Help ATS with a contribution via PayPal:
learn more

James; The use of the tongue

page: 1
6
<<   2 >>

log in

join

posted on Jun, 18 2012 @ 04:11 PM
link   
In the middle of his New Testament letter (ch3 vv1-12), James presents a number of thoughts on the use of the tongue. They don’t have the kind of logical progression found in Paul’s letters, which makes the passage seem a little disjointed. Nonetheless, we can find a purpose in the arrangement; they haven’t been thrown together at random.

His first thought is that people should not be over-eager to teach others, which is one way of using the tongue (v1).
The reason given is that teachers will be judged more strictly, if they get things wrong, because they will have been leading others astray.
I wonder if that includes the episode in my primary school when I was explaining the mysteries of number to the boy at the next desk.
“There are ten tens in a hundred”, I told him, “ten hundreds in a thousand, and ten thousands in a million”.
Nobody picked up on the fact that I was unconsciously misleading him, but I still remember it as an example of the pitfalls of analogy, as well as over-confidence.
But James is probably more concerned with those who teach on religious matters. It’s one aspect of what Jesus meant about “causing one of these little ones to stumble”.

The remark that “we all make many mistakes” is the link which connects this thought with the next thought.

The second thought is that those who can control their tongues, to the extent of avoiding mistakes altogether, will be able to control the rest of their bodies as well (v2).
And also the other way round, we must suppose; those who cannot control their tongues will not be controlling their bodies.

The explanation given is that the body is governed by the tongue in the same way that a horse is governed by his bit, or a ship is governed by its rudder. In each case, there’s a small unit directing and controlling a much larger body, as long as it’s properly guided by the horseman, the steersman, or the speaker.
We may question whether this really applies to the tongue,
We may think that use of the tongue is a symptom, more than a cause, of self-control or the lack of it.
Certainly an uncontrolled use of the tongue is likely to be the first symptom that presents itself, if we’re meeting someone for the first time.
But we may be willing to accept his observation that self-control in the tongue and self-control in the body tend to go together.

The remark that a small fire, in the same way, can set light to a great forest is the link which connects this thought with the next thought.

His third thought is that the tongue is a fire (v6).
It’s been taken from the fires of Gehenna, which makes it an unholy fire.
The additional comments in that sentence are not always easy to translate.

The phrase “world of unrighteousness” is dropped in rather awkwardly, immediately after the word “fire”. The word KOSMOS, normally translated “world”, really means “arranged, put in order”.
He says that the tongue “is set up” (KATHISTATAI) among the parts of the body. None of the translations that I’ve consulted even bother translating that verb. Yet the mere fact that the tongue “is one of the parts of the body” seems too obvious to be worth inserting. I think the Greek will bear the meaning that the tongue is set up “in office” or “in power” among the parts of the body, which would echo his second thought. Then the previous phrase could mean that the tongue was bringing about an unrighteous state of order.
.
He says that the tongue defiles the body, and also sets on fire TO TROCHON TES GENESEOS. The RSV translates this last phrase as “cycle of nature”, but also offers the alternative translation “wheel of birth”. I wonder if James is using “wheel” as a metaphor for “smooth running”, in the same way that we talk about “oiling the wheels”, or putting a spoke in them. Then his meaning could be that the tongue brings friction to the wheels of (social) life and disrupts the smooth running of society at large. This behaviour is a spiritual “defilement of the body” because it’s against God’s will.

The tongue is also like a wild beast, unique among the wild beasts of the earth in that it cannot be tamed by men. This claim is slightly at odds with the gist of his previous thought. The whole point of the rudder/horse-bit metaphor was to draw the moral that taming the tongue, keeping it under control, was both possible and necessary. However, we might accept the claim as a practical observation, that the human race has never been very successful in keeping the tongue tamed.

The remark that the tongue is full of deadly poison is the link which connects this thought to the next thought.

His fourth thought is that the tongue is used for contradictory purposes (v9). On the one hand, it is used for blessing God, on the other hand it is used for cursing fellow-men. This kind of thing is against nature, like a spring which gives fresh and salt water at the same time.

