James 3

The Tongue Is a Fire

Do not become teachers in large numbers, my brothers, since you know that we who are teachers will incur a [a]stricter judgment. For we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in [b]what he says, he is a perfect man, able to [c]rein in the whole body as well. Now if we put the bits into the horses’ mouths so that they will obey us, we direct their whole body as well. Look at the ships too: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are nevertheless directed by a very small rudder wherever the inclination of the pilot determines. So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things.

See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, the very world of unrighteousness; the tongue is set among [d]our body’s parts as that which defiles the whole body and sets on fire the course of our [e]life, and is set on fire by [f]hell. For every [g]species of beasts and birds, of reptiles and creatures of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by the human [h]race. But no one among mankind can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people, who have been made in the likeness of God; 10 from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brothers and sisters, these things should not be this way. 11 Does a spring send out from the same opening both [i]fresh and bitter water? 12 Can a fig tree, my brothers and sisters, bear olives, or a vine bear figs? Nor can salt water produce [j]fresh.

Wisdom from Above

13 Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter jealousy and [k]selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. 15 This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, [l]natural, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and [m]selfish ambition exist, [n]there is disorder and every evil thing. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peace-loving, gentle, [o]reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, [p]impartial, free of hypocrisy. 18 And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace [q]by those who make peace.


  1. James 3:1 Or greater condemnation; i.e., for erroneous doctrine
  2. James 3:2 Lit word
  3. James 3:2 Or hold in check
  4. James 3:6 Lit our parts
  5. James 3:6 Or existence, origin
  6. James 3:6 Gr Gehenna
  7. James 3:7 Lit nature
  8. James 3:7 Lit nature
  9. James 3:11 Lit sweet
  10. James 3:12 Lit sweet
  11. James 3:14 Or strife
  12. James 3:15 Or unspiritual
  13. James 3:16 Or strife
  14. James 3:16 I.e., in that place
  15. James 3:17 Or willing to yield
  16. James 3:17 Or unwavering
  17. James 3:18 Or for