James 3 Study Notes


3:1-12 In this section James continued to address the issue of misguided speech (2:16-18). The focus is on how errant teaching might adversely affect the congregation.

3:1 Many people desire to be teachers because this is an important role in the church. Yet the proliferation of untrained teachers can allow false teachings to arise within congregations, leading some astray. Teachers receive a stricter judgment and should not be appointed carelessly.

3:2 The most difficult thing for a teacher to control is the tongue. Body carries a dual meaning here. It refers to the physical body and the role the tongue plays in it, but it also refers to the body of believers in the synagogue and the influence that teachers have in it.

3:3-6 Like horse bits and ship rudders, the size of the tongue is disproportionate to the influence it holds. False teaching (expressed by “the tongue”) is a world of unrighteousness. It pollutes the whole body (an individual or a congregation) and determines the destiny of all who follow it.


Greek pronunciation [prah OO tays]
CSB translation gentleness
Uses in James 2
Uses in the NT 11
Focus passage James 3:13

Prautēs (gentleness, humility) always appears as a positive quality in the NT. Christians are encouraged to receive humbly the implanted word able to save their lives (Jms 1:21). This inward attitude of gentleness always manifests itself outwardly. There is no such thing as a gentle attitude that does not express itself in gentleness with relation to others. Therefore, good conduct should operate in the gentleness that wisdom requires (Jms 3:13). Gentleness is a fruit of the Spirit (Gl 5:23). Christians are to clothe themselves with gentleness not only toward one another (Col 3:12) but also toward all people (Ti 3:2). Sinners are to be restored in a spirit of gentleness (Gl 6:1). The servant of God is not to quarrel even with his opponents. Rather, he is to instruct them in gentleness with a view to their repentance (2Tm 2:24-25; cp. 1Pt 3:16).

3:7-8 James refers to all creatures in four categories (see Gn 9:2). He is probably alluding to Gn 1:26.

3:9-12 James pointed out the contradictory nature of the tongue. Out of the same mouth come blessing of God and cursing of fellow humans who are made in God’s likeness, a violation of the “royal law” (2:8).

3:13-18 In these verses James continued addressing the role of teachers, particularly their spiritual maturity. Speech plays a role here (don’t boast and deny the truth), but the larger issues are envy and selfish ambition. Far from being minor character flaws, these traits are earthly, unspiritual, demonic.

3:13 As faith is demonstrated by works, so also wisdom is demonstrated by good conduct and gentleness.

3:14-15 The phrase envy and selfish ambition contrasts with “good conduct” and “gentleness that comes from wisdom” in v. 13. Denial of truth is a constant threat in churches that tolerate false teachings.

3:16-18 James contrasted the two types of wisdom in terms of their sources. Teachers who teach on the basis of “earthly” wisdom produce disorder and every evil practice. Teachers who possess wisdom from above produce virtues that fulfill the “royal law” (2:8) and promote unity within the congregation.