Precept austin james

Precept austin james DEFAULT

James 1:1 Commentary

Click chart to enlarge
Chart from recommended resource Jensen's Survey of the NT - used by permission
See also Overview Chart by Charles Swindoll

Faith for Living

The Place of Works:
Outward Demonstration of Inner Faith
Jas 1:1-18Jas 1:19-2:13Jas 2:14-25Jas 3:1-12Jas 3:13-4:12Jas 4:13-5:12Jas 5:13-19
Trials &
Word &
Faith &







and the

and our


The Theme: The Testings of Personal Faith

The trials of the believer (James 1:2–12)
      A.      The proper attitude toward trials (James 1:2–4)
         1.      The attitude commanded (James 1:2)
         2.      The reason indicated (James 1:3)
         3.      The outcome to be realized (James 1:4)
      B.      The use of prayer amid trials (James 1:5–8)
         1.      The need for wisdom (James 1:5a)
         2.      The request for wisdom (James 1:5b)
         3.      The bestowal of wisdom (James 1:5c–8)
           a.      The divine response (James 1:5c)
           b.      The human obligation (James 1:6–8)
             (1)      The necessary attitude (James 1:6a)
             (2)      The rejected character (James 1:6b–8)
      C.      The correct attitude toward life by the tried (James 1:9–11)
         1.      The attitude of the lowly brother (James 1:9)
         2.      The attitude of the rich (James 1:10–11)
           a.      The reason for the attitude (James 1:10a)
           b.      The illustration from the flower (James 1:11a)
           c.      The application to the rich (James 1:11b)
      D.      The result of enduring trials (James 1:12)
         1.      The blessedness of endurance (v 12a)
         2.      The reward of endurance (James 1:12b)

The nature of human temptation (James 1:13–16)
      A.      The source of human temptation (James 1:13–14)
         1.      The repudiation of a divine source (James 1:13)
           a.      The rejection stated (James 1:13a)
           b.      The rejection vindicated (James 1:13b)
         2.      The reality of the human source (James 1:14)
      B.      The consequences of yielding to temptation (James 1:15)
      C.      The warning against being deceived (James 1:16)

The activity of God in human affairs (James 1:17–18)
      A.      The Giver of all good gifts (James 1:17)
      B.      The Author of the believer’s regeneration (James 1:18)

The Test Marks of a Living Faith

Faith tested by its response to the Word of God (James 1:19–27)
      A.      The reactions to the Word (James 1:19–20)
         1.      The knowledge possessed (James 1:19a)
         2.      The reaction demanded (James 1:19b)
         3.      The reason stated (James 1:20)
      B.      The reception of the Word (James 1:21)
         1.      The stripping off of sins (James 1:21a)
         2.      The appropriation of the Word (James 1:21b)
      C.      The obedience to the Word (James 1:22–27)
         1.      The demand for active obedience (James 1:22–25)
           a.      The statement of the requirement (James 1:22)
           b.      The illustration of the requirement (James 1:23–25)
             (1)      The negative portrayal (James 1:23–24)
             (2)      The positive portrayal (James 1:25)
         2.      The nature of acceptable obedience (James 1:26–27)
           a.      The futility of activity without inner control (James 1:26)
           b.      Acceptable service with inner control (James 1:27) (from Hiebert - James Commentary)

James 1:1James, a bond-servant of God and of the LordJesusChrist, To the twelvetribeswho are dispersed abroad: Greetings. (NASB: Lockman)

Greek: IakobostheoukaikuriouIesouChristoudoulostaisdodekaphulaistaisentediasporachairein.(PAN)

Amplified: JAMES, A servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes scattered abroad [among the Gentiles in the dispersion]: Greetings (rejoice)! (Amplified Bible - Lockman)|

KJV: James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting.

NLT: This letter is from James, a slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is written to Jewish Christians scattered among the nations. Greetings! (NLT - Tyndale House)

Phillips: James, servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, sends greetings to the twelve dispersed tribes. (Phillips: Touchstone)

Wuest: James, a bondslave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes, those in the dispersion. Be constantly rejoicing.

Young's Literal: James, of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ a servant, to the Twelve Tribes who are in the dispersion: Hail!

JAMES, A BOND-SERVANT OF GOD AND OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST: Iakobos theou kai kuriou Iesou Christou doulos:

Vine's Analysis of James…

I. Concerning trials (Jas 1:1–18).

II. Concerning obedience to the Word of God (Jas 1:19–27).

III. Concerning the royal law (Jas 2:1–13).

IV. Concerning a working faith (Jas 2:14–26).

V. Concerning the control of the tongue (Jas 3:1–12).

VI. Concerning strife and worldly-mindedness (Jas 3:18–4:6).

VII. Concerning patience, prayer and power (Jas 5:7–20).

Pastor Steven Cole opens his sermon series on James with this introduction…

One of the popular TV shows when I grew up was “Dragnet,” starring Jack Webb as Joe Friday, a detective with the Los Angeles Police Department. Joe Friday was a no-nonsense cop. His famous line was, “Just the facts, Ma’am.” He didn’t want to hear anything irrelevant to solving the case. If somebody went off on a tangent, he cut to the quick with, “Just the facts, Ma’am.” James is the Joe Friday of the New Testament. He cuts to the bottom line without messing around. He’s not really interested in hearing your profession of faith. He wants to see your practice of the faith. Several writers refer to James as the least theological epistle in the New Testament, except for Philemon. It’s not that James discounts the importance of sound doctrine, but rather that he wants to see that doctrine affecting how we live. Talk is cheap; James wants to see results. Of the 108 verses in the book, 54 (half) contain imperative verbs. James is like a crusty sergeant barking orders at the troops. He wants to see some action!

Who was James? There are several men in the New Testament by that name. We know that this James was not the apostle James, brother of John, because he was martyred in A.D. 44, too early for this epistle. The vast majority of scholars agree that the author of James was the half-brother of Jesus (Mt 13:55). Apparently he did not believe in Jesus as Lord until after the resurrection, when the risen Savior appeared to him (see John 7:5; 1Co 15:7). He became the leader of the church in Jerusalem in the years following the Day of Pentecost (Gal. 2:9; Acts 15:13-29; 21:17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25). He became known as “James the Just” (or, “Righteous”) because of his well-known holiness. James could have pulled rank by opening the letter, “James, the son of the virgin Mary, brother of none other than Jesus Christ. I grew up with Him! I knew Him long before He became famous!” But James (1:1) and his brother, Jude (Jude 1:1), both opened their letters by calling themselves bond-servants. The word means, “slaves,” and refers to those who are the property of their masters. They had no rights. They lived to do their masters’ will. James adds, “a bond-servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.” By mentioning God and Jesus Christ on equal terms, and adding “Lord,” the Old Testament word for God, to Jesus, James affirms the deity of Jesus Christ. (Steven Cole - James 1:1-4 A Radical Approach to Trials - Excellent Resource - His Sermons are highly recommended)

Douglas Moo makes the point that…

Many readers skip the opening verses of NT letters, treating them as unimportant formal details. But this is a mistake. For the letter introductions usually contain more than bare names. They also describe the writer and the recipients in ways that provide us with important clues about the nature and purposes of the letter that follows. The introduction of James is no exception. (Moo, D. J. The letter of James. The Pillar New Testament commentary. Grand Rapids, Mich.; Leicester, England: Eerdmans)

James (2385) (Jakobos) (Several dictionary articles) means supplanter and is transliterated as Jacob. In English we have two names, Jacob and James, both coming from the common Hebrew name Jacob.

James was a common name among Palestinian Jews during the first century so it is not surprising to find that the NT uses it to refer to 5 individuals -

(1) James, the son of Zebedee, one of Jesus’ twelve apostles (Mt 4:21) and one that with Peter and John were with Jesus privately on 3 occasions (Mk 5:37, Lk 8:51), the transfiguration (Mt 17:1, Mk 9:2, Lk 9:28) and at Gethsemane (Mt 26:37, Mk 14:33).

(2) James, the son of Alphaeus (always added to distinguish him from James, the son of Zebedee), and also one of the 12 apostles, always mentioned ninth in the 4 lists (Mt 10:2, 3; Mk 3:16, 17, 18; Lk 6:13, 14, 15; Acts 1:12, 13, 14).

(3) James the Less (Mk 15:40)

(4) James, father of Judas (not Iscariot) (Lk 6:16; Acts 1:13),

(5) James, the oldest of Jesus' four younger (half) brothers (Mt 13:55, Mk 6:3, cp 1Co 9:5). He is generally considered to be the James who authored the epistle by his name. Eerdmans adds that this latter James "While not a follower of Jesus during his ministry, James seems to have been converted shortly afterwards, perhaps when the risen Jesus appeared to him (1 Cor. 15:7; cf. Acts 1:14). James gradually took over the leadership of the Jerusalem church from the leaders among the Twelve, becoming one of the most important leaders in the 1st-century Church" (Acts 12:17; 15:13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21; 21:18; Gal. 1:19; 2:9, 12). According to Josephus, James was stoned to death by order of the Jewish high priest Ananus II in 62 c.e. (Antiquities of the Jews. Book 20. Chapter 9 - scroll down), while according to Eusebius he was killed just before Vespasian invaded Jerusalem in 67 (He 2.23.18).

It should be noted that Jerome considered the author of the present epistle to be James, son of Alphaeus, but most evangelical scholars favor James, the younger brother of Jesus.

The name Jakobos is used 42 times in the NT to refer to 5 different individuals thus calling for careful attention to the context (or the paternal description "of Zebedee" or "of Alphaeus") in order to accurately interpret which specific James is being described -

Mt. 4:21; 10:2, 3; 13:55; 17:1; 27:56; Mk. 1:19, 29; 3:17, 18; 5:37; 6:3; 9:2; 10:35, 41; 13:3; 14:33; 15:40; 16:1; Lk. 5:10; 6:14, 15, 16; 8:51; 9:28, 54; 24:10; Acts 1:13; 12:2, 17; 15:13; 21:18; 1Co. 15:7; Ga 1:19; 2:9, 12; Jas. 1:1; Jude 1:1

Regarding the description of bondservant, Hiebert comments that…

He prefers to speak only of his status as a Christian man. When after His resurrection Jesus appeared to James (1Cor. 15:7), and James became convinced of His true nature as the Messiah, the spiritual identity of the One whom he had previously regarded as his physical brother became so important to him that the physical relations receded into the background. While others in the church might have referred to him as "the Lord's brother" (Gal 1:19), he preferred to speak of himself as a "servant" rather than the "brother" of the Lord Jesus Christ. Mayor observes: "We find here an example of the refusal "to know Christ after the flesh" (2Co 5:16) which appears in ii. 1; the same willingness to put himself on a level with others which appears in iii. 1,2." (D Edmond Hiebert - James. Moody)

Bondservant(1401)(doulos from deo = to bind) (Click additional notes on doulos) was an individual bound to another in servitude and conveys the idea of the slave's close, binding ties with his master, belonging to him, obligated to and desiring to do his will and in a permanent relation of servitude. In sum, the will of the doulos is consumed in the will of the master.

In using the term bondservant James is not declaring any outstanding personal qualification other than the expression of his complete devotion and subservience to his heavenly Masters. In other words, James as a bondservant is saying he was surrendered wholly to God's will and thus devoted to God and the Lord Jesus Christ. James recognized that as a redeemed soul, he was no longer his own but had been bought with the price of the blood of Christ (1Co 6:20, 7:23, Acts 20:28, Gal 3:13, Titus 2:14-note, 1Pe 1:18,19-note, 2Pe 2:1-note, Ep 1:7-note, Heb 9:12-note, 1Pe 2:9-note; Ro 3:25-note, cp Mt 20:28 Mark10:45, Rev 5:9-note). He was now the property of his Lord Jesus Christ, the one who on earth was his half-brother. His relationship as a bondservant of the Lord Jesus Christ so much overshadowed his earthly family relationship that he does not even make mention of it in this introduction.

Beloved, does your (my) attitude and actions (thoughts, words, deeds) reflect the eternal truth that you are no longer your own, but that your body is actually a holy temple of God and that this privilege was purchased and made possible at infinite cost to God? Let us meditate on these profound principles and privileges, that the Spirit might renew our minds and empower of walk that it is indeed worthy of such a high and holy calling.

Hiebert comments that "Christianity found the term doulos appropriate in setting forth the essence of the believer's true relationship to God. It aptly set forth the Christian consciousness that believers are totally dependent upon God, belong wholly to Him, and are convinced that His will is the only true rule for all of His people. Because believers voluntarily and joyously accepted this relationship, the term was commonly used in the New Testament of the believer's relationship to God without any implication of involuntary servitude. For them the term did not suggest any degradation, but only their total surrender to their spiritual Master. (Ibid) (Bolding added)

Why is this concept of bondservant so important? For one thing as Jesus taught, no man can serve two masters (Mt 6:24 - note). James before his new birth by grace through faith (Eph 2:8, 9-note), had been a slave of Sin (see note on "the Sin"), by virtue of his physical birth in Adam's likeness (cp 1Co 15:22, Ro 5:12-note), but now by virtue of his spiritual birth (John 3:3, 2Cor 5:17), James had become a slave of Christ (cp "Born once, die twice. Born twice, die once.") In sum, James had no will of his own, no business of his own, no time of his own and was now devoted to his Master, Christ; dependent upon Him and obedient to Him. Click the convicting poem He Had No Rights written by Mabel Williamson a missionary to China.

As someone has well said no man's life is for his own private use. We can either spend our days for time or spend them for eternity. We all serve someone whether we realize it or not. If we are not born again, we are bondservants of Sin (Jn 8:34, 1Ki 21:25, Pr 5:22-note, Acts 8:23, Ro 6:6-note, Ro 6:16, 17, 18, 19-notes, Ro 7:14-note, Ep 2:2-note, Titus 3:3-note, 2Pe 2:19-note) and Satan (Jn 8:44, 1Jn 3:8, 9, 10, 1Jn 5:19). If we are born again we have a new Master, God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord (Master) (Ro 6:22-note, Ro 8:2-note, Jn 8:32, 2Cor 3:17, Gal 5:1, 5:13, 1Pe 2:16-note)

Doulos - 124x in 120v - NAS translates doulos as - bond-servant(11), bond-servants(12), bondslave(3), bondslaves(3), men(1), servants(1),slave(58), slave's(1), slaves(39), women(1).

Matt. 8:9; 10:24, 25; 13:27, 28; 18:23, 26, 27, 28, 32; 20:27; 21:34, 35, 36; 22:3, 4, 6, 8, 10; 24:45, 46, 48, 50; 25:14, 19, 21, 23, 26, 30; 26:51; Mk. 10:44; 12:2, 4; 13:34; 14:47; Lk. 2:29; 7:2, 7:3, 8, 10; 12:37, 43, 45, 46, 47; 14:17, 21, 22, 23; 15:22; 17:7, 9, 10; 19:13, 15, 17, 22; 20:10, 11; 22:50; Jn. 4:51; 8:34, 35; 13:16; 15:15, 20; 18:10, 18, 26; Acts 2:18; 4:29; 16:17; Ro 1:1; 6:16, 17, 20; 1Co. 7:21, 22, 23, 24; 12:13; 2Co. 4:5; Gal. 1:10; 3:28; 4:1, 7; Ep 6:5, 6, 8; Phil. 1:1; 2:7; Col. 3:11, 22; 4:1, 12; 1Ti 6:1; 2Ti 2:24; Titus 1:1; 2:9; Philemon. 1:16; James. 1:1; 1Pe 2:16; 2Pe 1:1; 2:19; Jude 1:1; Rev. 1:1; 2:20; 6:15; 7:3; 10:7; 11:18; 13:16; 15:3; 19:2, 5, 18; 22:3, 6.

In the Greek culture doulos usually referred to the involuntary, permanent service of a slave, but the use in the epistles of Paul and Peter elevates the meaning of doulos to the Hebrew sense which describes a servant who willingly commits himself to serve a master he loves and respects (cp Ex 21:5, 6 Dt 15:12, 13, 14, 15, 16). By Roman times, slavery was so extensive that in the early Christian period one out of every two people was a slave! From at least 3000BC captives in war were the primary source of slaves.

Doulos speaks of submission to one's master The doulos had no life of his own, no will of his own, no purpose of his own and no plan of his own. All was subject to his master. The bondservant's every thought, breath, and effort was subject to the will of his master. In sum, the picture of a bondservant is one who is absolutely surrendered and totally devoted to his master (cp single mindedness and purity of devotion in 2Co 11:3). What a picture of James' relation to his Lord! What an example and challenge for all believers of every age to emulate!

By using doulos James is saying

I am a slave to the Lord Jesus Christ. I am absolutely sold out to His will. I am willing to do whatever He tells me to do. I am willing to say whatever He tells me to say. I am willing to go wherever He leads me. I am a man who has made a choice. I am going to serve Him for all eternity."

Matthew Henry adds that…

The highest honour of the greatest apostle, and most eminent ministers, is to be the servants of Jesus Christ; not the masters of the churches, but the servants of Christ.

Kenneth Wuest explains that a doulos as

the most abject, servile term used by the Greeks to denote a slave. The word designated one who was born as a slave, one who was bound to his master in chords so strong that only death could break them, one who served his master to the disregard of his own interests, one whose will was swallowed up in the will of his master. Paul was born a slave of sin at his physical birth, and a bondslave of his Lord through regeneration. (Note: There was another word, andrapodon which was person taken prisoner in war and sold into slavery) The chords that bound him to his old master Satan, were rent asunder in his identification with Christ in the latter’s death (Ro 6:1,2,3, 4, 5, 6 -notes Ro 6:11-note; Ro 7:4-note). The chords that bind him to his new Master will never be broken since the new Master will never die again, and is Paul’s new life (Php 1:21-note, Col 3:3,4-notes). He has changed masters because he has a new nature (2Cor 5:17, 2Pe 1:3,4 - note), the divine, and the evil nature which compelled him to serve the Devil has had its power over him broken (Col 1:13-note, Heb 2:14, 15-note). Paul’s will, at one time swallowed up in the will of Satan, now is swallowed up in the sweet will of God.

