Today: [James 3:] Do We Have a Right to Our Opinions? In James three the writer admonishes us to restrain our words. Harsh opinions and contention originate in hell, and even if we think we are within our bounds to rail against what we disagree with, James insists that all such controversy originates in hell and opens the door to confusion, strife, and every evil work. Just because you can say something and feel justified in doing so doesn’t mean you aren’t being deceived by the enemy all the same.
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[Jas 3:1-18 KJV] 1 My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation. 2 For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same [is] a perfect man, [and] able also to bridle the whole body. 3 Behold, we put bits in the horses’ mouths, that they may obey us; and we turn about their whole body. 4 Behold also the ships, which though [they be] so great, and [are] driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small helm, whithersoever the governor listeth. 5 Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! 6 And the tongue [is] a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell. 7 For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind: 8 But the tongue can no man tame; [it is] an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. 9 Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. 10 Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be. 11 Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet [water] and bitter? 12 Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either a vine, figs? so [can] no fountain both yield salt water and fresh. 13 Who [is] a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom. 14 But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. 15 This wisdom descendeth not from above, but [is] earthly, sensual, devilish. 16 For where envying and strife [is], there [is] confusion and every evil work. 17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, [and] easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. 18 And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.
This chapter of James begins with a caution to leaders whose lives bear greater scrutiny because of their place of responsibility in the body Christ. Leaders receive more massive condemnation of real or perceived wrongdoing and are the focus of many offenses against them from every quarter. While a leader cannot possibly avoid making himself or herself a target the one thing that James encourages is a bridled tongue. Solomon agrees with this in the book of Proverbs:
[Pro 10:19 KJV] 19 In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin: but he that refraineth his lips [is] wise.
My father often said a preacher has something to say about everything. When words flow more freely than common sense and godly wisdom, we defame ourselves and then complain that we are being mistreated. It is advisable for any believer whether a leader or no to exercise restraint whether spoken or in writing in terms of giving loose opinions about various things. How many times have you cringed when reading something posted by a fellow believer and thought maybe that wasn’t the wisest thing for them to be expressing on social media or otherwise?
James goes on to note that we use bits in horses’ mouths to control them and put rudders on ships to steer them so likewise, the tongue needs to be restrained in light of its great force and power to direct the course of our lives. The tongue James writes in v. 5 is like an ember that once used can light a veritable forest fire of trouble and controversy. The tongue is a fire with a veritable world of iniquity in its nature. The word for world used here is where we get our word for cosmos which is an aggregate of various systems that make up a whole. The word iniquity is defined as wrongfulness. This is what the tongue can unleash James continues, setting on fire the course (or wheel) of nature whose flame originates in hell.
Here we see Satan’s tactic. God’s heart is that heaven would come to earth through the faith-filled prayers and lives of the saints as God’s plan is “as in heaven so on earth” so Satan’s plan is the reverse “as in hell so in the earth” and the tongue is the enemy’s primary initiator. Keeping this in mind you might remind yourself next time you want to flame your opinion for all to hear or see that you don’t have to say everything that comes to mind about any subject in particular. A man or woman of wisdom restrains their words. That is very difficult when your mind is full of opinions which is why in Mattew 7:1 Jesus said judge not that you be not judged. The word judge here means to have or hand down an opinion. How many people treat their social media footprint like a judgment seat handing down opinions to every passerby or casual reader?
The tongue James says is the one thing in the earth that no man can tame. It is unruly and full of deadly poison. We bless God with it and turn right around and curse men who are made in the image of God. What is a curse? The word in Greek is “execrate” where the word excrement comes from. When is the last time you heaped verbal or written excrement against someone you didn’t agree with? A curse is spoken when you say something about someone or something contrary to what God says or thinks. The next time you open your mouth to curse your enemy with some verbal defecation remember the words of Jesus in John 3:16:
[Jhn 3:16 KJV] 16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
God loves that person you are speaking ill of so much that even when that person was lost in sin God gave His only son to open the possibility that this person might not perish but have everlasting life. Of course, the rebuttal to this is that we have a right to an opinion and besides that they are wrong aren’t they? In the very next verse Jesus declares:
[Jhn 3:17 KJV] 17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
Are you seeing yourself as merely condemning wrong? What is it in human nature that provokes us to do what Jesus would refrain to do? Consider the following in Luke 9:
[Luk 9:52-56 KJV] 52 And sent messengers before his face: and they went, and entered into a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for him. 53 And they did not receive him, because his face was as though he would go to Jerusalem. 54 And when his disciples James and John saw [this], they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did? 55 But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. 56 For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save [them]. And they went to another village.
Now Jesus is being rejected from a city of the Samaritans. Do you see Jesus being rejected from the public square and society in general today? This is happening on every hand and Christians are rising up like James and John to command fire and brimstone down on anyone alien to faith. They are using Elijah as their example. How often do we do this? We see ourselves as moving in the spirit of Elijah. If that is moving in the spirit of Elijah then what spirit was Jesus moving in when he chastised them declaring that even regarding Christ rejecters he didn’t come to destroy them but to save them. More explicitly he says he didn’t come to speak ruin on their lives. We might object that they are living ungodly lives, but all the same, Jesus didn’t come to destroy them but to save them. What are we to do? Stop and rail against them? What was Jesus’ response? The went to the other village. In other words instead of standing there looking at all the ungodliness – MOVE ON till you find a ready hearing. You are wasting energy and stewardship of your life focused on ungodliness when you ought instead to expend your energy to seek out those who are willing and open to the gospel. This is a massive correction that is needed in the body of Christ.
Where does that impetus originate? We might say our thinking on any subject originates in our mind, but James says such things originate in hell – they are part of Satan’s strategy of hell come to earth when we are supposed to be the instruments of heaven come to earth. Thus (v. 10) out of the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. Is it fitting that our mouth as a fountain brings forth sweet and bitter water? As trees that are the planting of the Lord is it acceptable to bring forth good fruit and contaminated fruit? Every word out of our mouth originates from something rooted in us either originating in heaven or in hell and what you unleash through your words will dominate and control your life in ways that result in much sorrow and hurtful outcomes.
The writer then suggests that much vitriol that comes out in our conversation arises from bitter envying and strife. We might insist instead that we are just speaking common sense to which v. 15 response that yes it may be wisdom that we are expressing, but it is wisdom that descends not from above but is earthly, sensual and devilish. Thus James suggests that harsh words arise from envy and strife and where these things exist there is confusion and every evil work. To this Proverbs 13:10 agrees:
[Pro 13:10 KJV] 10 Only by pride cometh contention: but with the well advised [is] wisdom.
We may think we are just defending the right, but the testimony of scripture speaks otherwise. The wisdom that is from above is first pure, peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated on all counts to all parties involved without partiality. The fruit of righteousness the fruit of one who understands their entitlements in Christ is demonstrated in the peaceableness that we sow even into the most contention of situations.
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