James 3

This devotional is written by Katherine Evans.

James 3

Taming the tongue
Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. 2 We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check.

3 When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. 4 Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. 5 Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. 6 The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

7 All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

9 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. 11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 12 My brothers and sisters, can a fig-tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.

Two kinds of wisdom
13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you harbour bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15 Such ‘wisdom’ does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.

17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18 Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.


Sometimes I find myself seeing my life as a competition. How come that person is further on in their career? Why do they have a bigger flat than me? The world seems to persuade us that life is a competition and success means being the best. And it seems wise to try to be the best in every situation -  God has given me talents, skills and ambition, so I'm just using what he's given me, right?

The mentality of 'success means being the best' encourages us to see everyone else as a competitor; it breeds envy and selfish ambition. These final verses tell us that godly wisdom is far from this: it is pure. It is peace-loving, considerate, submissive, impartial and sincere. There's nothing pure, submissive or impartial about constantly comparing ourselves to others or trying to one-up everyone around us, even if we only think it and don't actually vocalise it.

Of course God wants us to be the best versions of ourselves and use what he gave us. But when we feel a need to impress someone or compete, we must pause and ask ourselves: what's my motive? Is it envy or selfish ambition? Or is it because it's pure and righteous, and an opportunity to honour God? If you can honestly say it is, then go for it with all that you have and all that God has given you - that is being the best you can be. But if there is any flicker of doubt in your mind, step back, give it over to God and wait for his response.

Being honest with God and ourselves about our motives and intentions is a huge step towards living a good life, with deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.

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