The reader will observe how wonderfully God has watched over the development of the Greek language so that at the time it was needed as the medium through which He would give His New Testament revelation to the human race, its words were fit receptacles and efficient instruments for the conveyance of His message to man. Paul calls himself a bondslave of Christ Jesus… The apostle is proud of the fact that he is a slave belonging to his Lord. There were certain individuals in the Roman empire designated “Slaves of the Emperor.” This was a position of honor. One finds a reflection of this in Paul’s act of designating himself as a slave of the King of kings. He puts this ahead of his apostleship." (Wuest, K. S. Wuest's Word Studies from the Greek New Testament: Studies in the Vocabulary of the Greek New Testament: Grand Rapids: Eerdmans) (Bolding added)

In summary, the doulos…

  • Was owned by and totally possessed by his master.
  • Existed for his master and no other reason.
  • Had no personal rights.
  • Was at the master’s disposal "24/7".
  • Had no will of his own but was completely subservient to the master.

Paradoxically a bondservant of the Most High God is one of the most privileged, noblest professions in the world. Little wonder that notable men of God in the have always been called the servants of God. The list of names includes

  • Moses (Dt 34:5 Ps 105:26 Mal 4:4)
  • Joshua (Josh 24:29)
  • David (2Sa 3:18 Ps 78:70)
  • Paul (Ro 1:1; Phil 1:1; Titus 1:1)
  • Peter (2Pe 1:1)
  • James (James 1:1)
  • Jude (Jude 1:1 )
  • Prophets (Amos 3:7; Jer 7:25).
  • Ideally believers (Acts 2:18; 1Cor 7:22; Eph 6:6; Col 4:12; 2Ti 2:24).

Guy King comments on the phrase bondservants of Christ Jesus writing…

Let it be said at once that the word here is the same as bond-slaves - a conception which would be vividly familiar to every reader of this Letter. Quite a number of them were, or had been, slaves themselves - and the word would catch their attention at once. I say "had been" of some, because the law of manumission (process of releasing from slavery) would have operated in their case - a price would have been paid, and the slave set free.

In his fascinating Light from the Ancient East, Dr. Deissmann, pp. 319 ff., has some most interesting paragraphs on this releasing of slaves (see note that follows); and, with his quick and ready mind, the late Archbishop Harrington Lees, in his CHRIST and His Slaves, made use of the learned Doctor's discoveries to point many a moral concerning spiritual servitude and release.

Paul's writings abound in allusions to this last phenomenon. The material and the spiritual are found together in such a passage as 1Corinthians 7:22,

He that is called in the LORD, being a servant, is the Lord's freedman: likewise also he that is called, being free, is Christ's servant.

When a man becomes a Christian, though materially bound as a slave, he is spiritually freed from bondage to Satan and sin; on the other hand, such a man, though materially set at liberty, is, in the spiritual sense, bound hand and foot to CHRIST.

How Paul himself rejoiced - and even gloried - in this New Slavery. In his letters he so constantly uses the word as indicating his relationship to JESUS CHRIST. He would so readily enter into the attitude of the well-satisfied slave of Exodus 21:5, "I love my Master … I will not go out free."

From the bondage of sin, the believer has, by the manumission price of "the precious Blood", (1Pe 1:18, 19, see notes1P 1:18; 19), been set free-only to find himself thereby committed to a bondage more binding than ever. Yet, this time the "service is perfect freedom", the bonds are honourable and sweet.

And, for our encouragement, let us remember that

(i) The Master is responsible for His slaves' needs - feeding, housing, clothing, and all else is the slaveowner's concern. It is because we are GOD'S servants (slaves) that our Lord says "Therefore … take no thought … ", (Mt 6:24,25, see notesMt 6:24; 25), for the ordinary needs of life. Our apostle will say later in this very Epistle, "My GOD shall supply all your need." (see notePhilippians 4:19)


(ii) The Master is responsible for His slaves' duties - they will not choose their own task, or their own sphere. Whether ours is to be the more menial, or the more genial, work is in His plan, not ours. It is the Christian's wisdom to stand before Him as those in 2Samuel 15:15, "Thy servants are ready to do whatsoever my Lord the King shall appoint", or as Gabriel in Luke 1:19, "I … stand… and am sent … ".

Then, too

(iii) The Master is responsible for His slaves' supplies - "Who goeth a warfare any time at his own charges?" asks 1Corinthians 9:7: the soldier has all his military equipment provided; and likewise, the slave is supplied with everything needful for the adequate discharge of all his duties. Whatever He tells us to do, we can do - "If … God command thee … thou shalt be able to … " Exodus 18:23 - because all supplies are at our disposal. And as Paul records, in 2 Corinthians 12:9, "My grace is sufficient for thee". (Ibid)

Regarding the setting free of slaves in Paul's day, Deissmann records the following custom which has clear parallels with Paul's teaching on saints as bondslaves of Christ…

Among the various ways in which the manumission of a slave could take place by ancient law we find the solemn rite of fictitious purchase of the slave by some divinity. The owner comes with the slave to the temple, sells him there to the god, and receives the purchase money from the temple treasury, the slave having previously paid it in there out of his savings. The slave is now the property of the god; not, however, a slave of the temple, but a protégé of the god. Against all the world, especially his former master, he is a completely free man; at the utmost a few pious obligations to his old master are imposed upon him. The rite takes place before witnesses; a record is taken, and often perpetuated on stone. (Deissmann, A., & Strachan, L. R. M. Light from the Ancient East the New Testament illustrated by recently discovered texts of the Graeco-Roman world. Pager 326. London: Hodder & Stoughton. 1910).

Dr Wayne Barber has an excellent practical explanation of the significance of a bondservant asking the practical question…

"Why do you serve the Lord Jesus Christ? "Well, I had better. God will kill me if I don’t." You know, I’ve talked to a lot of people who have that mentality. It is as if God has a big club and if you don’t do what He wants you to do, then He will hit you over the head with it. Yet God says, "Wait a minute. I have set you free. You are free now to be what you ought to be. Make up your mind. No man can serve two masters." The person who has any sense at all will say, "Lord, You have overwhelmed me. I am making a choice out of love for You to be Your slave. I know I am no longer Your slave, but I choose to be Your slave." Do you want to be used by the Lord? Come to the place in your life that you are willing to say, "God, it doesn’t matter what You tell me to do, I am willing to be submissive to Your will." When you come to that place, God will do things through you like He did through Paul. One picture of that is beautiful, and it is found in Dt 15:12, 13, 14, 15,1 6, 17: "If your kinsman, a Hebrew man or woman, is sold to you, then he shall serve you six years, but in the seventh year you shall set him free. And when you set him free, you shall not send him away empty-handed. You shall furnish him liberally from your flock and from your threshing floor and from your wine vat; you shall give to him as the Lord your God has blessed you. And you shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God redeemed you; therefore I command you this today. And it shall come about if he says to you, ‘I will not go out from you,’ because he loves you and your household, since he fares well with you; then you shall take an awl and pierce it through his ear into the door, and he shall be your servant forever. And also you shall do likewise to your maidservant." What a gorgeous picture. Slavery in that day and time was nothing like we know today. The slaves had to be treated as if they were your own children in your own family. You had to treat them with dignity and integrity. After they had served you for a period of time, you had to set them free. But the beautiful picture here is of a slave. He served a master for seven years. The master has loved him, provided for him, been kind to him, helped him, all the things that you would look for. Now the day comes that he has been set free. He is given of the flock, given of the threshing floor, given of the wine vat. This servant stands there, and he says, "You know, I have been so cared for during the seven years that I have worked with you, where would I go? I don’t know where I am going to go. Nobody would love me like you have loved me. Nobody would do for me what you have done for me. Why, I am going to choose to be your slave. I know you have set me free, but because of who you are and because of my love for you, I want to continue to be your slave. I want to do for you not because I have to but because I just want to." What a gorgeous picture. They had a public ceremony and they would take that little instrument and put it up by their ear and drive it through the ear into the door, leaving a hole in the ear. What a gorgeous picture when you see this slave walking alongside his master, smiling. You would see that man and you knew he had been with him seven years, maybe it is three years down the road past that seven years and you say, "Isn’t that wonderful! That man was set free and now that man has chosen to serve out of love for his master." Man looks on the outside. God looks at our heart. Why are you serving the Lord Jesus? If you don’t love Him, if you haven’t understood that nobody else will ever treat you like Jesus, then no wonder you are not being used of the Lord in the task He has assigned to His church. A man that God can use is a person who is willing to bow, a person who is willing to say, "God, I just want what You want in my life." … God is waiting on us to love Him and to bow before Him and to make conscious choices. "God, you have given me everything. If I left you, where would I go? Lord, I want to serve you. No man can serve two masters. I want to serve You. I want to be usable in the kingdom of God." That is the Apostle Paul. He was a man who was willing, sold out to the will of God." (Click for additional notes by Dr. Barber on "bondservant)

A businessman once asked his Bible study group,

“How can you tell if you have a servant attitude?”

The reply came back…

“By the way you react when you are treated like one.”

It’s not easy to find an attitude like that. But for a disciple, servant-hood is one of the keys to growing in Christ-likeness.

Describing His own ministry, Jesus said:

“For the Son of man also came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark10:45)

Thomas Manton asks…

But why not “apostle”? He does not mention his apostleship, first, because there was no need, as he was eminent in the opinion and reputation of the churches; therefore Paul says he was reputed to be a pillar of the Christian faith (Galatians 2:9). Paul, whose apostleship was openly questioned, often asserted it. Secondly, Paul himself does not call himself an apostle in every letter. Sometimes his style is, “Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus” (Philemon 1); sometimes “Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:1); sometimes nothing but his name Paul is prefixed, as in 1 Thessalonians 1:1 and 2 Thessalonians 1:1.

Of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ - This order makes prominent the identity of his heavenly Masters. The description in this verse was utilized by the Greek fathers to argue against the Arians for the divinity of Jesus Christ. Think for a moment of what James is saying here - it is as if he could think of no higher honor than being the bondservant of such glorious Masters. And should not every believer adopt such a heavenly mindset? What a privilege to be in the service of such holy and loving Masters. Beloved of the Father and the Son, think about the work God has called you to today and rejoice in your high position and privilege to carry out His good and acceptable and perfect will, which will bear fruit not just in this life but he life to come! (cp 1Ti 4:8-note) Hallelujah!

Commenting on the name the Lord Jesus Christ, Hiebert writes that…

All three names serve to unfold the true nature of this Master. "Jesus" is His human name. It was the name given Him before His birth and speaks of His saving work in incarnation (Mt 1:21). Iesous is the Greek form of the Hebrew name Joshua meaning "salvation." This name embodies the entire gospel story concerning the historic Man of Nazareth. "Christ" (Christos) is the Greek rendering for the Hebrew "Messiah" (Ps. 2:2; Acts 4:26), both meaning "the anointed one." For Jewish readers, the term Christos, whether placed before or after Jesus," meant that He was the fulfillment of the Old Testament messianic promises. For James and the early church, the name "Jesus Christ" embodied the faith that the messianic redemption was realized in the incarnate Jesus.

Thus, "Jesus is the Christ" became the earliest Christian confession (Acts 2:36; 3:20; 5:42; cf. John 20:30, 31). This faith arose in the hearts of His disciples from their associations with Jesus during His earthly ministry (John 1:41; Mt. 16:16) and received unshakable confirmation from His resurrection and ascension (Acts 2:32, 36). The Christian church proclaimed this incarnate and risen Savior as its "Lord" (kurios). As her Savior and Master, He received her full allegiance and whole-hearted service. For Jewish readers, the title "Lord" carried with it implications of deity. In the Septuagint, it is the translation for the ineffable Name (Yahweh) and speaks of His sovereignty. Various quotations from the Old Testament referring to Jehovah are applied directly to Jesus in the New Testament, where they were "understood of the new Lord of the Christian church. The term kurios occurs fourteen times in this epistle (Jas 1:1, 7, 12; 2:1; 4:10, 15; 5:4, 7, 8, 10, 11 twice, Jas 1:14, 15). Only here and in Jas 2:1 does James connect it directly with Jesus Christ, and it is not always clear in the other places whether his reference is to God or to Christ.' (Ibid)

When we give Jesus Christ His rightful place as Lord of our lives, His Lordship will be expressed in the way we serve others - no longer as a duty, but as a delight to please and imitate our Lord (Mk 10:45, Php 2:3, 4, 5, 6, 7-see notes). Therefore, one of the best ways we can demonstrate our love for God is by showing love for our fellow man. We demonstrate love for others by helping them, by sharing their problems, and by doing what we can for them. Why should we serve? For Jesus’ sake that men might see our good works and glorify (as they observe our godly attitude and actions they might thereby obtain a proper opinion of) our heavenly Father (Mt 5:16-note).

TO THE TWELVE TRIBES WHO ARE DISPERSED ABROAD: GREETINGS: tais dodeka phulais tais en te diaspora chairein. (PAN):

The twelve tribes (10 times in OT/NT - Ge 49:28; Ex 24:4; 28:21; 39:14; Ezek 47:13; Mt 19:28; Lk 22:30; Acts 26:7; Jas 1:1; Rev 21:12-note) - Clearly addressed to Jews and in context those who have received Jesus as their Messiah (Jn 1:11, 12, 13). The phrase the twelve tribes in context is clearly a Jewish expression denoting the Jewish people as a whole (Mt 19:28; Acts 26:7). While tribal divisions had been lost to many Jews, nevertheless even in New Testament times many of the Jews were still able to establish their tribal descent (cp the importance of the tribal lineage of the Messiah in Mt.1:1-16; Lk 1:5, 2:36; cp Php 3:5-note). It is interesting to note that James does not say to the tribes of Judah, Benjamin and the "ten lost tribes". They are all "lost" spiritually without Christ and none are lost who are in Christ. Though the "twelve tribes" were scattered (and are to this day), they are not "lost" in another since for members of each tribe (except Dan) are listed at the close of biblical history in the Revelation (Re 7:5, 6, 7, 8 - see notesRe 7:5; 7:6; 7:7; 7:8). The OT prophets repeatedly spoke of the reunification of the divided nations of Israel and Judah under the coming Messiah (e.g., Isa 11:11, 12, 13; Jer 3:18; 50:4; Ezek 37:15-23; Zec 10:6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12), and there was a strong Jewish expectation that when the Messiah came, He would reestablish the chosen people (Is 43:20) in their correct tribal divisions (Ezek 48:1-29).

Tribes (5443) (phule form phúlon = race, tribe, class) refers to a nation or people descended from a common ancestor. In this context phule refers to all the persons descended from one of the twelve sons of the patriarch Jacob.

Phule- 31x in 23v -

Matt 19:28; 24:30; Luke 2:36; 22:30; Acts 13:21; Rom 11:1; Phil 3:5; Heb 7:13, 14; Jas 1:1; Rev 1:7; 5:5, 9; 7:4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 8; 11:9; 13:7; 14:6; 21:12

Dispersed abroad (1290) (diaspora[word study] from diaspeiro = to scatter abroad - from dia = through + spora = a sowing) is a noun describing the condition of being scattered and thus refers to a scattering or dispersion as one would scatter seed in a field. In John 7:35 diaspora is used with its literal meaning to refer to those Jews who were living outside Palestine, while the other NT use in Peter is figurative (1Pe 1:1-note)

James used diaspora as a technical term to refer to Jews outside of Palestine, scattered like seed throughout the Gentile world. Over the previous several hundred years, various conquerors (including the Roman Pompey in 63 BC who carried hundreds of Jewish captives back to Rome) had deported Jews from their homeland in Palestine and spread them throughout the known world. In addition, other Jews had voluntarily moved to other countries for business or other reasons (cf. Acts 2:5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11). And so by NT times, many Jews lived outside of their homeland. In fact Philo (20BC to 50AD), a Jewish philosopher estimated that up to one million Jews lived in Alexandria, Egypt. An equal number had settled in both Persia and Asia Minor, and about 100,000 lived in Cyrenaica and Italy. The Jews who were dispersed throughout the world in this manner outnumbered the Jews who remained in their native land.

At various times and for various reasons, the Jews were scattered into foreign countries “to the outmost parts of heaven (cp Dt 30:4). (Additional resources on dispersionEaston, ISBESmith) Some of these dispersions were voluntary (of great importance during the Greco-Roman period when Jews voluntarily migrated to all the chief towns of the civilized world, chiefly for the sake of trade), while others were forced upon them by the conquering nations (see below: Assyria [2Ki 17:6], Babylon, [cp 2Chr 36:10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21] Rome [Lk 21:20, 21, 22, 23, 24 - describes destruction of Temple in 70AD]). The Jewish dispersions were predicted and sovereignly decreed by God in the Pentateuch (5 books of Moses = The Torah) where he warned Israel what would transpire if she rejected His statutes and abhorred His ordinances so as not to carry out all of His commandments.

In Leviticus we read God' s warning to Israel

You however, I will scatter (diaspeiro in the Greek translation of the Hebrew) among the nations and will draw out a sword after you, as your land becomes desolate and your cities become waste. (Lev 26:33, cp Lev 26:33)

Moses warned Israel again that

Jehovah will scatter (diaspeiro in the Greek translation of the Hebrew) you among the peoples, and you will be left few in number among the nations where Jehovah drives you. (Dt 4:27, cp Dt 28:64, 30:3, this latter passage [Dt 30:1, 2, 3] prophetically promising restoration of the believing Jewish remnant at the end the Great Tribulation and inauguration of the Millennial reign of Christ in the Messianic Kingdom)

So clearly the various Jewish diasporas, especially those secondary to foreign conquest, were the result of the sovereign outworking of the righteous justice of Jehovah (see attribute - Justice). He is faithful (see His attribute - Faithfulness) to keep all of His "promises", even the ones we don't particularly want Him to keep!

God speaking to His prophet Ezekiel in exile in Babylon explained that

I will leave a remnant, for you will have those who escaped the sword among the nations when you are scattered (Greek word = diaskorpismos = dispersion, scattering dispersal) among the countries. (Ezek 6:8)

The majority of the nation of Israel proved not to be believers, but God's grace and mercy continued to preserve a godly remnant of believing Jews (saved by grace through faith). Contrary to popular opinion there never has been nor ever will be a complete end to Israel (cp Ro 11:25, 26, 27, 28, 29-see notes). Click study of doctrine of the remnant (believing Israel).

