A Word to the Would-Be Teacher (James 3:1-13)

James, some of us are interested in teaching — you know, preaching in church, teaching the Bible, writing good books, leading small groups, blogging biblical insights, posting instructive Facebook notes.  What do you think?

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers.

Why not?

There are two main reasons.

What’s the first reason?

We who teach will be judged.

Won’t everyone be judged?

Those who teach will be judged with greater strictness.

What’s the second reason?

We all stumble in many ways.

But what if I don’t stumble in my speech?

If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man.

What do you mean a “perfect man”?

He would be able also to bridle his whole body.

Can you give an example?

If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well.

How about another example?

Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs.

How do these relate to our speech?

In the same way, the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.

What kind of “great things” does the little tongue do?

The small fire of the tongue sets ablaze great forests!

What do you mean, “fire”?

The tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness.

What does this tongue — this “fire” — do?

The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life.”

What happens at the end of all this?

The tongue is set on fire by hell.

So the tongue is really this uncontrollable?

Every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind.

So if every kind of animal can be tamed, surely we can tame our tongues?

No human being can tame the tongue.

Why not?

The tongue is a restless evil.

That seems a bit strong.

The tongue is full of deadly poison.

So how do we see this relentless, wicked, murderous, poisonous tongue in operation?

With the tongue we bless our Lord and Father.

Wait — isn’t that good?

With the tongue we also curse people.

What’s so bad about that?

These people were created in the likeness of God.

So what are you saying?

From the same mouth come blessing and cursing.

What do you think about that?

My brothers, these things ought not to be so.

Why not?

Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water?


Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives?


Can a grapevine produce figs?


Can a salt pond yield fresh water?

No… So what should we do about teaching?

Who is wise and understanding among you?

I think I am… that’s why I want to teach.

By your good conduct show your works in the meekness of wisdom.

Oh — “show your works” — that’s what you were saying before.

Yes — faith without works is dead.

And teaching without works is dead…

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