It’s possible that all these thoughts had featured independently in James’ conversation and teaching.
Then they were combined into a single discourse by the addition of the connecting links.
But the passage, in its final form, seems to have a recognisable purpose in the context of the letter, following on from his comments on faith and works, and leading into his commendation of “the wisdom from above”.

At the end of ch2, James was criticising a reliance on a purely verbal faith, pointing out that a man’s faith needs to be demonstrated by what he does.
I think it’s very plausible that the “verbal faith” which James attacks was being encouraged by teachers inspired by Paul’s language on faith. (It’s not quite a true reflection of Paul’s own teaching, but that must be a question for another time).
I suggest that his remarks in ch3 on the use of the tongue are intended to have a personal application to the same people he was addressing in the previous chapter.

His first thought is that they are over-eager to be teachers, putting other people right on matters of theology, and not recognising the possibility that they might be mistaken themselves.
His second thought is that their teaching doesn’t pay enough attention to the need to keep the body under control.
Perhaps he thinks they don’t control their own bodies very well either.
His third thought is that their own use of the tongue, in theological controversy, is intemperate, and causes trouble within the church.
His fourth thought will also be applicable to them if they are in the habit of cursing their theological opponents.

Finally, at the end of the chapter, he gets back to his previous theme, the importance of showing good works “in the meekness of wisdom”. In other words, after taking these teachers to task about the manner of their teaching, he returns to discussing the content.
So bringing these thoughts together has also had the effect of developing one of the main themes of this letter.




posted on Jun, 18 2012 @ 05:15 PM
link   
reply to post by DISRAELI
 


Nicely said...

Jesus summed this up in one verse though...

Its not what goes into the mouth that defiles a man, but what comes out...

S&F




posted on Jun, 18 2012 @ 05:18 PM
link   
reply to post by Akragon
 

Quite so.
Thank you for that comment.



posted on Jun, 18 2012 @ 06:02 PM
link   
I suppose on ATS it would be considered the use of the tongue through the keyboard.
Still the same concept though.

As Christians, we are first and foremost instructed to love God, and by doing so, we love our fellow man.
Compassion, mercy and grace seems to be so easily overtaken by judgment.

Who is man to judge?
That is reserved for Christ alone, and ordained solely to Him by God.

I have been forgiven much.
I sin and die daily.
I am only wise enough to be aware of the boundaries of that wisdom.
Every human being on the face of this planet is a work in progress.

Those who claim Christ, have been given compassion, mercy and grace without measure.
And for us to truly be the salt and light of the world, what has been given so abundantly to us, should perpetually flow through us and be given freely to others.



posted on Jun, 18 2012 @ 06:09 PM
link   
reply to post by stupid girl
 

Yes indeed, we're still using words to address other people. Perhaps James would make a good Moderator.
"Who is man to judge" is one of the things he says himself later in the letter.
Thank you for those comments.



posted on Jun, 18 2012 @ 07:40 PM
link   
Star and flag.


I don't remember where I read this, but the author said to speak is to control the thoughts of another person. I thought that was very profound - a big responsibility for the speaker.
edit on 18-6-2012 by cloudyday because: (no reason given)



posted on Jun, 18 2012 @ 08:32 PM
link   
reply to post by cloudyday
 

I don't know that quotation, but there's a lot of truth in it.



posted on Jun, 18 2012 @ 10:14 PM
link   
reply to post by DISRAELI
 


I agree to a point but, you will be faulted less for accidentally leading someone astray than if you were doing it on purpose for the specific purpose of making them fall, that would put you in the category of being wicked and a willfull deciever which Yeshua really hates. he really has a problem with people who are out to screw someone else over because they like it or just because they can or are on a power trip. That is the kind of corruption he argued against while he was here in person 2000 years ago.



posted on Jun, 18 2012 @ 10:23 PM
link   
I would comment...