One of the most interesting and strategic "dispersions" occurred in Acts 8, after the stoning of Stephen, at which time

a great persecution began against the church in Jerusalem and they were scattered (diaspeiro) throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria (Acts 8:1) and

those who had been scattered (diaspeiro) went about preaching (euaggelizo/euangelizo = "evangelizing") the word. (Acts 8:4)

The believers in Jerusalem (remember the church initially was almost 100% Jewish) were scattered like seed so that they might spread the "seed" of the Word of God, the Gospel.

Motyer writes…

If James were to post his letter today it would be marked ‘Return to sender’ on the ground of being insufficiently addressed. He names no names and specifies no place as destination: twelve tribes contain a lot of people and the Dispersion, in its special sense of the scattered people of God, was in principle world-wide. (Motyer, J. A. The Message of James: The Tests of Faith. The Bible Speaks Today. Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill., U.S.A.: Inter-Varsity Press)

Hiebert asserts that

Through their contacts with other people, the Jews of the Dispersion generally had a larger outlook on life and a greater openness to new ideas, whereas their contacts with the surrounding paganism generally made them more strongly convinced of the immeasurable superiority of Judaism over the pagan religions. As the gospel spread in the Gentile world, it was seen that wherever there was a colony of Jews with their synagogue, their message of ethical monotheism had become a strong preparatory force for Christianity. Scattered abroad as seed, they had "become the seed of a future harvest." (James)

Greetings(5463)(chairo - a primary verb) in some contexts means to rejoice or be glad (e.g., Jn 16:20, Ro 12:15-note, Mt 5:12-note) but here in James is used as a formalized greeting wishing the readers well. BAGD says that the idea can connote "that one is on good terms with the other". The Gospels render chairo as "hail" (Mt 26:49, 27:29). Luke uses chairo much like James to convey the idea of "Greetings" (Acts 15:23, 23:26).

Chairo - 74x in 68v -

Matt 2:10; 5:12; 18:13; 26:49; 27:29; 28:9; Mark 14:11; 15:18; Luke 1:14, 28; 6:23; 10:20; 13:17; 15:5, 32; 19:6, 37; 22:5; 23:8; John 3:29; 4:36; 8:56; 11:15; 14:28; 16:20, 22; 19:3; 20:20; Acts 5:41; 8:39; 11:23; 13:48; 15:23, 31; 23:26; Rom 12:12, 15; 16:19; 1 Cor 7:30; 13:6; 16:17; 2 Cor 2:3; 6:10; 7:7, 9, 13, 16; 13:9, 11; Phil 1:18; 2:17f, 28; 3:1; 4:4, 10; Col 1:24; 2:5; 1Th 3:9; 5:16; Jas 1:1; 1 Pet 4:13; 2 John 1:4, 10f; 3 John 1:3; Rev 11:10; 19:7.

NAS translates chairo = am glad(1), glad(7), gladly(1), greeted*(1), greeting(2), greetings(4), hail(4), joyfully(1), make(1), rejoice(33), rejoiced(8), rejoices(2), rejoicing(10).

Note that the verb chairo is related to the word joy (chara) in the next verse, suggesting James was in some sense preparing his readers for the radical command to consider it all joy.

John MacArthur makes a good point emphasizing that James uses chairo not as a…

mere formality; he expected what he wrote to gladden his readers’ hearts by giving them means to verify the genuineness of their salvation. That, James knew, would provide great comfort to them in their trials, which Satan persistently uses to try to make Christians doubt they are indeed God’s children and fellow heirs with Jesus Christ. (Macarthur J. James. Moody)

Steven Cole comments that…

Many writers claim that there is no unifying theme to James, but that it is just a series of unrelated, random exhortations. But, as difficult as it may be to outline the book, I think that the contents may be arranged under this theme of true faith. James is giving a series of tests by which one may determine whether his faith is genuine or false (D. Edmond Hiebert “The Unifying Theme of the Epistle of James,” Bibliotheca Sacra [135:539, July-September, 1978], pp. 221-231). I offer this outline:

Introduction: Author and recipients (Jas 1:1).

1. True faith responds with practical godliness under testing (Jas 1:2-27).

A. True faith responds with joy when it faces testing (Jas 1:2, 3, 4).

B. True faith seeks God for wisdom in times of testing (Jas 1:5, 6, 7, 8).

C. True faith adopts God’s eternal perspective in both poverty and riches (Jas 1:9, 10, 11).

D. True faith perseveres under testing, not blaming God for temptations (Jas 1:12, 13, 14, 15, 16 17, 18).

E. True faith obeys God’s word, even when provoked (Jas 1:19-27).

2. True faith shows itself in practical obedience (Jas 2:1-26).

A. True faith does not show partiality (Jas 2:1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7).

B. True faith practices biblical love (Jas 2:8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13).

C. True faith proves itself by its works (Jas 2:14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26).

3. True faith controls the tongue and acts with gentle wisdom (Jas 3:1-18).

A. True faith controls the tongue (Jas 3:1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12).

B. True faith acts with gentle wisdom (Jas 3:13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18).

4. True faith resists arrogance by humbling oneself before God (Jas 4:1-5:18).

A. True faith practices humility in relationships (Jas 4:1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12).

B. True faith practices humility with regard to the future (Jas 4:13, 14, 15, 16, 17).

C. True faith practices humility by waiting for God to judge the wicked who have wronged us (Jas 5:1-11).

D. True faith practices humility by speaking the truth apart from self-serving oaths (Jas 5:12).

E. True faith practices humility by depending upon God through prayer (Jas 5:13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18).

Conclusion: True faith practices biblical love by seeking to restore those who have strayed from the truth (Jas 5:19, 20). (James 1:1-4 A Radical Approach to Trials- His Sermons are highly recommended)


James 1:2 Commentary

Click chart to enlarge
Chart from recommended resource Jensen's Survey of the NT - used by permission
Swindoll's Chart

Faith for Living

The Place of Works:
Outward Demonstration of Inner Faith
Jas 1:1-18Jas 1:19-2:13Jas 2:14-25Jas 3:1-12Jas 3:13-4:12Jas 4:13-5:12Jas 5:13-19
Trials &
Word &
Faith &







and the

and our


The Theme: The Testings of Personal Faith

The trials of the believer (James 1:2–12)
      A.      The proper attitude toward trials (James 1:2–4)
         1.      The attitude commanded (James 1:2)
         2.      The reason indicated (James 1:3)
         3.      The outcome to be realized (James 1:4)
      B.      The use of prayer amid trials (James 1:5–8)
         1.      The need for wisdom (James 1:5a)
         2.      The request for wisdom (James 1:5b)
         3.      The bestowal of wisdom (James 1:5c–8)
           a.      The divine response (James 1:5c)
           b.      The human obligation (James 1:6–8)
             (1)      The necessary attitude (James 1:6a)
             (2)      The rejected character (James 1:6b–8)
      C.      The correct attitude toward life by the tried (James 1:9–11)
         1.      The attitude of the lowly brother (James 1:9)
         2.      The attitude of the rich (James 1:10–11)
           a.      The reason for the attitude (James 1:10a)
           b.      The illustration from the flower (James 1:11a)
           c.      The application to the rich (James 1:11b)
      D.      The result of enduring trials (James 1:12)
         1.      The blessedness of endurance (v 12a)
         2.      The reward of endurance (James 1:12b)

The nature of human temptation (James 1:13–16)
      A.      The source of human temptation (James 1:13–14)
         1.      The repudiation of a divine source (James 1:13)
           a.      The rejection stated (James 1:13a)
           b.      The rejection vindicated (James 1:13b)
         2.      The reality of the human source (James 1:14)
      B.      The consequences of yielding to temptation (James 1:15)
      C.      The warning against being deceived (James 1:16)

The activity of God in human affairs (James 1:17–18)
      A.      The Giver of all good gifts (James 1:17)
      B.      The Author of the believer’s regeneration (James 1:18)

The Test Marks of a Living Faith

Faith tested by its response to the Word of God (James 1:19–27)
      A.      The reactions to the Word (James 1:19–20)
         1.      The knowledge possessed (James 1:19a)
         2.      The reaction demanded (James 1:19b)
         3.      The reason stated (James 1:20)
      B.      The reception of the Word (James 1:21)
         1.      The stripping off of sins (James 1:21a)
         2.      The appropriation of the Word (James 1:21b)
      C.      The obedience to the Word (James 1:22–27)
         1.      The demand for active obedience (James 1:22–25)
           a.      The statement of the requirement (James 1:22)
           b.      The illustration of the requirement (James 1:23–25)
             (1)      The negative portrayal (James 1:23–24)
             (2)      The positive portrayal (James 1:25)
         2.      The nature of acceptable obedience (James 1:26–27)
           a.      The futility of activity without inner control (James 1:26)
           b.      Acceptable service with inner control (James 1:27) (from Hiebert - James Commentary)

James 1:2 Consider it alljoy, my brethren, when you encountervarioustrials, (NASB: Lockman)

Greek: Pasancharanegesasthe,(2PAMM)adelphoimou,hotanpeirasmoisperipesete(2PAAS)poikilois,

Amplified: Consider it wholly joyful, my brethren, whenever you are enveloped in or encounter trials of any sort or fall into various temptations. (Amplified Bible - Lockman)

Barclay: My brothers, reckon it all joy whenever you become involved in all kinds of testings,

ESV: Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds

KJV: My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;

ICB: My brothers, you will have many kinds of troubles. But when these things happen, you should be very happy

Montgomery: My brothers, when you are beset by various temptations, count it all joy,

NET: My brothers and sisters, consider it nothing but joy when you fall into all sorts of trials

NLT: Dear brothers and sisters, whenever trouble comes your way, let it be an opportunity for joy. (NLT - Tyndale House)

Phillips: When all kinds of trials and temptations crowd into your lives my brothers, don't resent them as intruders, but welcome them as friends! (Phillips: Touchstone)

Wuest: Be constantly rejoicing. Consider it a matter for unadulterated joy whenever you fall into the midst of variegated trials which surround you,

Weymouth: Reckon it nothing but joy, my brethren, whenever you find yourselves hedged in by various trials.

Young's Literal: All joy count it, my brethren, when ye may fall into temptations manifold;

CONSIDER IT ALL JOY, MY BRETHREN, WHEN YOU ENCOUNTER VARIOUS TRIALS: Pasan charan egesasthe, (2PAMM) adelphoi mou, hotan peirasmois peripesete (2PAAS) poikilois:

  • Jas 1:12; Mt 5:10, 11, 12; Lk 6:22,23; Ac 5:41; Ro 8:17,18,35, 36, 37; 2Co 12:9; 2Co 12:10; Php 1:29; 2:17; Col 1:24; He 10:34; 1Pe 4:13, 14, 15, 16
  • James 1 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries


Although it is a paraphrase, Phillips really strikes the right chord rendering it…

When all kinds of trials and temptations crowd into your lives my brothers, don't resent them as intruders, but welcome them as friends!

count yourselves supremely happy (New English Bible)

Notice that James does not offer thanksgiving for his readers or a prayer for their needs, and in fact no where suggests that James necessarily had personal contact with his readers. So without fanfare he jumps the difficult topic of trials, even beginning with a command!

Consider it all joy - The literal rendering emphasizes the call to joy even more pointedly -- "All joy count it"! On the "surface", this command is one of the most difficult in all the Bible in my opinion. It ranks up there with "in everything give thanks". And yet we know that God is not trying to frustrate us or defeat us but to conform us to the image of His Son and in so doing He wastes no circumstance, no adversity, no affliction, no sickness, no success, no failure, etc, in achieving His end, which in fact He will achieve (cp Phil 1:6-note, 1Pe 5:10-note). God never commands to do His will in any area, that He does not also supply us the grace and power necessary to fulfill it (2Cor 12:9, 10, Phil 4:11, 12, 13-notes).

James is not saying the trials are joyful in themselves but are a means to an end which is joyful. In other words, joy in trials comes from knowing that the outcome will be good. It's as if while in the trial, we have a future focused mindset, because we know that the trial in the hands of the good and loving Potter is not without value regarding the sculpting of our character. We must lay hold of this truth that a loving Father allows (sometimes sends) trials in our lives, not to impair us but to improve us. Not to destroy us but to develop us. In other words, our Father takes us into His darkroom to develop our character not destroy it. In his explanation of why believers should regard not think lightly of God's discipline, the writer of Hebrews reminds of the promised "fruit" writing that…

All discipline (paideia - word study) for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained (gumnazo - the perfect tense here speaks of the enduring results of the effect of this training) by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness. (Heb 12:11-note)

The work of God transforms us
And makes us like His Son;
He works through trials and testings
Until our life is done.

Related Resource:

Several NT passages speak of the value of "trials" of various sorts…

Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Jesus is not saying persecution earns us heaven but that the fact that we are persecuted for the sake of His Name is strong proof that we belong to Jesus and not to this world). Blessed are you when men cast insults at you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of Me (Why are we blessed? Read on… ). Rejoice, (present imperative = make this your continual, habitual practice) and be glad (present imperative = make this your continual, habitual practice), for your reward in heaven is great (Not just that you have a "reward" but that the reward is even "great"! What encouragement this truth should be for suffering saints!), for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Mt 5:10, 11, 12 - see notes)

Blessed are you when men hate you, and ostracize you, and cast insults at you, and spurn your name as evil, for the sake of the Son of Man (Note the "qualifier" - "for the sake of the Son of Man" = we are one in covenant with Jesus and when we suffer, He suffers. Make sure your suffering meets the criteria of "for His sake"!). Be glad (aorist imperative - Command. Do this now. Don't delay) in that day, and leapfor joy (aorist imperative - Command. Do this now. Don't delay) , for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for in the same way their fathers used to treat the prophets. (Lk 6:22, 23)

So (Peter, et al) they went on their way from the presence of the Council (the Jewish Sanhedrin in Jerusalem, composed primarily if not solely of unsaved Jews), rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name. (Acts 5:41, 42 context = Acts 5:17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33ff) (Beloved this has to be one of the most convicting verses in the Bible -- "worthy to suffer shame"! The antithesis of the world's way of thinking.)

and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him (Note "with Him" - we suffer He suffers. We suffer, but not alone! We suffer but not in vain. Why? What is the result?) in order that we may also be glorified with Him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. (Ro 8:17, 18-see notes, cp 2Cor 4:17, 18)

Consider(2233)(hegeomaifrom ágo = to lead) primarily signifies to lead and then to consider. The picture is that of one leading his or her mind through a reasoning process to arrive at a conclusion. Considering (hegeomai) involves careful thought, not quick decision. It involves a conscious judgment resting on deliberate weighing of the facts. It denotes deliberate and careful judgment stemming from external proof, not subjective judgment based on feelings. Hegeomai and calls for a mental evaluation adopted as the result of due deliberation, the conscious acceptance of a definite inner attitude. Hegeomai is also a mathematical term which says "Think about it and come to a conclusion."

The aorist imperative is a command calling for action, and can even convey a sense of urgency (See note below on need for the Spirit). It is also a command because it is not our natural response to trials. They are to regard their experiences of testing as the ground for all joy, not just part joy! But remember that God never commands us to do anything which He does not enable or empower. 

Wiersbe - Our values determine our evaluations. If we value comfort more than character, then trials will upset us. If we value the material and physical more than the spiritual, we will not be able to ‘count it all joy!’ If we live only for the present and forget about the future, the trials will make us bitter, not better.

Peter gives a command which is similar to that of James, writing that…

to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing (present imperative = Command to make it your habit to rejoice in your trials. Why? Read on); so that also at the revelation of His glory, you may rejoice with exultation. (1Pe 4:13-note)

In a similar exhortation, Paul writes…

and not only this (exult in hope of the glory of God), but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. (Ro 5:3, 4, 5 -see notes)

And Paul practiced what he preached, for even though unfairly thrown in prison…

about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the prisoners were listening to them and suddenly there came a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison house were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone's chains were unfastened. (Acts 16:25, 26)

Hiebert writes that

the meaning is not that suffering is the occasion for all the joy there is, but that it should occasion only joy, unmixed with other reactions. New Testament usage of "all" (pas) tended to support the latter meaning (Php 2:29; 1Ti 2:2; Titus 2:10; 3:2; 1Pe 2:18) (Ibid)

The paradox of "all joy in trials" is not normal but supernormal. In other words, joy in trials is not a natural reaction but must be a supernatural reaction. Ultimately, it seems to me, that the man or woman who is most able to obey this command is the one who is walking by the Spirit, filled with the Spirit, controlled by the Spirit. As the believer yields to the Spirit, making the determined choice of his will, he or she is enabled to manifest joy (Galatians 5:22-note). For example, recall the exhortation of the writer of Hebrews to continually (present tense) fix…

our eyes on (by faith turning our eyes away from earthly things and fixing them on) Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of faith, Who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2-note)

Comment: And as Peter said "Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps" 1Peter 2:23 -note

Poole comments that we are to…

esteem it so by a spiritual judgment, though the flesh judge otherwise.

Hegeomai - 28x in 21v in the NT - NAS  = chief(1), consider(3), considered(2), considering(1), count(4), counted(1), esteem(1),governor(1), leader(1), leaders(3), leading(1), led(1), regard(5), regarded(1), Ruler(1), thought(2).

Mt. 2:6; Lk. 22:26; Acts 7:10; 14:12; 15:22; 26:2; 2Co. 9:5; Phil. 2:3, 6, 25; 3:7, 3:8; 1Th 5:13; 2Th 3:15; 1Ti 1:12; 6:1; Heb. 10:29; 11:11, 26; 13:7, 17, 24; James. 1:2; 2Pet. 1:13; 2:13; 3:9, 15.

Day by day and with each passing moment,
Strength I find to meet my trials here;
Trusting in my Father's wise bestowment,
I've no cause for worry or for fear.

