James 3

1 The position of teacher is a serious responsibility. A teacher is one who imparts knowledge that he has to those who do not have it. The pupils generally take the teacher at his word because they do not have the background to know otherwise or ask questions that would further reveal the truth. Thus, the teacher is not only responsible for the knowledge he has, but also for the knowledge he imparts to others. If he teaches something that is harmful, then he is responsible for the harm he has done to himself and to others. Of course, the positive side of this is that if he teaches truth then many people benefit from it when they believe it.
2 No one is perfect, and that includes teachers. A teacher is bound to eventually do something wrong that will harm others. Again, this is a serious responsibility, and one needs to consider the possible consequences for himself and others before he pursues a teaching career.

James then begins discussing the tongue. This is an especially appropriate place because speech is a primary vehicle that teachers use to convey their knowledge. However, this section has broader application to all believers. We are all to be witnesses to the world, and in this sense, we are all teachers. We must then be very careful how we convey that message so that the truth of the Gospel is clearly revealed.

Our words are a representation of what occurs inside our minds. If our minds are filled with the things of God, then our words will be good. If every word we say is right, it shows that our hearts are right with God. However, because we still struggle with our sinful nature not every thought is good. If we are able to control how those thoughts are expressed in words then we can also control how we physically respond. God's Spirit in our lives will help us purify our thoughts on one hand and be self-controlled on the other.

3 James give two examples of how relatively small instruments can completely change the direction something is traveling. In the same way, our relatively little tongue goes a great way in determining the direction of our lives. Our words can work to bring peace and reconciliation between man and God, or it can bring strife and sin. Sometimes it only takes a few words to encourage someone dramatically or to offend him violently. The effects can be life long, so it is important that we choose our words wisely, anticipating the long-term effects.
4 On the positive side, the tongue can get us to where we want to go. Christians desire to have a good and loving relationship with God and with other believers. The words we speak are vital to the beginning and maintenance of those relationships. Christians also desire to help others to know and love Him, and share in His eternal blessings. The right words can steer the Christian and the people he is influencing in the right direction. There are many opposing forces to the message of Jesus in the world, but if we meet them with the right words, we will stay on course.
5 We are all familiar with how a little spark can start a fire that can destroy hundreds of acres of land. In the same way, a little boast can have a profound negative impact on a person and his relationships with others. Words can rip friends, families, and countries apart. What starts as a disagreement can escalate into worldwide turmoil. Words are also the primary things that exacerbate a problem until it becomes uncontrollable.
6 If there is anything evil in the mind, it will usually express itself first with the tongue. If the person can not control his tongue, then he is likely to act on the evil words that he has spoken. The tongue can obligate us to things we may later regret, so it is vitally important that we control what comes out of our mouths. Of course, the best way is to control what influences our mind. If we are influenced by God, then the rest follows through well and we will have an eternal reward. If someone is influenced by hell, then the eternal consequences for him are severe.
7 An untamed animal can be a danger to people -- especially when it is frightened. A tamed animal, on the other hand, is safe to be around under most circumstances, and may even be a comfort or source of joy. Taming an animal takes effort, and some animals are much harder to train than others. In a similar way, we must tame our tongues so that we can be an encouraging builder of relationships rather than a wild and destructive force.
8 In fact, when we desire to control our words, we must seek help from God since we will be unable to do this successfully on our own.
9 James continues by showing that the tongue is the revealer of hypocrisy. When we speak, we speak either to God or people (angelic conversations are rare, and demonic conversations must be avoided). People are made in God's image, and He makes it clear that defamation and blasphemy are likewise similar offenses (1 John 4:20). Therefore, to bless God and curse people is hypocritical and demonstrates that the person does not have a full understanding of how love for God is supposed to affect his relationship with people.
10 When a Christian is filled with the love of God, it must affect every aspect of his relationships with others. We are to work at building others up and encouraging them in the Lord. This does not mean we refrain from revealing and rebuking sin, but the attitude must be one of reconciliation and hope. Gossip and defamation will discourage non-Christians from seeking God, and can sour believers in their relationships with each other. Christians must have a consistent message of love and forgiveness if we are to show the world that the Holy Spirit of God lives in us.
11 James gives three examples to show consistency in the created world. The primary example is one of water. People can use fresh water for a variety of purposes: drinking, irrigation, washing, etc. However, salt water is dangerous to drink and too impure for most other purposes. In a similar way, our words can be refreshing, vitalizing, and useful, or they can be destructive and worthless. In creation, water sources produce either good or bad water. Our mouths are to be similarly consistent. Christians have one master, Jesus, and our words should all come from that one source. If our words are also affected by the world then our words become confusing and hypocritical.
12 God made plants and animals to produce "after their own kind" (Gen 1:11-12, 24-25). Thus, we know not to expect to find different types of fruit forming off the same branch. So it is with Christians. The Bible is very clear about the kinds of behaviors, attitudes, and words a Christian should produce. Even sinful people are aware of several Christian expectations. How often have you heard the statement, "That's not very Christian-like"? Our words and behaviors should never give anyone a cause to say this about us. When people know that we are Christians, they should be able to find the expected "fruit" of the Christian life (Gal 5:22-23).
13 Wisdom is the skill of knowing how to use one's knowledge to accomplish the desired outcome. Specifically, it is the knowledge of how to live to develop a good relationship with God and others. Understanding is the knowledge of why it is important to live this way. When we live the way God intends us to, we find true fulfillment. Wisdom displays itself in good conduct, not in boasting. One can claim to have wisdom, but if he rarely acts wisely, then his claim is suspect.
14 Godly wisdom is manifest in good conduct, but worldly wisdom is manifest in envy, selfishness, and denial of the truth. Wisdom has characteristics similar to love (1 Cor 13:4-8a). Selfish, boastful, and deceitful uses of knowledge are not characteristics of godly wisdom. The misuse of knowledge ignores the long-term and even eternal consequences of the actions. True wisdom does what is right, not only in the short-term, but in the long-term as well.
15 We often call ambition-driven people who use various means to get their way "savvy," but James calls the selfish use of wisdom "demonic." If you are one that uses deceitful games and ruses to get your way, it is time to reconsider your activities and motivations.
16 The symptoms of worldly wisdom can be summed up in the word "selfishness." Selfish people care only for their own needs. At the same time, they are not satisfied with what they have, so they desire to have the possessions and characteristics of other people. The Ten Commandments tell us that our primary concern should be our relationship with God and that we should not be envious of others. When our focus becomes inward and covetous, then we fall into sin. When communities of people are not willing to submit to God or each other, and instead try to get their own way and take everything for themselves, anarchy results.
17 Again, there are many parallels between wisdom and love. "Willing to yield" is not the same as compromising values. Instead, it means to allow others to have their say and then consider what they have said. Wisdom is objective and is not marginalized. Wisdom is also consistent. Since true wisdom comes from God, and God never changes, it should follow that true wisdom is universal in both time and space.
18 Righteousness is characterized by peace. In fact, righteousness before God is a prerequisite for true and lasting peace. The world may react in a hostile manner to the message of Jesus, but for our part, we should earnestly seek to live in peace with all people without compromising our beliefs or mission. When we are right before God, we are guaranteed eternal peace with Him.