James 3:2

Thursday, 25 July 2019

For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body. James 3:2

James just spoke of the need for people to not be hasty in becoming teachers, “knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment.” Now, to support that notion, he says, “For we all stumble in many things.” It is a universal statement, inclusive of himself, that people are prone to error. The word translated as “stumble” is the same word used in verse 2:10 where he noted –

“For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.”

His point is that all are guilty of breaking the law. It is something confirmed by Paul in the book of Romans –

“…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23

Next, to further define what he means by “stumble,” he says, “If anyone does not stumble in word.” The idea here is that everyone is prone to stumble, and thus people who desire to be teachers need to be properly trained in teaching. However, there are those whose point of stumbling is in their words. Such cannot keep watch over their tongues. This is a great error because the tongue is the very means by which the teaching is communicated.

Therefore, if the person’s words are not circumspect, there will be a negative impression brought upon the very word which is being taught. And yet, it is the word which is intended to bring life, restoration with God, and a proper walk before Him. A man who can guard his tongue is needed. In this, James says, “he is a perfect man.”

The word translated as “perfect” gives the sense of full maturity, being brought to the end of the development process so that there is a perfection of his verbal conduct. There will be no stumbling because he has trained himself in the word. It is reflective of what is said in Psalm 39:1 –

“I said, ‘I will guard my ways,
Lest I sin with my tongue;
I will restrain my mouth with a muzzle,
While the wicked are before me.’”

Finally, James describes such a perfect man by saying that he is “able also to bridle the whole body.” How can that be? The tongue is so small, and it is normally kept out of sight. And yet James says that in keeping the tongue in check, the whole body is bridled! The word he uses is one only found here and in James 1:26, chalinagógeó, and it signifies “to curb,” “restrain,” or even “to bridle.” One puts a bridle in the horse of a mouth, and the horse can then be moved wherever the rider determines. This is the idea that James gives here. To bridle the tongue will keep the whole body moving in the desired path.

James will continue with his thoughts on the tongue in the verses ahead, warning all that the tongue must be properly restrained, or severe consequences will result.

Life application: Living a faultless life is a hard challenge and, as James indicates, we all stumble in many ways. There are certain sects and cults which claim that we can have total victory over sin even in this life. But 1 John 1:10 dispels that notion –

“If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.”

We cannot claim that we were or are yet free from sin. To make such a claim is to call the inspiration of Scripture into question. However, we can strive to be faultless in the use of our tongue. And this, in turn, will allow us to keep the rest of our actions in check as well.

Because of the large amount of effort James will dedicate to the subject of keeping watch over our tongues, we will demonstrate wisdom to take heed to his admonitions. In addition to James, the book of Proverbs deals with the subject of exercising care in the use of our mouths.

Let us make a concerted effort to use our mouths for praise and not cursing, adoration and not contempt, uplifting and not tearing down. If we do this, not only will those we address be blessed, but we will as well.

Negativity in life stores up in our souls and makes us bitter. So let us attempt to focus on the good aspects of others – to the extent possible, depending on the person. If there is nothing redeeming in the person, then don’t say anything at all. Why lower yourself to the level of a debased person? All things to the glory of the Lord! So let us watch our tongues closely.

Heavenly Father, we surely and openly admit to our inability to control our tongues in all situations. Therefore, we ask a heaping dose of restraint in this matter. Refresh us and give us the ability to overcome the use of inappropriate words. We ask this that You will be glorified in our lives and in the eyes of those around us. Amen.

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