All joy - "Whole joy", unmixed joy, without admixture of sorrow, not just "some joy" along with much grief! How is this possible? The Spirit produces His joy in us (Gal 5:22-notes). The translations render it - wholly joyful (Amp), pure joy (ISV, Moffatt), complete joy (Berkley), nothing but joy (NET), unadulterated joy (Wuest), highest joy (Grotius)

John MacArthur explains that all joy

is variously interpreted by commentators as meaning pure joy, unmixed joy, complete and total joy, or sheer joy. From the context, it seems that all of those meanings are fitting. James is speaking of a unique fullness of joy that the Lord graciously provides His children when they willingly and uncomplainingly endure troubles while trusting in Him—regardless of the cause, type, or severity of the distress. He will always use them for our benefit and for His own glory. It is not because of some sort of religious masochism, but rather a sincere trust in the promise and goodness of our Lord, that we can look on trials as a welcome friend, knowing with Joseph that what may have been meant for evil against us, God means for good (Ge 50:20; cf. Ro 8:28-note).

We are not just to act joyful, in reluctant pretense, but to be genuinely joyful. It is a matter of will, not of feelings, and should be the conscious, determined commitment of every faithful believer. And because God commands it, it is within the ability, under the Spirit’s provision, of every true Christian. When faith in Jesus Christ is genuine, James assures us, even the worst of troubles can and should be cause for thanksgiving and rejoicing.

The more we rejoice in our testings, the more we realize that they are not liabilities but privileges, ultimately beneficial and not harmful, no matter how destructive and painful the immediate experience of them might appear. When we face trials with the attitude that James admonishes, we discover that the greatest part of the joy is drawing closer to the Lord—the Source of all joy—by becoming more sensitive to His presence, His goodness, His love, and His grace. Our prayer life increases, as does our interest in and study of the Word, and in each of those ways our joy increases all the more. (Macarthur J. James. Moody)

Commenting on consider it all joy, Epp remarks that…

To have joy does not necessarily mean we will be hilarious and laughing about the trials we are experiencing, but it means we will have a deep-seated confidence that God knows what He is doing and that the results will be for His glory and our good. (Theodore Epp: James the Epistle of Applied Christianity)

Note that James is not commanding believers to enjoy their trials which in themselves are grievous not joyful. If this were his intent, James would be calling for a stoic like resignation, in which the one simply "grins and bears" the trial. To the contrary, James is saying that believers should (and can) see their trials not so much as obstacles but as opportunities, which when "leavened" with God's grace, prove to be "fertilizer" for growth in Christ-likeness. Trials when seen with eyes of faith (cp He 11:1-note; 2Co 5:7) can then be accepted as God's tools for producing beneficial results and can then be occasions for rejoicing. As an aside, James is not a masochist and is not calling for us to seek out or needlessly rush into trials.

One thinks in fact of Jesus' words that we are to pray "lead us not into testing (temptation)" (Mt 6:13-note) regarding which Mayor comments…

One who is conscious of his own weakness may without inconsistency pray that he may be kept out of temptation, and yet, when he is brought into it through no fault of his own but by God's providential ordering, he may feel such trust in Divine support as to rejoice in an opportunity of proving his faithfulness.

Cole writes that…

Biblical joy in times of trials is not natural optimism. It is the joy of hope (Ed: absolute assurance of future good) in God and His sure promises. This radical attitude results from a deliberate choice. The choice is, “Will I trust in God and His promises, or not?” As James says, it is our faith that is being tested. We do not know if our faith is genuine until it stands up under the test. You can buy a jacket that claims to be waterproof. If you wear it on dry days, you have not put the jacket to the test. The test of that jacket is, if you get caught in a downpour, does it keep you dry? If it does, you say, “That’s a good jacket!” It’s easy to proclaim, “I trust in God!” Anybody can say that. But, the test of your faith is when you really do choose to trust God in a severe trial. Afterwards, you know that your faith is genuine, because it brought you through the trial. But the point is, when you are faced with a trial, you have a choice: Will I trust God and the promises of His Word, as I have professed to do, or not? To trust God and experience His hope and joy in the midst of trials is a radical attitude that James commands us to adopt. (Steven Cole - James 1:1-4 A Radical Approach to Trials - Excellent Resource - His Sermons are highly recommended)

by Susan Peterson
(Play hymn)

Count it joy, and never be discouraged,
When by trials your life is sorely pressed.
For you know that when your faith is tested,
Your endurance then develops best.
Perseverance must complete its working;
You will need to let it have its way.
When it’s done, you’ll be complete and perfect,
Having all you need to meet each day.

So if any one of you lacks wisdom,
Ask of God, who always hears and cares.
He gives freely without asking questions;
His abundance will become your share.
But when asking, you must never falter,
Like a wave that’s blown and tossed about.
If you do, you’ll never gain God’s blessing;
Double-minded, you’ll succumb to doubt.

Blest the man who perseveres in trial;
For you know the testing soon will pass.
When it’s o’er and you have stood unmoving,
You’ll receive the crown of life at last.
But when tempted, never be accusing;
It’s not God who leads you from the path.
Your own lusts seduce you and entice you,
Giving birth to sin, and sin to death.

Do not let yourself yield to deception;
God’s the source of every perfect gift.
He’s the Maker of the stars in heaven,
Changing not as shadows move and shift.
For He chose a spirit birth to give you,
Through the Word of truth that you believed.
Thus are you the firstfruits of His labors;
By His grace, salvation is achieved.

Joy(5479) (chara from chaíro = to rejoice) describes an attitude which is cheerful and glad. It is a is a sense of inner gladness, delight or rejoicing.

Secular dictionaries define joy as the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or the emotion evoked by the prospect of possessing what one desires. The world's definition of joy is therefore virtually synonymous with the definition of happiness, for both of these "emotions" are dependent on what "happens" The world's joy is the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires. The Bible defines joy as a gift of God, a fruit of His Spirit, which is independent of circumstances.

Certainly there is joy in human life, such as joy when one experiences a victory (" We will sing for joy over your victory, and in the name of our God we will set up our banners. May the LORD fulfill all your petitions." Ps 20:5Spurgeon's comment) or reaps a bountiful harvest (see Is 9:3), but more often the Bible speaks of joy in a spiritual sense. For example, Nehemiah declared to the down in the mouth (not very filled with joy) Jews that "The joy of the Lord is your strength" (Neh 8:10). Similarly, David pleaded with God to “restore to me the joy of Thy salvation” (Ps 51:12Spurgeon's Comment). It is not surprising that joy and rejoicing are found most frequently in the Psalms (about 80 references) and the Gospels (about 40 references).

Joy is the deep-down sense of well-being that abides in the heart of the person who knows all is well between himself and the Lord. It is not an experience that comes from favorable circumstances but even occurs when those circumstances are the most painful and severe as Jesus taught His disciples declaring…

Truly, truly, I say to you, that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned to joy. 21 "Whenever a woman is in travail she has sorrow, because her hour has come; but when she gives birth to the child, she remembers the anguish no more, for joy that a child has been born into the world. 22 "Therefore you too now have sorrow; but I will see you again, and your heart will rejoice, and no one takes your joy away from you. (John 16:20-22)

Believers have the Resident Source of joy within for as as Paul teaches

the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness (Galatians 5:22+)

Emotional fluctuations cannot disturb this Source of joy. Note Paul’s statement of this confidence (Phil 3:20-note). Joy not only does not come from favorable human circumstances but is sometimes greatest when those circumstances are the most painful and severe.

Warren Wiersbe defines joy as "that inward peace and sufficiency that is not affected by outward circumstances. (A case in point is Paul’s experience recorded in Phil 4:10, 11, 12, 13ff-see notes) This "holy optimism" keeps him going in spite of difficulties. (He adds) Our values determine our evaluations. If we value comfort more than character, then trials will upset us. If we value the material and physical more than the spiritual, we will not be able to ‘count it all joy!’ If we live only for the present and forget the future, the trials will make us bitter, not better (Bible Exposition Commentary)

The Baker Encyclopedia adds that joy is a…

Positive human condition that can be either feeling or action. The Bible uses joy in both senses. Joy is a feeling called forth by well-being, success, or good fortune. A person automatically experiences it because of certain favorable circumstances. It cannot be commanded. The shepherd experienced joy when he found his lost sheep (Mt 18:13). The multitude felt it when Jesus healed a Jewish woman whom Satan had bound for 18 years (Lk 13:17+). The disciples returned to Jerusalem rejoicing after Jesus’ ascension (Lk 24:52+). Joy was also the feeling of the church at Antioch when its members heard the Jerusalem Council’s decision that they did not have to be circumcised and keep the Law (Acts 15:31+). Paul mentioned his joy in hearing about the obedience of the Roman Christians (Ro 16:19+). Ps 137:3 (Spurgeon's Note) shows that the emotion cannot be commanded. The Jews’ captors wanted them to sing in the land of their exile, something they were unable to do. Faraway Jerusalem was their chief joy (Ps 137:6- Spurgeon's Note).

There is a joy that Scripture commands. That joy is action that can be engaged in regardless of how the person feels. Proverbs 5:18 (note) tells the reader to rejoice in the wife of his youth, without reference to what she may be like. Christ instructed his disciples to rejoice when they were persecuted, reviled, and slandered (Mt 5:11+, Mt 5:12+). The apostle Paul commanded continuous rejoicing (Phil 4:4+; 1Th 5:16+ED: Calling for continuous dependence on the Holy Spirit to obey these commands in the present imperative). (Elwell, W. A., & Beitzel, B. J. Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House)

Excerpt from David Scaer's article Joy - Happiness over an unanticipated or present good. In the Old Testament joy (Heb. sama [ Song of Solomon 1:4 ), to marriage (Proverbs 5:18 ), the birth of children (Psalm 113:9 ), the gathering of the harvest, military victory (Isaiah 9:3 ), and drinking wine (Psalm 104:15 ). On the spiritual level it refers to the extreme happiness with which the believer contemplates salvation and the bliss of the afterlife. Unexpected benefits from God are expressed in terms of common experiences. The psalms express the joyous mood of believers as they encounter God. Believers rejoice because God has surrounded them with his steadfast love (32:11) and brought them to salvation (40:16; 64:10). David rejoices that God has delivered him from the hand of his enemies (63:11). Joy is a response to God's word (Psalm 119:14 ) and his reward to believers (Isaiah 65:14 ) and their strength (Nehemiah 8:10 ). (For full article click in Baker Evangelical Dictionary Joy)

Related Resources:

My brethren (Jas 1:2; 2:1, 14; 3:1, 10, 12; 5:12, 19) - He is referring to true believers addressing them with a feeling of warmth and love, as well as identification, which would assure them that they are not alone in their trials. He later refers to them as "beloved brethren" again emphasizing his pastoral affection for them (Jas 1:16, 19, 2:5). As an aside brethren does not exclude "sistern" or sisters in Christ - "my brothers and sisters" is therefore quite appropriate.

Poole writes that James uses my brethren

both as being of the same nation and the same religion; so he calls them, that the kindness of his compellation might sweeten his exhortations.

Hiebert adds that my brethren denotes James'…

personal feelings toward his readers. He accepts them as members with him of one spiritual community, as fellow members of the family of God. Therefore, "what James has to say applies only to born-again Christians." The possessive "my" expresses his own consciousness of his equality with them as brothers and that as their brother he is concerned about their trials. Fanar remarks, "The perpetual recurrence of this word shows that the wounds which St. James inflicts are meant to be the faithful wounds of a friend."' He eagerly draws his readers to himself as he seeks to minister to their needs. In the pagan world, the term (brethren) was used of a fellow member in some restricted secular group or of members of a particular religious society. Among the Jews, the term was used to denote a fellow Israelite. The early Christians readily employ the term as expressive of their consciousness that as believers in Christ they were all members of one spiritual family. The use of this designation in the early church was apparently stimulated by the teaching of Jesus in Mk 3:35 and Mt 23:8. (Ibid)

When you encounter… - Note carefully James does not say "if" but "when" referring not to possibility but to inevitability! Trials are not an elective, but a required course in the "school of Christ"! Trials then are an expected/guaranteed element of the normal Christian life, and so, beloved, as Peter says

Do not be surprised (present imperative + negative = command to stop continually being surprised!) at the fiery trial among you which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you (1Pe 4:12-note)

To be sure, most of us are either in a trial, just coming out of one or on the verge of entering a new one. Such is the common lot of mankind (cp 1Cor 10:13 [see note] "common to man").

Commenting on "when" Hiebert adds that…

The use of the indefinite temporal construction (hotan with the subjunctive), "whenever ye [may] fall into," indicates that they tend to come at an undetermined time. Their arrival cannot be pinpointed beforehand. They may he expected at anytime. (Ibid)

Steven Cole makes the important point that…

Many Christians naively think that if they obey the Lord, they will be spared from any trials. When trials hit them, they are confused and often angry at God: “I was following You! Why did You allow this to happen?” But the Bible gives abundant testimony that all of God’s saints encounter trials. And these trials are not necessarily the consequence of disobedience. Rather, God uses them to test our faith. They will be varied according to His sovereign purpose. We cannot understand why He sends the particular trials that He does, but whatever they are, we can know that they are from Him. (Steven Cole - James 1:1-4 A Radical Approach to Trials - Excellent Resource - His Sermons are highly recommended)

Notice that while the world says "consider it joy when you escape trials", James says "No, consider it joy when you are in the midst of trials!"

The Psalmist writes that…

Weeping may last for the night, but a shout of joy comes in the morning (Ps 30:5)

Encounter (4045) (peripipto from peri = around + pipto = to fall, to fall into, to fall down) means literally to fall around, and so to fall in with or among (trials, Jas 1:2, robbers Lk 10:30). In one NT context peripipto means to mover toward something and strike against it (Acts 27:41).

This verb can also convey the sense of falling into something suddenly or unexpectedly -- isn't that what most trials do? They "jump" on us and catch us off guard! I like the picture presented by the Amplified version "whenever you are enveloped in or encounter trials of any sort or fall into various temptations." The picture is one encompassed by these trials, something with which we can all readily identify!

Friberg writes that peripateo means to…

as coming onto a situation accidentally and becoming innocently involved; literally, of mishaps encounter; of robbers fall into the hands of, be seized by (Lk 10:30)

Some secular uses of peripipto include as a description of ships meeting by chance at sea (Herodotus), to encounter unjust judgments, to be caught in one's own snare (Herodotus), to fall on one side (Plutarch).

Hiebert adds that peripipto suggests…

that these trials are unavoidable. Like the thieves who surrounded the man on the Jericho road (see Lk 10:30 below), such adverse situations unexpectedly surround the believer with no escape. The compound verb (peripipto), which pictures these trials as encircling the believer, implies that the reference is not to minor little irritations but to larger adverse experiences that cannot be avoided. The reference is to various adversities, afflictions, and calamities that are hard to bear. The reference is not specifically to religious persecutions, although they were a prominent part in the experiences of the readers. Martin, indeed, holds that these trials "are better understood as signs of oppression and persecution endured for one's religious convictions."' (Ibid)

Peripipto is used only 3 times in the NT…

Luke 10:30 Jesus replied and said, "A certain man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho; and he fell among (peripipto) robbers, and they stripped him and beat him, and went off leaving him half dead."

Comment: The preposition peri "around" (in peripipto) pictures the certain man as being completely surrounded by the thieves on all sides, with no way of escape, and thus unavoidably "falling" victim to their assaults.

Acts 27:41 But striking (KJV = striking into; peripipto) a reef where two seas met, they ran the vessel aground; and the prow stuck fast and remained immovable, but the stern began to be broken up by the force of the waves.

There are 4 uses in the Septuagint (Da 2:9 plus the 3 uses below)…

Ruth 2:3 So she departed and went and gleaned in the field after the reapers; and she happened (Lxx = peripipto) (Lxx adds by chance = periptoma = by accident) to come to the portion of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the family of Elimelech.

2 Samuel 1:6 And the young man who told him said, "By chance (periptoma = by accident) I happened (Lxx = peripipto) to be on Mount Gilboa, and behold, Saul was leaning on his spear. And behold, the chariots and the horsemen pursued him closely.

Proverbs 11:5 The righteousness of the blameless will smooth his way, but the wicked will fall (Lxx = peripipto) by his own wickedness.

Matthew Poole comments that peripipto conveys the picture…

when you are so beset and circumvented by them, that there is no of escaping them, but they come upon you, though by the direction of God’s providence, yet not by your own seeking. “Divers temptations;” so he calls afflictions, from God’s end in them, which is to try and discover what is in men, and whether they will cleave to Him or not.

Samuel Rutherford emphasizes the certainty of trials writing that

You will not get leave to steal quietly to heaven without a conflict and a cross.

The Puritan Thomas Watson agreed writing…

Though Christ died to take away the curse from us, yet not to take away the cross from us.

Spurgeon asked…

How can I look to be at home in the enemy's country, joyful while in exile, or comfortable in a wilderness? This is not my rest. This is the place of the furnace and the forge and the hammer.

To those servants of God whom He purposes to use in a larger, greater way, many trials are allowed to come (they are necessary), for

we must be ground between the millstones of suffering before we can be bread for the multitude.

J C Ryle explains that

Every cross is a message from God and intended to do us good in the end.

Matthew Henry adds

These troubles, that lie heavy, never come upon us but when we have need, and never stay any longer than needs must.

John Newton describes these trials as like

medicines which our gracious and wise Physician prescribes, because we need them; and He proportions the frequency and weight of them to what the case requires.