But what I would have to say would be lost in the brilliance here.



posted on Jun, 19 2012 @ 12:19 PM
link   
reply to post by lonewolf19792000
 

There may be a medium point between "deliberate" and "accidental", in terms of "not taking enough care", and being over-confident about a doctrine for insufficient reasons..
Just as the law punishes people who cause injury by negligence (e.g. driving carelessly on wet roads), as well as people who cause injury deliberately.
So James' warning about "judged with greater strictness" is addressed to teachers who "make mistakes"; that is, they give bad teaching because they're not sufficiently aware of the possibility that they might be getting it wrong, and they allow their over-confidence to lead other people astray. For the people being led astray, that is just as dangerous.
The church has always been plagued with false teaching, but I'm sure more of this has come from over-confidence than from deliberate malice.
"I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, consider it possible that you might be mistaken"- a sentiment which Olicer Cromwell might have borrowed from James.


edit on 19-6-2012 by DISRAELI because: (no reason given)



posted on Jun, 20 2012 @ 12:08 PM
link   
For information; At a later stage, I hope to move on to look at the passage at the end of ch3, and after that to double back to the chapters at the beginning of the letter in order to thrash out the subject of "faith".



posted on Jun, 20 2012 @ 12:44 PM
link   

Originally posted by DISRAELI
For information; At a later stage, I hope to move on to look at the passage at the end of ch3, and after that to double back to the chapters at the beginning of the letter in order to thrash out the subject of "faith".


I do have a question you may be able to answer.

At the end of the book, the very end...


8And I John saw these things, and heard them. And when I had heard and seen, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel which shewed me these things. 9Then saith he unto me, See thou do it not: for I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren the prophets, and of them which keep the sayings of this book: worship God.

10And he saith unto me, Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book: for the time is at hand. 11He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still.

12And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be. 13I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.

14Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city. 15For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.

16I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star. 17And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.

18For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book:

19And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.

20He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus. 21The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.


See, everything has been done. There is no mystery to unravel. It has all been done in the book.

What is there to discuss? All we are supposed to do is keep his commandments and wait for his return. That's it.

We are not supposed to add anything to what is written. We are not supposed to interpret it. We are not supposed to add to it or take scripture from it. It is done.

So, what is there left to discuss?

Trying to think our way through the mysteries only keeps us from this simple ending.

Could it be that maybe, just maybe, the mysteries are there to trap those who think they can THINK their way to God?
edit on 20-6-2012 by DeathbecomesLife because: (no reason given)



posted on Jun, 20 2012 @ 01:36 PM
link   

Originally posted by DeathbecomesLife
We are not supposed to add anything to what is written. We are not supposed to interpret it. We are not supposed to add to it or take scripture from it. It is done.

"We are not supposed to interpret it" is not there in the text- you have added it in.
You see? You yourself have done the thing you are criticising.

If something is not easy to understand, there is nothing wrong with trying to understand it, because that is not adding or taking away.
If something is not easy to understand, "You must not interpret" is not being helpful.



posted on Jun, 20 2012 @ 01:42 PM
link   

Originally posted by DISRAELI
"We are not supposed to interpret it" is not there in the text- you have added it in.
You see? You yourself have done the thing you are criticising.


Indeed I have. I should have added "for others" at the end of that statement.

But it is God's will that I did not, for it has been done.


Originally posted by DISRAELI
If something is not easy to understand, there is nothing wrong with trying to understand it, because that is not adding or taking away.
If something is not easy to understand, "You must not interpret" is not being helpful.


To each as it is given then.
edit on 20-6-2012 by DeathbecomesLife because: (no reason given)



posted on Jun, 20 2012 @ 03:08 PM
link   
Sometimes I've wondered about talkativeness. On the one hand, most people talk too much or talk too carelessly or talk about things they don't really understand. But if we don't talk at all, then that can be a problem.

Take small talk as an example. On the one hand it fills the listener's mind with pointless thoughts. But on the other other hand, small talk helps people feel relaxed and bond.

