his works by a good life in the humility that comes from wisdom.d 14But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. 15Wisdom of this kind does not come down from above but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every foul practice. 17But the wisdom from above is first of all pure, then peaceable, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without inconstancy or insincerity.e 18And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace for those who cultivate peace.f
* [3:1–12] The use and abuse of the important role of teaching in the church (Jas 3:1) are here related to the good and bad use of the tongue (Jas 3:9–12), the instrument through which teaching was chiefly conveyed (see Sir 5:11–6:1; 28:12–26).
* [3:13–18] This discussion of true wisdom is related to the previous reflection on the role of the teacher as one who is in control of his speech. The qualities of the wise man endowed from above are detailed (Jas 3:17–18; cf. Gal 5:22–23), in contrast to the qualities of earthbound wisdom (Jas 3:14–16; cf. 2 Cor 12:20).
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