J. Vernon McGee in his pithy style adds

I know it is not at all popular to teach that God will prove us and lead us on to maturity through suffering. People would rather be encouraged to think that they are somebody important and that they can do great things on their own. My friend, we are nothing until the Spirit of God begins to move in our hearts and lives. We have nothing to offer to God. He has everything to offer to us. (McGee, J V: Thru the Bible Commentary: Nashville: Thomas Nelson)

Warren Wiersbe adds that the encouraging note that

We must keep in mind that all God plans and performs here is preparation for what He has in store for us in heaven. He is preparing us for the life and service yet to come. Nobody yet knows all that is in store for us in heaven, but we do know that life on earth is a school in which God trains us for our future ministry in eternity. This explains the presence of trials in our lives for they are some of God’s tools and textbooks in the school of Christian experience. (Wiersbe, W: Bible Exposition Commentary. 1989. Victor)

Cole comments that…

Some of the readers had probably been members of the church in Jerusalem, but they had scattered into many locations because of the persecution that arose after the death of Stephen (Acts 8:1; 11:19, 20). Because of anti-Semitism in the Roman Empire, these believers in Christ were often the brunt of hostility both from the pagan world, as well as from their own people. Word got back to James of some of the difficulties that these brethren were encountering: affliction from without (Jas 5:1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6) and, as often happens at such times, conflicts within (Jas 2:1-13; 4:1-12). Some were lapsing into a superficial, formal religion that professed orthodox beliefs, but practiced selfish, ungodly lifestyles (Jas 1:22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27; Jas 2:14-26; Jas 3:9, 10, 11, 12). As a pastor, James writes to these scattered Jewish believers to make the point: True faith shows itself in practical, godly living. He develops several themes: endurance through trials; the dangers of riches and encouragement to the poor; the law and love; faith and works; the coming of the Lord; and, humility. But his main point is that true biblical faith works. (Steven Cole - James 1:1-4 A Radical Approach to Trials - Excellent Resource - His Sermons are highly recommended)

Various (4164) (poikilos) means existence in various kinds or modes, diversified, manifold, variegated, many colored. Poikilos was used to describe the skin of a leopard, the different-colored veining of marble or a robe embroidered with many different colors and thence passes into the meaning of changeful, diversified, applied to the changing months or the variations of a strain of music. Poikilos stresses not the number of trials but the great variety or diversity of the trials, "multicolored", like Joseph's coat of many colors (Ge 37:3 - where Lxx for "many" = poikilos).

In Mt 4:24 poikilos is used of the great variety of torments of body and mind among the people whom Jesus healed. In He 2:4 poikilos describes the variety of the manifestations of God's power in connection with the preaching of the gospel.

Various trials would include those common to all men as well as those related to the fact that they are believers (cp 2Ti 3:12)

Peter writes to believers experiencing fiery trials…

In this you greatly rejoice (continually "jump for joy" - there is no way this would be possible in our natural state - it has to speak of Spirit enabled supernatural ability to rejoice! It speaks of the believer's moment by moment need to submit to and depend on the Spirit, walking by the Spirit - Gal 5:16- note) even though now for a little while, if (the idea is since they are… ) necessary you have been distressed by various (poikilos) trials (1 Peter 1:6-note, read 1Pe 1:7 [note] which gives the context to help understand how future hope energizes present rejoicing even in painful circumstances)

But note that God's provision for our "multicolored" trials is "multicolored" grace…

As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold (poikilos) grace of God. (1 Peter 4:10-note)

Comment: God's grace is sufficient for every trial whatever its color.

God will certainly prune us but never without purpose, for as Vance Havner said…

The grace, the groans and the glory are all part of the eternal purpose. Where there is no groaning there is no growing now, nor glory to come.

Guy King gives an interesting illustration of manifold grace from manifold trials (temptations)…

We find that Peter joins Paul in magnifying the grace of GOD. There is an interesting Greek word, poikilos, which occurs several times in the New Testament, and which Peter uses twice, both in his First Epistle, and which is translated "manifold":

(a) "Ye are in heaviness, through manifold temptations," (1Pe 1:6-note)

(b) "Good stewards of the manifold grace of GOD," (1Pe 4:10-note)

Put those two things together.

On the one hand, let the five digits, all so different in character, from the thumb to the little finger, stand for the manifold trials and testings of life. On the other hand, let the five digits stand for the manifold grace. Now put the right hand over the left, and observe how the fingers of the grace hand exactly correspond to those of the temptations hand. Only an illustration; but an illustration of a beautiful fact - that whatever may be the need, there is at hand just the very grace to meet it. (Colossians 4:15-18 His Kind Regard)

Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.

Poikilos gives a vivid picture of the diversity and varied aspects and appearances of the trials that affect believers, not their number, which is left to be inferred.

Barclay remarks

Our troubles may be many-coloured, but so is the grace of God; There is no color in the human situation which grace cannot match. There is a grace to match every trial and there is no trial without its grace…

All kinds of experiences will come to us. There will be the test of the sorrows and the disappointments which seek to take our faith away. There will be the test of the seductions which seek to lure us from the right way. There will be the tests of the dangers, the sacrifices, the unpopularity which the Christian way must so often involve. But they are not meant to make us fall; they are meant to make us soar. They are not meant to defeat us; they are meant to be defeated. They are not meant to make us weaker; they are meant to make us stronger. Therefore we should not bemoan them; we should rejoice in them. The Christian is like the athlete. The heavier the course of training he undergoes, the more he is glad, because he knows that it is fitting him all the better for victorious effort. As Browning said, we must “welcome each rebuff that turns earth’s smoothness rough,” for every hard thing is another step on the upward way. (Barclay, W: The Daily Study Bible Series, Rev. ed. Philadelphia: The Westminster Press)

Trials(3986)(peirasmos from peirazo = to make trial of, try, tempt, prove in either a good or bad sense) describes first the idea of putting to the test and then refers to the tests or pressures that come in order to discover a person’s nature or the quality of some thing. Think of yourself as a tube of "spiritual toothpaste". Pressure brings out what's really on the inside!

Note that some translations render peirasmos with the word temptations (ASV, TLB, Wesley, Young's Literal, Amplified, Darby, KJV), but the context does not suggest that it is being used in the sense of solicitation to evil or temptation to sin (as in Jas 1:13,14) for one would hardly be urged to rejoice in such a setting.

Peirasmos in Septuagint - Ex 17:7; Deut 4:34; 6:16; 7:19; 9:22; 29:3; Ps 95:8-note (Ps 95:9 uses peirazo -note)

Hiebert - The noun peirasmos denotes a testing being directed toward an end, to discover the nature or quality of the object or person tested. The verbal form peirazo denotes the action of putting something or someone to the test. Such a test may be applied with either a good or bad intention. In a good sense, the test may be applied in order to demonstrate the strength or good quality of the object tested. When the testing is applied with the evil aim that the object will be led to fail under testing, then the thought of temptation comes in. Since it is a melancholy fact that men often break down under the testings of life, the term peirasmos is often used with the meaning of temptation, a solicitation to evil. Under either meaning, the term "has always the idea of probation associated with it."' Both the noun and the verb are rare in secular Greek,' but they are common in the Septuagint and the New Testament. Since the Scriptures are concerned with moral values, the concept of testing is an essential one in the Bible. In human experience, the two aspects of testing and temptation may be closely related. That which is intended as a test may in fact become a temptation for the person tested because of his inner response to the situation. Well aware of this close connection in actual experience, James deals with both aspects of peirasmoi in this opening section of his epistle. In Jas 1:2-12 he deals with the nature and use of external tests that come to the believer in daily life, while in Jas 1:13-16-note he deals with the experience of temptation to evil. In Jas 1:17,18-note he shows that God's beneficent activities toward the believer establish that He cannot be associated with peirasmos in the sense of solicitation to evil. God does test the faith of His people, but He does not allure them to evil. (Ibid)

Barclay - Peirasmos is trial or testing directed towards an end, and the end is that he who is tested should emerge stronger and purer from the testing. (Ed comment: However this word can mean tempt, which is what Satan does - he desires that we emerge weaker and less pure as a result of succumbing to the peirasmos. See explanation in following paragraph). The corresponding verb peirazein, which the King James Version usually translates to tempt, has the same meaning. The idea is not that of seduction into sin but of strengthening and purifying (Ed: But just the opposite effect if Satan peirazo's us). For instance, a young bird is said to test (peirazein) its wings. The Queen of Sheba was said to come to test (peirazein) the wisdom of Solomon. God was said to test (peirazein) Abraham, when he appeared to be demanding the sacrifice of Isaac (Genesis 22:1). When Israel came into the Promised Land, God did not remove the people who were already there. He left them so that Israel might be tested (peirazein) in the struggle against them (Jdg 2:22-note, Jdg 3:1, 4-note, cf Ex 15:25, 16:4, 20:20, Dt 13:3)(Ed: Actually man of the OT uses of peirazo are of Israel testing/tempting God!. Ex 17:2, 7, Nu 14:22, ) The experiences in Israel were tests which went to the making of the people of Israel (Deuteronomy 4:34; Deuteronomy 7:19). (James 1- William Barclay's Daily Study Bible)

Peirasmos connotes trouble or something that breaks the pattern of peace, comfort, joy, and happiness in someone’s life. Trials rightly faced are in fact beneficial to the saint as Peter (and James 1 explain), but wrongly received and processed can "evolve" into temptations to commit sins. It is axiomatic that Satan tempts us to bring out the worst in us while God tests us to bring out the best for He ever seeks to make us more like His Son.

It is not surprising to see James use the related verb peirazo (to test or to tempt) to describe temptations (Jas 1:13, 14-note). As most believers have experienced, trials which God allows too often become sources of temptation to sin. If we choose to react to the trial based on feelings and/or emotions, it is likely that our fallen flesh will deceive and impel us to react inappropriately. However, if we act (contrast with react) in faith (in God - His sovereignty [He is in control - Da 4:35-note, Ps 115:3-note, Ps 135:6-note, Isa 46:10, 11], in His faithfulness [He won't test us beyond what we can bear - He knows our "load limits"! - 1Cor 10:13-note], in and by His grace [His power is perfected in our weakness, 2Co 12:9, 10-note], in His promises [momentary affliction will yield eternal glory beyond comparison - 2Co 4:16, 17, 18-note], etc) then the trials instead of seducing us to sin, strengthen us to grow more like the Savior (cp 2Pe 3:18-note).

Jamieson - Every possible trial to the child of God is a masterpiece of strategy of the Captain of his salvation for his good.

Hort - The Christian must expect to be jostled by trials on the Christian way.

Barclay - ll kinds of experiences will come to us. There will be the test of the sorrows and the disappointments which seek to take our faith away. There will be the test of the seductions which seek to lure us from the right way. There will be the tests of the dangers, the sacrifices, the unpopularity which the Christian way must so often involve. But

they are not meant to make us fall;

they are meant to make us soar.

They are not meant to defeat us;

they are meant to be defeated.

They are not meant to make us weaker;

they are meant to make us stronger.

Therefore we should not bemoan them;

we should rejoice in them.

The Christian is like the athlete. The heavier the course of training he undergoes, the more he is glad, because he knows that it is fitting him all the better for victorious effort. As Browning said, we must "welcome each rebuff that turns earth's smoothness rough," for every hard thing is another step on the upward way. (James 1 - William Barclay's Daily Study Bible)

Erwin Lutzer - God often puts us in situations that are too much for us so that we will learn that no situation is too much for Him.

Notice that James does not say that the trial will necessarily "feel good", and in fact it usually does not, which emphasizes the importance of acting based on faith rather than reacting based on feelings/emotions.

Matthew Henry - God's design in afflicting His people is their probation (Ed: the act of proving or testing), not their destruction; their advantage, not their ruin.

The Puritan saint Richard Sibbes rightly said that

God promises no immunity from crosses.

Spurgeon aptly adds that…

There are no crown-wearers in heaven that were not cross-bearers here below.

John Calvin adds that these necessary trials…

are not afflicted by chance, but through the infallible providence of God.

Why should I complain
Of want or distress,
Temptation or pain?
He told me no less;

The heirs of salvation,
I know from his Word,
Through much tribulation
Must follow their Lord.
--John Newton


Ponder these principles if you are being tested even as you read these notes. Trust God and His Word of Truth and Life. Choose to act, not to react.

Or as J C Ryle once said…

Trials are intended to make us think, to wean us from the world, to send us to the Bible, to drive us to our knees. (Amen! So be it!)… Settle it firmly in our minds that there is a meaning, a needs-be and a message from God in every sorrow that falls upon us… There are no lessons so useful as those learned in the school of affliction… (and be encouraged for) The tools that the great Architect intends to use much are often kept long in the fire, to temper them and fit them for work

Spurgeon explains the great value of his personal trials writing…

I am afraid that all the grace that I have got out of my comfortable and easy times and happy hours might almost lie on a penny. But the good that I have received from my sorrows, and pains, and griefs, is altogether incalculable. What do I not owe to the crucible and the furnace, the bellows that have blown up the coals, and the hand which has thrust me into the heat?… I bear my witness that the worst days I have ever had have turned out to be my best days… I can bear my personal testimony that the best piece of furniture that I ever had in the house was a cross. I do not mean a material cross; I mean the cross of affliction and trouble… In shunning a trial we are seeking to avoid a blessing.

John Macarthur has an excellent illustration and explanation of the purpose of "trials" (temptations). He writes

To test the genuineness of a diamond, jewelers often place it in clear water, which causes a real diamond to sparkle with special brilliance. An imitation stone, on the other hand, will have almost no sparkle at all. When the two are placed side by side, even an untrained eye can easily tell the difference. In a similar way, even the world can often notice the marked differences between genuine Christians and those who merely profess faith in Christ. As with jewels, there is a noticeable difference in radiance, especially when people are undergoing difficult times. Many people have great confidence in their faith until it is severely tested by hardships and disappointments. How a person handles trouble will reveal whether his faith is living or dead, genuine or imitation, saving or non-saving. (Macarthur J. James. 1998. Moody)

William MacDonald writes that…

In this section James deals with the subject of temptation. He uses the word in two different senses. In Jas 1:2-12, the temptations are what we might call holy trials or problems which are sent from God, and which test the reality of our faith and produce likeness to Christ. In Jas 1:13-17, on the other hand, the subject is unholy temptations, which come from within, and which lead to sin. The Christian life is filled with problems. They come uninvited and unexpected. Sometimes they come singly and sometimes in droves. They are inevitable. James does not say “if you fall into various trials” but when. We can never get away from them. The question is, “What are we going to do about them?”

There are several possible attitudes we can take toward these testings and trials of life. We can rebel against them (He 12:5-note) by adopting a spirit of defiance, boasting that we will battle through to victory by our own power. On the other hand, we can lose heart or give up under pressure (He 12:5). This is nothing but fatalism. It leads to questioning even the Lord’s care for us. Again, we can grumble and complain about our troubles. This is what Paul warns us against in 1 Co 10:10. Another option—we can indulge in self-pity, thinking of no one but ourselves, and trying to get sympathy from others. Or better, we can be exercised by the difficulties and perplexities of life (Heb. 12:11-note). We can say, in effect, “God has allowed this trial to come to me. He has some good purpose in it for me. I don’t know what that purpose is, but I’ll try to find out. I want His purposes to be worked out in my life.” This is what James advocates: “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials.” Don’t rebel! Don’t faint! Rejoice! These problems are not enemies, bent on destroying you. They are friends which have come to aid you to develop Christian character.

God is trying to produce Christlikeness in each of His children. This process necessarily involves suffering, frustration, and perplexity. The fruit of the Spirit cannot be produced when all is sunshine; there must be rain and dark clouds. Trials never seem pleasant; they seem very difficult and disagreeable. But afterwards they yield the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who are trained by them (Heb. 12:11). How often we hear a Christian say, after passing through some great crisis, “It wasn’t easy to take, but I wouldn’t give up the experience for anything.” (MacDonald, W & Farstad, A. Believer's Bible Commentary: Thomas Nelson)

Amy Carmichael - The best training is to learn to accept everything as it comes, as from Him whom our soul loves. The tests are always unexpected things, not great things that can be written up, but the common little rubs of life, silly little nothings, things you are ashamed of minding (at all). Yet they can knock a strong man over and lay him very low. (Amy Carmichael, Candles in the Dark). (Below is her convicting poem)…

Hast thou no scar?
No hidden scar on foot, or side, or hand?
I hear thee sung as mighty in the land,
I hear them hail thy bright ascendant star,
Hast thou no scar?

Hast thou no wound?
Yet, I was wounded by the archers, spent,
Leaned me against the tree to die; and rent
By ravening beasts that compassed me, I swooned:
Hast thou no wound?

No wound? No scar?
Yes, as the Master shall the servant be,
And pierced are the feet that follow Me;
But thine are whole: can he have followed far
Who has no wound nor scar?

PS: If you want to read an incredibly convicting biography I dare you to read Elisabeth Elliot's work book entitled A Chance to Die: The Life and Legacy of Amy Carmichael

Through trials we learn to overcome,
Through Christ our victories are won;
Come lay your burdens at His feet
And find this inner peace so sweet.

by Fanny Crosby

Never be sad or desponding,
If thou hast faith to believe.
Grace, for the duties before thee,
Ask of thy God and receive.

Never give up, never give up,
Never give up to thy sorrows,
Jesus will bid them depart.
Trust in the Lord, trust in the Lord,
Sing when your trials are greatest,
Trust in the Lord and take heart.

What if thy burdens oppress thee;
What though thy life may be drear;
Look on the side that is brightest,
Pray, and thy path will be clear.

Never be sad or desponding,
There is a morrow for thee;
Soon thou shalt dwell in its brightness,
There with the Lord thou shalt be.

Never be sad or desponding,
Lean on the arm of thy Lord;
Dwell in the depths of His mercy,
Thou shalt receive thy reward.


(1). Prove our faith genuine - so when a believer comes through a trial still trusting the Lord, he is assured that his faith is genuine

(2). Are only for a little while (cf 1Pe 5:10-note, Ro 8:18-note, 2Co 4:18 Heb 12:11 - note -"for the moment")

(3). Are necessary to our growth in Christ & so trials in a believer's life are purposeful (cf Ro 8:28-note; Ro 8:29-note)

(4). Will cause grief & sorrow so we must not think they are not of any benefit just because we grieve (cf Heb 12:11 -note "Alldiscipline for the momentseems not to be joyful, but sorrowful")

(5). Are multicolored, of various "sizes, shapes and colors" (Ja 1:2) but in (1Pe 4:10-note "manifold" = poikilos) Peter says God provides multicolored grace for multicolored trials! There is sufficient grace (2Cor 12:9) to match every trial and there is no trial without sufficient grace.