Or lets say I keep my mouth shut in a discussion. How will anybody know that I have dumb ideas that need to be corrected?



posted on Jun, 20 2012 @ 03:45 PM
link   
reply to post by cloudyday
 

I'm not the talkative type myself. I can't do small talk; I'm just no good at it, I don't know what to say. So I tend to err on the opposite side to "talking too much".
If you keep your thoughts to yourself, you can correct your own dumb ideas, up to a point, just by listening to what other people are saying. Then you can contribute more when you feel more sure of what you're talking about.
Of course James is more concerned with aggressive talking, than with talkativeness as such.



posted on Jun, 20 2012 @ 04:26 PM
link   
The tongue should be gaurded closely, it can have deadly consequences if you loose your tongue and say the wrong thing at the wrong time. The kindest word can mend a broken heart, the harshest words can kill. You can strengthen a person with the right words, or destroy them with the wrong words. I believe this is one of the things Yeshua was trying to teach in his time here. He did after all say "it is not what goes into your mouth that defiles you, but which comes out of your mouth that makes you unclean, because what comes from your mouth is that which comes from the heart" (paraphrasing).

So whenever you encounter someone who is verbally, emotionally and mentally abusive, they say things like "you're so f***ing stupid" or "you can't do anything right" or "you're a useless pile of trash" or "you believe in fairytales" it belies what is really in their heart, which is anger, hate and bitterness which are the fruits of their spirit. So we are to bear good fruits of the Spirit which is mercy, forgiveness, kindness, love, and these are 4 of the 7 Spirits of Yah that we should possess.

Being filled with the 7 Spirits can only be achieved by giving ourselves and our wills over totally to Christ in submission, only then can we truly be filled with the Holy Spirit who bears these gifts of the Spirit with him. We make our stand by planting our feet firm in Christ and declaring "I will not hate you no matter what you do to me, no matter what you say, i forgive you to my dying breath" because that is what he did to those who were murdering him and the gift of salvation was granted even to those Romans who beat him and spit in his face and did those horrible things to him. Yeshua is the Truth, the Way and the Life, in order for us to meet him at the end of the road we must model our lives after the One we call King and God. Forgive them, be merciful to them and love them, but be not of them.



posted on Jun, 20 2012 @ 05:00 PM
link   
reply to post by lonewolf19792000
 

You rightly mention the importance of the guidance of the Holy Spirit in guarding the tongue.
At the end of ch3, James says something similar about "the wisdom from above".
I'm convinced that James is using this phrase to describe the Holy Spirit, but that will have to be the subject of another thread.



posted on Jun, 20 2012 @ 05:45 PM
link   

Originally posted by DISRAELI
...
The phrase “world of unrighteousness” is dropped in rather awkwardly, immediately after the word “fire”. The word KOSMOS, normally translated “world”, really means “arranged, put in order”.
He says that the tongue “is set up” (KATHISTATAI) among the parts of the body. None of the translations that I’ve consulted even bother translating that verb. Yet the mere fact that the tongue “is one of the parts of the body” seems too obvious to be worth inserting. I think the Greek will bear the meaning that the tongue is set up “in office” or “in power” among the parts of the body, which would echo his second thought. Then the previous phrase could mean that the tongue was bringing about an unrighteous state of order.


I wonder if the mention of the tongue as part of the body is referring to its need for ascetic training. Here is a quote is from "The Ladder of Divine Ascent" page 93 by Saint John Climacus ISBN 0-943405-03-3.

I do not wish to write much about this, even though the wiles of the passions urge me to do so. But I once heard from someone who asked me about stillness, that talkativeness is invariably born of one of the following causes: either from a bad lax way of life and habit (for the tongue, said he, being a member of the body, like the rest of the members, requires the training of habit), or again, in the case of ascetics, garrulity comes especially from vainglory, and sometimes also from gluttony. That is why many who bridle the stomach by force, afterwards easily check the tongue and its chatter.


My interpretation of faith and works in James is a feedback loop. Maybe that same idea is at work in his discussion of the tongue. Like we bridle our tongues as we bridle our stomachs to make our hearts more clean and welcoming for the Holy Spirit?
edit on 20-6-2012 by cloudyday because: (no reason given)



posted on Jun, 21 2012 @ 02:29 PM
link   
reply to post by cloudyday
 

I see what you mean; the body controls the tongue to help the tongue control the body.
But I think for James the initial power for the feedback would come from "the wisdom from above", which he descibes at the end of the chapter, At least in vv14-15 it is the "earthly wisdom" which causes people to boast and be false to the truth, and "wisdom from above" which brings sbout the opposite kind of behaviour.





new topics

top topics



 
6
<<   2 >>

log in

join