(6). Ultimately will bring praise, glory and honor to God. There is great comfort for suffering saints in knowing that their sufferings are neither purposeless nor fruitless. On the other hand, the sufferings of the ungodly are only a foretaste of the pangs they will endure forever.

(7). Will not be fully understood as to their eternal significance until the revelation of Jesus Christ (1Cor 2:14)


Times of affliction are usually gaining times to God's people.-Joseph Alleine

Adversity introduces a man to himself. -Anon.

Affliction is God's shepherd dog to drive us back to the fold.-Anon.

Affliction is the school of faith.-Anon.

Affliction, like the iron-smith, shapes as it smites.-Anon.

Afflictions are often God's best blessings sent in disguise.-Anon.

Crosses are ladders that lead to heaven.-Anon.

Fire is the test of gold, adversity of strong men.-Anon.

Our great Teacher writes many a bright lesson on the blackboard of affliction.-Anon.

Some hearts, like evening primroses, open more beautifully in the shadows of life.-Anon.

The Christian justifies tribulation. Ten thousand times ten thousand saints… are ready to witness that their most manifest and rapid spiritual growth is traceable to their periods of trial.-Anon.

The darker the night, the brighter the stars; the hotter the fire, the purer the gold.-Anon.

The gem cannot be polished without friction, nor man perfected without trials.-Anon.

The hammer shatters glass, but forges steel.-Anon.

The more a tree of righteousness is shaken by the wind, the more it is rooted in Christ.-Anon.

The water that dashes against the wheel keeps the mill going; so trial keeps grace in use and motion.-Anon.

Trial is the school of trust.-Anon.

Where there are no trials in life, there are no triumphs.-Anon.

The purpose of the tests of life are to make, not break us.-Maltbie Babcock

Prosperity is the blessing of the Old Testament; adversity is the blessing of the new.-Francis Bacon

Night brings out stars as sorrow shows us truths.-Gamaliel Bailey

Suffering so unbolts the door of the heart that the Word hath easier entrance.-Richard Baxter

Weakness and pain helped me to study how to die; that set me on studying how to live.-Richard Baxter

The brook would lose its song if you removed the rocks.-Fred Beck

Troubles are often the tools by which God fashions us for better things.-Henry Ward Beecher

For the Christian, trials and temptations are not only means for proving his faith but for improving his life.-John Blanchard

I have learned more from life's trials than from its triumphs.-John Blanchard

The Christian's midnight is brighter than the sinner's noon.-John Blanchard

The trials of life are meant to make us better, not bitter.-John Blanchard

Affliction is the shaking of the torch that it may blaze the brighter.-Horatius Bonar

We have got more from Paul's prison-house than from his visit to the third heavens.-Andrew Bonar

It is the usual way of providence with me that blessings come through several iron gates.-Thomas Boston

Afflictions are blessings.-Thomas Brooks

Afflictions are but as a dark entry into our Father's house.-Thomas Brooks

Afflictions are the mother of virtue.-Thomas Brooks

Affliction is an excellent comment upon the Scriptures.

-Thomas Brooks

Afflictions ripen the saint's graces.-Thomas Brooks

Afflictions, they are but our Father's goldsmiths who are working to add pearls to our crowns.-Thomas Brooks

God's house of correction is his school of instruction.-Thomas Brooks

Stars shine brightest in the darkest night. Torches are the better for beating. Grapes come not to the proof till they come to the press. Spices smell sweetest when pounded. Young trees root the faster for shaking. Vines are the better for bleeding. Gold looks the brighter for scouring; and juniper smells sweeter in the fire.-Thomas Brooks

The grand design of God in all the afflictions that befall his people is to bring them nearer and closer to himself.-Thomas Brooks

The vinegar of adversity quickens our graces.-Thomas Brooks

As threshing separates the wheat from the chaff, so does affliction purify virtue.-Richard E. Burton

The Lord uses his flail of tribulation to separate the chaff from the wheat.-John Bunyan

Thou art beaten that thou mayest be better.-John Bunyan

Afflictions ought ever to be estimated by their end.John Calvin

In the darkness of our miseries the grace of God shines more brightly.-John Calvin

Our afflictions prepare us for receiving the grace of God.-John Calvin

Our faith is really and truly tested only when we are brought into very severe conflicts, and when even hell itself seems opened to swallow us up.-John Calvin

The more we are afflicted by adversities, the more surely our fellowship with Christ is confirmed!-John Calvin

Whatever poison Satan produces, God turns it into medicine for his elect.-John Calvin

The staying power of our faith is neither demonstrated nor developed until it is tested by suffering.-D. A. Carson

There is a certain kind of maturity that can be attained only through the discipline of suffering.-D. A. Carson

The saint knows not why he suffers as he does, yet he comprehends with a knowledge that passes knowledge that all is well.-Oswald Chambers

The brightest crowns that are worn in heaven have been tried, and smelted, and polished, and glorified through the furnace of tribulation.-E. H. Chapin

We often learn more under the rod that strikes us, than under the staff that comforts us.-Stephen Charnock

Affliction makes saints eminent.-Chrysostom

In prosperity, our friends know us; in adversity we know our friends.-Churton Collins

It is not until we have passed through the furnace that we are made to know how much dross there is in our composition.-C. C. Colton

Calamity is the perfect glass wherein we truly see and know ourselves.-William Davenant

There is no education like adversity.-Benjamin Disraeli

Fiery trials make golden Christians.-William Dyer

Eminent virtue always shows brightest in the fire. Pure gold shows its purity chiefly in the furnace.-Jonathan Edwards

Great men are made greater by their misfortunes.-Minucius Felix

Afflictions… are as necessary for our waftage to heaven as water is to carry the ship to her port.-William Gurnall

God's wounds cure; sin's kisses kill.-William Gurnall

God sometimes snuffs out our brightest candle that we may look up to his eternal stars.-Vance Havner

It takes the grindstone to sharpen the axe.-Vance Havner

It is better to drink of deep griefs than to taste shallow pleasures.-William Hazlitt

The Lord doesn't take us into deep water to drown us but to develop us.-Iry Hedstrom

Afflictions are continued no longer than till they have done their work.-Matthew Henry

Afflictions are sent for this end, to bring us to the throne of grace, to teach us to pray and to make the word of God's grace precious to us.-Matthew Henry

Extraordinary afflictions are not always the punishment of extraordinary sins, but sometimes the trial of extraordinary graces.-Matthew Henry

If we cry to God for the removal of the oppression and affliction we are under, and it is not removed, the reason is not because the Lord's hand is shortened or his ear heavy, but because the affliction has not done its work.-Matthew Henry

It has been the advantage of God's people to be afflicted.-Matthew Henry

Many are taught with the briars and thorns of affliction that would not learn otherwise.-Matthew Henry

Of the many that are afflicted and oppressed, few get the good they might get by their affliction. It should drive them to God, but how seldom is this the case!-Matthew Henry

Outward losses drive good people to their prayers, but bad people to their curses.-Matthew Henry

Sanctified afflictions are spiritual promotions.-Matthew Henry

Sometimes God teaches us effectually to know the worth of mercies by the want of them and whets our appetite for the means of grace by cutting us short in those means.-Matthew Henry

The injuries men do us should drive us to God, for to him we may commit our cause.-Matthew Henry

Let prosperity be as oil to the wheels of obedience and affliction as wind to the sails of prayer.-Philip Henry

Affliction is the medicine of the mind.-John P. K. Henshaw

The great blows of God are designed to make a man stand up.-John Hercus

Afflictions are the cause of eternal glory. Not the meritorious cause, but still the procuring cause.-Charles Hodge

Afflictions are unavoidable; they occupy a large proportion of life, and of godliness.-William Jay

The Christian is more formed from his trials than from his enjoyments.-William Jay

As the wicked are hurt by the best things, so the godly are bettered by the worst.-William Jenkyn

Trouble is only opportunity in work clothes.-Henry J. Kaiser

Only in the hot furnace of affliction do we as Christians let go of the dross to which, in our foolishness, we ardently cling.-David Kingdon

This school of trial best discloses the hidden vileness of the heart and the vast riches of a Saviour's grace.-Henry Law

Christian people are generally at their best when they are in the furnace of affliction and being persecuted and tried.-D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Trials and tribulations are very good for us in that they help us to know ourselves better than we knew ourselves before.-D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Affliction is the Christian's theologian.-Martin Luther

I never knew the meaning of God's Word until I came into affliction.-Martin Luther

No man, without trials and temptations, can attain a true understanding of the Holy Scriptures.-Martin Luther

We should never see the stars if God did not sometimes take away the day.-Kenneth Macrae

God's children never gain so much honour as in their troubles.-Thomas Manton

Trial is not only to approve, but to improve.-Thomas Manton

Affliction is the whetstone of prayer and obedience.-Edward Marbury

Trouble is the structural steel that goes into character-building.-Douglas Meador

A dark hour makes Jesus bright.-Robert Murray M'Cheyne

Affliction is the school in which great virtues are acquired, in which great characters are formed.-Hannah More

No pain, no palm; no thorns, no throne; no gall, no glory; no cross, no crown.-William Penn

One breath of paradise will extinguish all the adverse winds of earth.-A. W. Pink

Afflictions often possess remarkable power to remind us of our sins.-William S. Plumer

It is a blessed thing when our trials cure our earnest love for things that perish.-William S. Plumer

By afflictions God is spoiling us of what otherwise might have spoiled us—when he makes the world too hot for us to hold, we let it go.-John Powell

The hiding places of men are discovered by affliction.-S. I. Prime

I have never met with a single instance of adversity which I have not in the end seen was for my good—I have never heard of a Christian on his deathbed complaining of his affliction.-Alexander M. Proudfit

Afflictions clarify the soul.-Francis Quarles

Afflictions are a fan in God's hand to separate between good and evil men.-Maurice Roberts

No enemy of Christ's cause… has it in his competence to inflict so much as one naked blow on the Christian or on the church. Every blow is parried for our good. Every curse aimed at us is sweetened into a blessing. Every poisonous dart is deflected. Every wound is healed. Every accusation is silenced.-Maurice Roberts

Grace grows best in the winter.-Samuel Rutherford

Affliction is a searching wind which strips the leaves off the trees and brings to light the bird's nests.-J. C. Ryle

In the resurrection morning… we shall thank God for every storm.-J. C. Ryle

Let us settle it firmly in our minds that there is a meaning, a needs-be and a message from God in every sorrow that falls upon us.-J. C. Ryle

Prosperity is a great mercy, but adversity is a greater one, if it brings us to Christ.-J. C. Ryle

There are no lessons so useful as those learned in the school of affliction.-J. C. Ryle

The tools that the great Architect intends to use much are often kept long in the fire, to temper them and fit them for work.-J. C. Ryle

Trials are intended to make us think, to wean us from the world, to send us to the Bible, to drive us to our knees.-J. C. Ryle

Trials are the resistances God gives us to strengthen our spiritual muscles.-George Seevers

Misfortune is an occasion to demonstrate character.-Seneca

No one appears to me more pitiable than the man who has never known misfortune.-Seneca

We become wiser by adversity.-Seneca

Afflictions should be the spiritual wings of the soul.-Richard Sibbes

After conversion we need bruising, to see that we live by mercy.-Richard Sibbes

Poverty and affliction take away the fuel that feeds pride.-Richard Sibbes

When the afflictions of Christians are doubled, then they are commonly most humbled.-Richard Sibbes

As Jacob was blessed and halted both at one time, so a man may be blessed and afflicted both together.-Henry Smith

A true Christian's losses are gains in another shape.-C. H. Spurgeon

I am afraid that all the grace that I have got out of my comfortable and easy times and happy hours might almost lie on a penny. But the good that I have received from my sorrows, and pains, and griefs, is altogether incalculable. What do I not owe to the crucible and the furnace, the bellows that have blown up the coals, and the hand which has thrust me into the heat?-C. H. Spurgeon

I am sure I have derived more real benefit and permanent strength and growth in grace, and every precious thing, from the furnace of affliction, than I have ever derived from prosperity.-C. H. Spurgeon

I bear my witness that the worst days I have ever had have turned out to be my best days.-C. H. Spurgeon

I can bear my personal testimony that the best piece of furniture that I ever had in the house was a cross. I do not mean a material cross; I mean the cross of affliction and trouble.-C. H. Spurgeon

I owe more than I can tell to the graver's tool, and I feel the lines of its cutting even now.-C. H. Spurgeon

In shunning a trial we are seeking to avoid a blessing.-C. H. Spurgeon

None of us can come to the highest maturity without enduring the summer heat of trials.-C. H. Spurgeon

On some few occasions I have had troubles which I could not tell to any but my God, and I thank God I have, for I learned more of my Lord then that at any other time.-C. H. Spurgeon

Our troubles have always brought us blessings, and they always will. They are the dark chariots of bright grace.-C. H. Spurgeon

Stars may be seen from the bottom of a deep well, when they cannot be discerned from the top of a mountain. So are many things learned in adversity which the prosperous man dreams not of.-C. H. Spurgeon

The anvil, the fire and the hammer are the making of us.-C. H. Spurgeon

The Christian gains by his losses. He acquires health by his sickness. He wins friends through his bereavements, and he becomes a conqueror through his defeats.-C. H. Spurgeon

The tears of affliction are often needed to keep the eye of faith bright.-C. H. Spurgeon

There are some of your graces which would never be discovered if it were not for your trials.-C. H. Spurgeon

There is nothing that makes a man have a big heart like a great trial.-C. H. Spurgeon

We find no sword-blades so true in metal as those which have been forged in the furnace of soul-trouble.-C. H. Spurgeon

Jesus was transfigured on the hilltop, but he transforms us in the valley.-J. Charles Stern

It takes a world with trouble in it to train men for their high calling as sons of God and to carve upon the soul the lineaments of the face of Christ.

-J. S. Steward

A sanctified person, like a silver bell, the harder he is smitten, the better he sounds.-George Swinnock

Cold blasts make afire to flame the higher and burn the better.-George Swinnock

God's rod, like Jonathan's, is dipped in honey.-George Swinnock

We are safer in the storm God sends us than in a calm when we are befriended by the world.-Jeremy Taylor

For a Christian, even the valleys are on higher ground.-D. Reginald Thomas

Despise not the desert. There is where God polishes his brightest gems.-R. A. Torrey

As the hotter the day the greater the dew at night; so the hotter the time of trouble the greater the dews of refreshing from God.-John Trapp

Better be preserved in brine than rot in honey.-John Trapp

Better be pruned to grow than cut up to burn.-John Trapp

Troubles are free schoolmasters.-John Trapp

Affliction is God's flail to thresh off our husks.-Thomas Watson

Christians are commonly best in affliction.-Thomas Watson

Is it any injustice in God to put his gold into the furnace to purify it?-Thomas Watson

Jonah was sent into the whale's belly to make his sermon for Nineveh.-Thomas Watson

The eyes that sin shuts affliction opens.-Thomas Watson

The whale that swallowed Jonah was the means of bringing him safe to land.-Thomas Watson

There is more evil in a drop of sin than in a sea of affliction.-Thomas Watson

When God lays men on their backs, then they look up to heaven.-Thomas Watson

Whilst I continue on this side of eternity, I never expect to be free from trials, only to change them. For it is necessary to heal the pride of my heart that such should come.-George Whitefield.

We know not what we lose when we pray to be delivered out of afflictions, because God always increases his consolation and grace as afflictions abound.-Thomas Wilson

I am mended by my sickness, enriched by my poverty, and strengthened by my weakness.-Abraham Wright

What fools we are, then, to frown upon our afflictions! These, how crabbed so ever, are our best friends. They are not intended for our pleasure, they are for our profit.-Abraham Wright

Among my list of blessings infinite stands this the foremost that my heart has bled.-Edward Young

From the Highly recommended resource - The Complete Gathered Gold-John Blanchard (Digital version)

Spurgeon comments on testing of our faith:

Faith untried may be true faith, but it is sure to be little faith, and it is likely to remain dwarfish so long as it is without trials. Faith never prospers so well as when all things are against her: tempests are her trainers, and lightnings are her illuminators. When a calm reigns on the sea, spread the sails as you will, the ship moves not to its harbor; for on a slumbering ocean the keel sleeps too. Let the winds rush howling forth, and let the waters lift up themselves, then, though the vessel may rock, and her deck may be washed with waves, and her mast may creak under the pressure of the full and swelling sail, it is then that she makes headway towards her desired haven. No flowers were so lovely a blue as those which grow at the foot of the frozen glacier; no stars gleam so brightly as those which glisten in the polar sky; no water tastes so sweet as that which springs amid the desert sand; and no faith is so precious as that which lives and triumphs in adversity. Tried faith brings experience. You could not have believed your own weakness had you not been compelled to pass through the rivers; and you would never have known God's strength had you not been supported amid the water-floods. Faith increases in solidity, assurance, and intensity, the more it is exercised with tribulation. Faith is precious, and its trial is precious too. Let not this, however, discourage those who are young in faith. You will have trials enough without seeking them: the full portion will be measured out to you in due season. Meanwhile, if you cannot yet claim the result of long experience, thank God for what grace you have; praise Him for that degree of holy confidence whereunto you have attained: walk according to that rule, and you shall yet have more and more of the blessing of God, till your faith shall remove mountains and conquer impossibilities.

In the ancient times, a box (blow) on the ear given by a master to a slave meant liberty, little would the freedman care how hard was the blow. By a stroke from the sword the warrior was knighted by his monarch, small matter was it to the new-made knight if the royal hand was heavy. 'When the Lord intends to lift his servants into a higher stage of spiritual life, He frequently sends them a severe trial; He makes His Jacobs to be prevailing princes, but He confers the honour after a night of wrestling, and accompanies it with a shrunken sinew. Be it so, who among us would wish to be deprived of the trials if they are the necessary attendants of spiritual advancement?

Afflictions when sanctified make us grateful for mercies which aforetime we treated with indifference. We sat for half-an-hour in a calf's shed the other day, quite grateful for the shelter from the driving rain, yet at no other time would we have entered such a hovel. Discontented persons need a course of the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, to cure them of the wretched habit of murmuring. Even things which we loathed before, we shall learn to prize when in troublous circumstances. We are no lovers of lizards, and yet at Pont St. Martin, in the Val D'Aosta, where the mosquitoes, flies, and insects of all sorts drove us nearly to distraction, we prized the little green fellows, and felt quite an attachment to them as they darted out their tongues and devoured our worrying enemies. Sweet are the uses of adversity, and this among them—that it brings into proper estimation mercies aforetime lightly esteemed.

We never prize the precious words of promise till we are placed in conditions in which their suitability and sweetness are manifested. We all of us value those golden words, "When thou walkest through the fire thou shalt not be burned, neither shall the flame kindle upon thee" but few if any of us have read them with the delight of the martyr Bilney, to whom this passage was a stay, while he was in prison awaiting his execution at the stake. His Bible, still preserved in the library of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, has the passage marked with a pen in the margin. Perhaps, if all were known, every promise in the Bible has borne a special message to some one saint, and so the whole volume might be scored in the margin with mementoes of Christian experience, every one appropriate to the very letter.

How different are summer storms from winter ones! In winter they rush over the earth with their violence; and if any poor remnants of foliage or flowers have lingered behind, these are swept along at one gust. Nothing is left but desolation; and long after the rain has ceased, pools of water and mud bear tokens of what has been. But when the clouds have poured out their torrents in summer, when the winds have spent their fury, and the sun breaks forth again in glory, all things seem to rise with renewed loveliness from their refreshing bath. The flowers, glistening with rainbows, smell sweeter than before; the grass seems to have gained another brighter shade of green; and the young plants which had hardly come into sight, have taken, their place among their fellows in the borders, so quickly have they sprung among the showers. The air, too, which may previously have been oppressive, is become clear, and soft, and fresh. Such, too, is the difference when the storms of affliction fall on hearts unrenewed by Christian faith, and on those who abide in Christ. In the former they bring out the dreariness and desolation which may before have been unapparent. The gloom is not relieved by the prospect of any cheering ray to follow it; of any flowers or fruits to show its beneficence. But in the true Christian soul, 'though weeping may endure for a night, joy cometh in the morning.' A sweet smile of hope and love follows every tear; and tribulation itself is turned into the chief of blessings.

There is an old story in the Greek annals of a soldier under Antigonus who had a disease about him, an extremely painful one, likely to bring him soon to the grave. Always first in the charge was this soldier, rushing into the hottest part of the fray, as the bravest of the brave. His pain prompted him to fight, that he might forget it; and he feared not death, because he knew that in any case he had not long to live. Antigonus, who greatly admired the valour of his soldier, discovering his malady, had him cured by one of the most eminent physicians of the day; but, alas! from that moment the warrior was absent from the front of the battle. He now sought his ease; for, as he remarked to his companions, he had something worth living for—health, home, family, and other comforts, and he would not risk his life now as aforetime. So, when our troubles are many we are often by grace made courageous in serving our God; we feel that we have nothing to live for in this world, and we are driven, by hope of the world to come, to exhibit zeal, self-denial, and industry. But how often is it otherwise in better times! for then the joys and pleasures of this world make it hard for us to remember the world to come, and we sink into inglorious ease.

"I had," said Latimer, describing the way in which his father trained him as a yeoman's son, "my bows bought me according to my age and strength; as I increased in them so my bows were made bigger and bigger." Thus boys grew into crossbowmen, and by a similar increase in the force of their trials, Christians become veterans in the Lord's host. The affliction which is suitable for a babe in grace would little serve the young man, and even the well-developed man needs severer trials as his strength increases. God, like a wise father, trains us wisely, and as we are able to bear it he makes our service and our suffering more arduous. As boys rejoice to be treated like men, so will we rejoice in our greater tribulations, for here is man's work for us, and by God's help we will not flinch from doing it.

We had traversed the Great Aletsch Glacier, and were very hungry when we reached the mountain turn half-way between the Bel Alp and the hotel at the foot of the Ægischorn; there a peasant undertook to descend the mountain, and bring us bread and milk. It was a very Marah to us when he brought us back milk too sour for us to drink, and bread black as a coal, too hard to bite, and sour as the curds. What then? Why, we longed the more eagerly to reach the hotel towards which we were travelling. We mounted our horses, and made no more halts till we reached the hospitable table where our hunger was abundantly satisfied. Thus our disappointments on the road to heaven whet our appetites for the better country, and quicken the pace of our pilgrimage to the celestial city.

"The pine, placed nearly always among scenes disordered and desolate, brings into them, all possible elements of order and precision. Lowland trees may lean to this side and that, though it is but a meadow breeze that bends them, or a bank of cowslips from which their trunks lean aslope. But let storm and avalanche do their worst, and let the pine find only a ledge of vertical precipice to cling to, it will nevertheless grow straight. Thrust a rod from its last shoot down the stem, it shall point to the centre of the earth as long as the tree lives."

Amid the sternest trials the most upright Christians are usually reared. The divine life within them so triumphs over every difficulty as to render the men, above all others, true and exact. What a noble spectacle is a man whom nothing can warp, a firm, decided servant of God, defying hurricanes of temptation!

Our afflictions are like weights, and have a tendency to bow us to the dust, but there is a way of arranging weights by means of wheels and pulleys, so that they will even lift us up. Grace, by its matchless art, has often turned the heaviest of our trials into occasions for heavenly joy. "We glory in tribulations also." We gather honey out of the rock, and oil out of the flinty rock.

When the green leaves bedeck the trees and all is fair, one cannot readily find the birds' nests, but when the winter lays bare the trees, anyone, with half-an-eye, may see them. Thus amid the press of business and prosperity the Christian may scarcely be discerned, his hidden life is concealed amid the thick and throng of the things of earth; but let affliction come, a general sickness, or severe losses in the family, and you shall see the Christian man plainly enough in the gracious patience by which he rises superior to trial. The sick bed reveals the man; the burning house, the sinking ship, the panic on the exchange, all these make manifest the hidden ones. In many a true believer, true piety is like a drum which nobody hears of unless it be beaten.

Our crosses are not made of iron, though painted sometimes with iron colours; they are formed of nothing heavier than wood. Yet they are not made of pasteboard, and will never be light in themselves, though our Lord can lighten them by his presence. The Papists foolishly worship pieces of wood supposed to be parts of the true cross; but he who has borne the really true cross, and known its sanctifying power, will value every sliver of it, counting his trials to be his treasures, his afflictions argosies of wealth, and his losses his best gains.

Lawns which we would keep in the best condition are very frequently mown; the grass has scarcely any respite from the scythe. Out in the meadows there is no such repeated cutting, they are mown but once or twice in the year. Even thus the nearer we are to God, and the more regard he has for us, the more frequent will be our adversities. To be very dear to God, involves no small degree of chastisement.

Payson thus beautifully writes: —

"I have been all my life like a child whose father wishes to fix his undivided attention. At first the child runs about the room, but his father ties up his feet; he then plays with his hands until they likewise are tied. Thus he continues to do, till he is completely tied up. Then, when he can do nothing else, he will attend to his father. Just so has God been dealing with me, to induce me to place my happiness in him alone. But I blindly continued to look for it here, and God has kept cutting off one source of enjoyment after another, till I find that I can do without them all, and yet enjoy more happiness than ever in my life before." (All the above from Spurgeon Feathers for Arrows)

Your affliction quickened your prayers. There is a man trying to write with a quill pen; it will not make anything but a thick stroke; but he takes a knife and cuts fiercely at the quill till it marks admirably. So we have to be cut with the sharp knife of affliction, for only then can the Lord make use of us. See how sharply gardeners trim their vines, they take off every shoot, till the vine looks like a dry stick. There will be no grapes in the spring, if there is not this cutting away in the autumn and winter. God quickens us in our afflictions through His Word. (Barbed Arrows from the Quiver of C. H. Spurgeon)

Greg Laurie - NOT IF, BUT WHEN

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. (James 1:2–4)

It would be nice if we could see the trials in our lives as options, as electives. It would be nice if we could say, “I’m going to skip the trials course.” But trials are going to happen in the life of every believer. Notice that James says, “Count it all joy when you fall into various trials …” ( James 1:2, emphasis mine). The phrase “various trials” could also be translated, “many-colored trials.” So no two trials or experiences are necessarily alike. You will be tested. The question is will you pass or fail? We must remember that God never tests us without a reason.

God’s ultimate purpose is to conform us into the image of Jesus Christ. God wants to produce a family likeness in us. This means that some trials and testings will show us immediate results, while others will produce long term ones. In other words, there are times when I can come through a trial, look back, and say, “I learned this when I went through that experience.” But then there are times when I come through a difficulty, and I can’t tell you what I have learned.

But what has happened, maybe unnoticed by me, is that I have become a little bit more like Jesus. He has worked in my life to mold me and shape me into His own image. It’s hard to say what has resulted sometimes. But we can know that God is in control. And His ultimate purpose is to conform us into the image of His own dear Son.

Celebrate bankruptcy? How foolish that seems to us! Yet author Leo Buscaglia's mother did just that. Her husband came home one evening and sadly told the family that his business partner had stolen the assets of the firm. Bankruptcy was unavoidable.

Instead of despairing, Leo's mother went out, pawned some jewelry, and prepared a delectable dinner. When family members protested, she replied, "The time for joy is now when we need it most, not next week."

Mrs. Buscaglia's response to her family's financial crisis reminds me of a New Testament directive: "Count it all joy when you fall into various trials" (James 1:2).

Have you run into difficult circumstances recently? Has some calamity gripped your heart with fear and sorrow? God doesn't want you to wear a hypocritical, smiling face. But He does want you to trust Him through all your circumstances -- including calamities! He wants you to accept failure, sickness, and loss as opportunities for growth in faith and obedience.

Our wise and loving heavenly Father longs for us to submit to His sovereign control. Only as we do that can we agree with James and rejoice even in calamity.-- V C Grounds (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)

Though times be dark, the struggles grim,
And cares rise like a flood,
This sweet assurance holds to Him:
My God is near and good.-- Hager

Life's trials should make us better - not bitter.

Faith Tested - Alexander Maclaren, in a sermon entitled Faith Tested and Crowned, (Ge 22:1) distinguished between being tempted and being tested or tried. He said that “the former word conveys the idea of appealing to the worst part of man, with the wish that he may yield and do the wrong. The latter means an appeal to the better part of man, with the desire that he should stand. Temptation says, ‘Do this pleasant thing; do not be hindered by the fact that it is wrong.’ Trial or proving says, ‘Do this right and noble thing; do not be hindered by the fact that it is painful.’ The one is a sweet, beguiling melody, breathing soft indulgence and relaxation over the soul; the other is a pealing trumpet-call to high achievements.”

Every hardship of life holds the possibility of being a temptation and a trial. By resisting all suggestions we know are wrong and accepting all circumstances as opportunities for growth, we cooperate with the Holy Spirit in His sanctifying work in us. We move toward that desired goal of being “perfect and entire, lacking nothing” (James 1:4). - D. J. De Haan

Raku - Some friends gave us a piece of Raku pottery. "Each pot is hand-formed," the tag explained, "a process that allows the spirit of the artist to speak through the finished work with particular directness and intimacy." Once the clay has been shaped by the potter it is fired in a kiln. Then, glowing red hot, it is thrust into a smoldering sawdust pile where it remains until finished. The result is a unique product—"one of a kind," the tag on our piece insists.

So it is with us. We bear the imprint of the Potter's hand. He too has spoken through His work "with particular directness and intimacy." Each of us is formed in a unique way for a unique work: "We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them" (Ephesians 2:10-note). But though we are created for good works, we're not yet finished. We must experience the kiln of affliction. Aching hearts, weary spirits, aging bodies are the processes God uses to finish the work He has begun.

Don't fear the furnace that surrounds you. Be "patient in tribulation" and await the finished product. "Let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing" (Jas 1:4-note).— David H. Roper Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)

We are here to be perfected,
Only God our needs can see;
Rarest gems bear hardest grinding,
God's own workmanship are we. —Anon.

He who has begun a good work in you
will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ. —Php 1:6 (note)

Happy Adversity? - On the back of a wedding anniversary card were some wiggly lines drawn by our 3-year-old grandson. Alongside was a note from our daughter explaining that Trevor told her what he had written: "I'm writing a letter for your love and happy adversity."

Trevor's "mistake" has become our watchword, because "happy adversity" embodies the biblical principle of facing difficulties with joy: "Count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience" (James 1:2, 3).

From our perspective, adversity is anything but happy. We have the idea that the Christian life is supposed to be trouble-free, and we see little value in hardship. But God sees it differently.

J. B. Phillips' translation of James 1:2, 3 reads:

When all kinds of trials and temptations crowd into your lives, my brothers, don't resent them as intruders, but welcome them as friends! Realize that they come to test your faith and to produce in you the quality of endurance.

Affliction does not come as a thief to steal our happiness, but as a friend bringing the gift of staying power. Through it all, God promises us His wisdom and strength.

So don't be offended if I wish you "Happy Adversity" today.— David C. McCasland Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)

Be assured beyond all doubting,
In the trial you're passing through,
That the Lord's great love and mercy
Is at work for good in you. —Anon.

Life's burdens are designed
not to break us but to bend us toward God.

Higher Math - Mathematical formulas work well with numbers, but not with people. That's why this equation in James 1 sounds unworkable:

Faith + Trials = Patience

One might better try to mix oil and water. But what makes this formula work is confidence in God's unfailing love, which allows for all the human emotions that come with life's trials.

Shirley and her husband Roy proved that this equation is still up-to-date. Here's their story: Roy was told that in 6 months the plant where he worked would close but he would receive severance pay.

Shirley wrote, "Praise the Lord for that--but also praise the Lord that He loves us so much He's given us yet another trial in our lives. (This will be the fourth time we're starting over in the 13 years we've been married.) At first I panicked and questioned God's love. But I kept reading my Bible, stopped feeling sorry for myself, and started to pray for others. As long as God gives us this roof over our heads (and even if we lose it), I'll thank Him."

So when you face trials, you can "count it all joy" if you add faith, knowing that God's love will never fail. As you do, you will develop an attitude of patient expectation, confident that God will do what is best. — Dennis J. De Haan Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)

Afflictions may test me,
They cannot destroy;
One glimpse of Thy love
Turns them all into joy. --Willett

The first lesson in patience is learning to count our trials as joy.

F B Meyer. Our Daily Walk - JOY IN THE HOUR OF TRIAL - "Count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations. Knowing that the trying of your faith worketh patience."--James 1:2-3.

WE ARE bidden to count our trials as pure Joy, since our patient endurance leads ultimately to the finished product of a holy character. All the trials and afflictions that beset us are seen and shared by our Heavenly Father. God did not save Israel from the ordeal of affliction, but passed through it with them (Exod. 3:7-9; Isa. 63:9). Evidently there was a wise purpose to be served by those bitter Egyptian experiences. So with ourselves. There is a reason for our trials which we do not understand now, but we shall do some day, when we stand in the light with God. Afflictions are not always chastisement, though in some cases that may be so; but more often we are in grief through manifold trials, that the proof of our faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, may be found unto praise and honour and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Let us therefore rejoice, and magnify His lovingkindness. What a theme is here for praise! Sweet psalms and hymns have floated down the ages, bearing comfort for myriads, because those who wrote them passed through searching discipline. And it may be that we who have passed through great tribulation will be able to contribute notes in the Heavenly music that the unfallen sons of light could never sing. The Psalter of Eternity could not be complete without the reminiscences, set to music, of the grace that ministered to us in our earthly trials, and brought us up out of the furnace of pain.

Then we shall tell how God's glorious arm went also at our right hand, as at the right hand of Moses; of how the stony paths became soft as mossy grass; of how He led us out of the scorching heat into green pastures and waters of rest; and how He provided for us to make for Himself a glorious Name. Yes, we will make mention of the Lord, according to all that He shall have bestowed upon us, according to His mercies, and according to the multitude of His lovingkindness. We will tell the story of how the Angel of His Presence saved us; how, in His love and pity, He redeemed us; and how He bare and carried us all the days of old. We shall have a great story to tell! "My heart and my flesh fail, but Thou art the strength of my heart and my portion for ever! None of them that trust in Him shall be desolate.'"

PRAYER - Give me, O Lord, a steadfast heart, which no unworthy affection may drag downwards; give me an unconquered heart, which no tribulation can wear out; give me an upright heart, which no unworthy purpose may tempt aside. AMEN. (F B Meyer. Our Daily Walk)

Turning Trials Into Triumphs - James' words "Count it all joy when you fall into various trials" (1:2) offer a vital key for turning trials into triumphs. Although we don't choose to have trials, we can choose how we respond. J. B. Phillips paraphrased it like this: "Don't resent them as intruders, but welcome them as friends!"

British counselor Selwyn Hughes reminds people that trials are our friends only if our goal is to become more like Jesus. If our goal is to avoid difficulties or mishaps, our trials will seem more like intruders.

Hughes admits that he often needs to take his own advice. He recalls a time when he and his wife had pulled off to the side of the road to look at a map. Then a truck swerved and slammed into their car. They escaped injury, but their car was totaled. Then it started to rain! Hughes immediately battled with frustration, apprehension, and anger toward the other driver, and found it extremely difficult to "count it all joy." But as they waited for the police, he began to focus on how God could use the trial to make him more like Jesus. Gradually, the crisis became his friend.

The next time you face a trial of some kind, make friends with it and allow God to use the situation to make you more like Jesus. — Joanie Yoder Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)

Our loving God transforms us
And makes us like His Son
By using trials and testings
Until His work is done. —Sper

God chooses what we go through; we choose how we go through it.

See the transmuting effect of grace enabling the tried and tempted family of God to count it pure joy, whenever they face trials of many kinds. We have here a problem in arithmetic. Take all your trials and mark them down. Now add them up, and what is the sum total? "Joy!" What mysterious arithmetic! How unlike the addition taught in schools! How different from the sums and problems in the lesson books! How different, also, a result does the Lord bring out from your own calculations when you looked at them one by one, without adding up the whole sum! Then "count it pure joy" whenever you face trials of many kinds, knowing that their effect is—to wean you from the world—to endear Christ—to render His truth precious—and to make you fit for your eternal inheritance. Are you satisfied with the solution of the problem? Can you write down your own name at the bottom of the sum and say, "It is proved—I carry the proof in my own bosom?" (J. C. Philpot. Riches)

Wall-Bangers Anonymous - I’ll never forget the time during college when, after I had finished writing a big paper that was due the next day, I heard a loud commotion in the room across the hall. My neighbor was in a state of panic, throwing stuff around his room looking for his paper. Frustrated, he banged his fist against the closet and shouted, “Thanks a lot, God. You make life one big laugh!”

I might have given him an A+ for theology—at least he knew that God was ultimately in charge—but an F for his response to the problem.

For those of us who get mad at God when life takes a wrong turn, we need a good dose of biblical therapy. So, welcome to “Wall-Bangers Anonymous”—a two-step program toward a positive, God-honoring response to pain.

Step One: Think straight about trouble.

It’s not only inevitable, it’s indiscriminate. Trouble comes in all shapes and sizes. “Various trials” (James 1:2) affect our health, our careers, our relationships. Once we understand the facts, we can begin appreciating their significant value in our lives.

Step Two: Trade resistance and resentment for receptivity and rejoicing.

“Count it all joy” The joy is not in the presence of pain but in the knowledge that God is using our pain to refine us and make us better, not bitter. — Joe Stowell Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)

If we embrace adversity,
Accepting every pain,
Then we will learn what we should know;
Our grief will turn to gain. —Sper

God chooses what we go through; we choose how we go through it.

Growing Pains - When suffering invades our lives, we often wonder what we've done to deserve it. Yet even Jesus, our perfect Savior, suffered during His earthly life. Hebrews 5:8 says that "He learned obedience by the things which He suffered."

Author James Stalker writes: "Suffering does not always sanctify. It sours some tempers and makes them selfish. But many triumph nobly over their temptation. There are sick-rooms [where] it is a privilege to visit."

J. Oswald Sanders told about visiting such a place in Australia, where Miss Higgens lived. Constantly in pain, she hadn't left her room for more than 40 years. Her arms and legs had been amputated to arrest a progressive disease. Determined to live creatively, she named her cottage "Gladwish," where she gave herself to prayer and spiritual ministry. Using a pen attached to the stump of her arm, she maintained a worldwide correspondence for years and led hundreds to Christ. Her suffering stimulated creativity in her life and service.

If you're longing to live more creatively, "Count it all joy when you fall into various trials" (James 1:2). Dare to give your hassles and heartaches a more challenging name, such as "growing pains," with the emphasis on growing! — Joanie Yoder

Those whom God has called to suffer
Know the agony of pain,
Yet when they yield it all to Him,
They find in it great gain. —Hess

If you praise God in your trials, your burdens will turn into blessings.

Octavius Winslow - "It is good for me that I have been afflicted," has been the exclamation and the testimony of many of the Lord's covenant and tried people. It is often difficult at the moment to justify the wisdom and the goodness of God in His dealings with His saints. David found it so, when he saw with envy the prosperity of the wicked. Job found it so, when, in the hour and depth of his afflictions, he exclaimed, "You are become cruel to me: with Your strong hand You oppose Thyself against me." Jeremiah found it so, when in his affliction he said, "He has hedged me about, that I cannot get out: He has made my chain heavy." And yet, where is the furnace-tried, tempest-tossed believer, that has not had to say, "In very faithfulness has He afflicted me"? During the pressure of the trial, at the moment when the storm was the heaviest, he may have thought, "All these things are against me;" but soon he has been led to justify the wisdom and the love, the faithfulness and the tenderness, of His covenant God and Father in His dealings.

The furnace is a needed process of sanctification. If not, why has God so ordered it? If not, why is it that all His people are "chosen in the furnace of affliction"? Why do all, more or less, pass through it? The furnace is needed-it is needed to "purify the sons of Levi, and purify them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness;"-it is needed to consume the dross and the tin which adhere so closely to the precious ore, to burn up the chaff that mingles with the precious grain, to purify the heart, to refine the affections, to chasten the soul, to wean it from a poor empty world, to draw it from the creature, and to center it in God. Oh the blessed effects of this sanctified process! Who can fully unfold them? That must be blessed indeed, which makes sin more exceedingly sinful-which weans and draws away from earth-which endears Jesus, His precious blood and righteousness-and which makes the soul a "partaker of His holiness." This is the blessed tendency of the sanctified discipline of the covenant, and in this way does the Holy Spirit often sanctify the child of God.

A B Simpson (from Christ in the Bible) has this message on James 1:2, 12


My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into diverse temptations." "Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love Him (James 1:2, 12).

Rotherham slightly changes the translation of these verses, as does also the Revised Version.

My brethren, count it all joy when we fall in with diverse temptations." "Blessed is the man that endureth temptation (or testings), for when he is approved, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love Him.

The epistles of Paul and John represent the interior, the experimental, and spiritual side of Christian life, while that of James represents the practical. God makes His mosaics of many different pieces and the blending of all together makes the perfect whole. There is room for James as well as for Paul and John. Paul is the apostle of faith, John of love, Peter of comfort, but James is the apostle of good works, the apostle of practical living. He stands in the New Testament very much as the book of Proverbs stands in the Old. It has been said that the reason the Scotch are such a practical and prosperous race is because every Scotsman used to be brought up with the book of Proverbs in his vest pocket. It would be well to have some cheap editions of Proverbs and more pockets to hold them.

This conservative old minister in the Church of Jerusalem, James, deals with the practical discipline of life from two sides.


1. He first tells us that temptation is not an unmingled evil.

By temptation he means undoubtedly evil; not trouble, but the solicitation of evil, the battle for right with the power of the tempter and our evil heart.

"My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall in with diverse temptations. Blessed is the man that endureth temptation."

While it is evil, it has a good side, and it becomes an agency in the education of our spiritual character and the strengthening of all the better elements of our nature.

2. While temptation is not directly from God, yet it is overruled by God, and made one of His instrumentalities of blessing to us.

God does not "tempt any man, neither is tempted with evil," yet God permits us to be tempted. God put our first parents into temptation and He made it possible for them either to choose or refuse; gave them a nature subject to temptation, and while it might overcome them, it might also be overcome. God does not tempt any man, yet He does allow this to be one of the classes in the school of faith and holiness. He even led Jesus Christ, His own Son, into the wilderness by the Spirit to be tempted of the devil. Think it not a strange thing then, dear friends, if your life is called to pass through the ordeal of the conflict, evil from within and from without, not merely things that grieve, afflict and distress you, but things that tend to make you do wrong and draw you from the path of righteousness, truth and godliness. They will come. God wants you to be forewarned and forearmed, and to know it is better that they should come to you, if you but take the panoply of God and come through in victory.

3. The source of temptation; whence it comes.

"Every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lust."

Temptation comes from your own heart. There are innumerable tempters, men, women and fallen spirits of wickedness. But none have any power unless we have ourselves a traitor in the citadel of the heart. The enemy cannot get in unless you let him in. You hold the key of the fortress. Therefore it is in your own heart that the crucial battle is fought, the secret foe is hidden, your own lust, your own desire or "coveting," which is the literal translation, the thing in you that wants to do the wrong; your wish for it, even if it is not yet your will. This is the starting place of temptation. It is the blossom of sin. And this is where God wants to bring His sanctifying grace and take away the very desire. Just as the sea fowl plunging in the miry water comes up undefiled because its wing is oiled and burnished, and the filth around cannot adhere to it, so the Lord Jesus passed through the powers of darkness and the allurements of the world and all the evil that was around Him and was proof against it. He could say "the prince of this world cometh and hath nothing in me." It is in the heart that temptation has its starting point. Ask God to give you a true and holy desire to please Him, and an instinctive repugnance and recoil from evil, and so long as you have this, you shall not fall into temptation.

4. Then we have the blessedness of resisting and enduring temptation.

"Count it all joy when ye fall into diverse temptations, knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing." (James 1:2, 3, 4.) "Blessed is the man that endureth temptation."

The battle does you good. The conflict educates you, strengthens you, establishes you, and is necessary for you that you may be grounded and settled and finally approved and rewarded. One of the best results of temptation is that it shows you what is in your own heart. It reveals yourself. Until temptation comes, you feel strong and self-confident, but when the keen edge of the adversary's weapon has pierced your soul, you have more sympathy with others and less confidence in your own self-sufficiency, and you are humiliated and broken at His feet, a poor, helpless thing, and this is the best thing that can happen to you. God wants to disarm you and lay you low, and then He can lift and save you and give you His strength. It makes you humble and doubtful of yourself. You find you must not take the aggressive, but fly to your refuge in Christ. He will make a way of escape that you may be able to bear it." (1Corinthians 10:13-note) Like the little conies that hide in the rock and do not face their enemies, but fly for shelter, you will find your only safeguard is Jesus Christ; He is the shield to cover you, and you will be safe not by fighting, but by hiding behind the cross and in the bosom of your Savior. If you have had much spiritual conflict, it has humbled you, shown you your helplessness, and taught you sympathy for others.

Temptation exercises our faith and teaches us to pray. It is like military drill and a taste of battle to the young soldier. It puts us under fire and compels us to exercise our weapons and prove their potency. It shows us the resources of Christ and the preciousness of the promises of God. It teaches us the reality of the Holy Spirit and compels us to walk closely with Him and hide continually behind His strength and all-sufficiency. Every victory gives us new confidence in our victorious Leader, and new courage for the next onset of the foe, so that we become not only victors, but more than conquerors, taking the strength of our conquered foes and gathering precious spoil from each new battle field. So that temptation strengthens what we have received and establishes us in all our spiritual qualities and graces. You will find the forest trees which stand apart, exposed to the double violence of the storm, are always the sturdiest and strike their roots the deepest in the soil. And so it is true in the spiritual world, as the apostle Peter expressed it;

The God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. (1Pe 5:10-note)

At the same time temptation teaches us to watch as well as pray, to avoid the things that bring temptation, and to keep off the enemy's ground. It is only the inexperienced Christian that plays lightly with evil. Luther used to say "He must needs have a long spoon who sups with the devil." "Pray," says Bishop Hamlin, "from God's side of the fence." Don't jump over into the devil's garden, and then ask God to help you, but keep on God's side, and watch and pray that ye enter not into temptation. Often our overconfidence betrays us. Like the man who had escaped the bailiff who tried to serve him with a warrant for arrest, and had just got across the State line, where the law protected him, when his pursuer, exchanging guile for force, laughed and said, "You have the best of me. And now let us shake hands and part friends." The foolish fellow reached out his hand, and in a moment the bailiff had pulled him over to his side of the line and clapped the handcuffs on him. So if Satan cannot beat us fairly, he will allure us so near the borders of danger that we shall be caught by his wiles. Some people sail so near the lake of fire that they get their sails scorched and find it impossible to get away. The maturest Christian is always the humblest and most watchful. Let us be not high-minded, but fear, and learn to combine the two blessed safeguards of hope and fear, which God has so wisely blended in these two passages: 1Co 10:12: "Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall," and then adds in the thirteenth verse, "God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able." And yet once more, in the fourteenth verse, he returns to the language of warning and caution, "Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry."

Temptation also teaches us patience.

"But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing."

This implies that patience is the finishing grace of the Christian life. Therefore, God usually puts His children through the school of suffering last. It is the graduation class in the discipline of Christ. Let us not, therefore, be surprised if God puts us through the hottest of all furnaces, namely, that which is fired with the devil's brimstone, before He makes us vessels for His glory.

5. Temptation brings a glorious recompense of reward, for "when he is approved, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love Him."

There is a reward for the soul-winner. There is a reward for the Christian pastor and worker. But there is also a special reward for the man or the woman that has had no great service, and perhaps has won no single soul, but has stood in the hard place, has kept sweet in the midst of wrong, and in the face of temptation, pure amid the allurements of the world, and simply withstood in the evil day, and having done all, stood at last approved. On the field of Waterloo, there was a regiment which stood under fire through all that awful day and was not once suffered to charge upon the foe. It held the key to the position, and as again and again permission to advance was asked, the answer came "Stand firm."

When they had nearly all fallen, the message came back for the last time from their commander, "You have saved the day," and the answer was returned, "You will find us all here." Sure enough they lay a heap of slain on that fatal, yet glorious hill. They had simply stood, and history has given them the reward of valor and the imperishable fame of having turned the tide of the greatest battle of the nineteenth century. So God is preparing crowns for quiet lives, for suffering women, for martyred children, for the victims of oppression and wrong, for the silent sufferers and the lonely victors who just endured temptation. Tempted brother, be of good cheer. Some day you will wonder at the brightness of your crown.


In the striking parable of the potter and the wheel, Jeremiah has taught us that while God is disciplining the heart by the touch of His Spirit, He is turning round the clay on the wheel of providence and bringing us into new situations for the exercise of new graces and the teaching of new lessons with every alternation of life's conditions. So that His providence cooperates with His Holy Spirit in the education of our spiritual character, and we are to recognize the things that happen to us as in no sense accidents, but simply divine methods of dealing with us and teaching and blessing us. So James proceeds to bring out the relation of God's providence to our spiritual discipline in the ninth and tenth verses, "Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted: but the rich, in that he is made low."

1. We have the discipline of prosperity. This is not a hard or uncongenial experience to the natural heart, but it often is the hardest of all experiences for the soul.

"I have learned," says Paul, "in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound." (Phil. 4:11, 12-notes)

But how few Christians really know how to abound. How frequently prosperity changes their temper and the habits and fruits of their lives! To receive God's blessing in temporal things, to have wealth suddenly thrust upon us, to be surrounded with congenial friends, to be enriched with all the happiness that love, home, the world's applause and unbounded prosperity can give, and yet to keep a humble heart, to be separated from the world in its spirit and in its pleasures, to keep our hearts in holy indifference from the love and need of earthly things, to stand for God as holy witnesses in the most public station, and to use our prosperity and wealth as a sacred trust for Him; counting nothing our own, and still depending upon Him as simply as in the days of penury -- this, indeed, is an experience rarely found, and only possible through the infinite grace of God. And yet God calls His children in greater or less measure to pass through the test of blessing.

It may not be a great fortune, but a joy in your humble life worth more to you than millions. Now He does not ask us to refuse it, to be harsh, narrow and monkish, and to think to make ourselves better by asperities and penances. No,

"Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted."

Open your heart to the love and joy He is bringing. Bask in the sunshine of His smile. But do it with a humble and unselfish heart. Let your blessing only make you more sensitive to the sufferings of others, more grateful to Him, and more ready to make sacrifices and render services to your Master and your fellow men. Then can "God rejoice over you to do you good with all his heart and with all his soul."

2. Then comes the other side of the revolving wheel, the discipline of adversity. The brother of high degree is made low. Wealth takes wings and flies away. Friends prove false, and even the downy nest of love and home breeds viper's eggs and bitter heartbreaks. But we must still rejoice. God is testing us in the crucible. We have a witness for Him that only the dark shadows can bring out. Let us be true to our testimony. Let us glorify Him in the fires. Let us look over the head of all our trouble to Him, and still believe that all things work together for good to them that love God." Then nothing can be against us.

And sorrow touched by God grows bright
With more than rapture's ray,
As darkness shows us worlds of light
We never saw by day.

Adversity often has to come to save us from the loss of eternal life. Then only when all other things fail us, can we fully find the all-sufficiency of God, and learn that within ourselves we may possess the resources of perfect happiness by having Him. It was thus that the Hebrew Christians could take joyfully the spoiling of their goods, knowing in themselves that they had a better and more enduring substance. (Heb. 10:34-note) It is a rare secret in the alchemy of grace to be able thus to transmute a seeming flaw into an eternal touch of grace and glory.

A lapidary once purchased a beautiful stone, but found afterwards that there was a hidden flaw of iron rust beneath the surface. At first he was disposed to throw it away as worthless. Then there came to him the conception of a rich design, in which a female figure was cut in the stone, and the strong tint of the iron vein was carved into a rich robe, whose drapery and color added a beautiful adorning to the exquisite figure. Thus the flaw became the fairest charm in all the fine creation of his genius. And so God would have us take the things that seem to be against us and so transmute them by the power of His grace that "instead of the thorn shall come up the fir tree, and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree."

In conclusion let us learn to find in God the secret of blessing and victory under all conditions and circumstances, and even to turn the hate of Satan into an occasion of victory and blessing. Thus shall the curse be made a blessing, sorrow turned into joy, and even sin so conquered that grace shall much more abound. (A. B. Simpson. Christ in the Bible - James)

J R Miller - Not all of us understand the meaning and purpose of temptation. We think of it as an effort of Satan to destroy us.

That is what Satan intends, but that is not God’s intention concerning temptation. Jesus was not only tempted, but He was led, driven, by the Holy Spirit to His temptation.

He could not be our Saviour until He was tempted - that is, tried and proved. So we read here, "Blessed is the man that endureth temptation." The beatitude is not for him who has not been tempted, but for him who has met temptation and has been victorious.

It certainly seems a strange thing to read that we should count it all joy when we fall into manifold temptations. We regret to see our friends come under sore temptation or to have to be tempted ourselves; but we learn here that we may even count it joy to have the experience. Temptation is therefore an opportunity.

Blessings lie beyond it, which cannot reach in any other way but through the experience of temptation.

The deeper meaning of my trials
O Lord, You've kept from me;
But some small part of Your great plan
I pray, Lord, help me see.
—D. De Haan

William Cowper alluded to the beneficial effects of trials allowed by the beneficent God…

by William Cowper
(Piper's discussion of his life)

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs
And works His sovereign will.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.

Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.

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James 4 Commentary

Click chart to enlarge
Chart from recommended resource Jensen's Survey of the NT - used by permission
See also Overview Chart by Charles Swindoll

Faith for Living

The Place of Works:
Outward Demonstration of Inner Faith
Jas 1:1-18Jas 1:19-2:13Jas 2:14-25Jas 3:1-12Jas 3:13-4:12Jas 4:13-5:12Jas 5:13-19
Trials &
Word &
Faith &







and the

and our


The Reactions of Living Faith to Worldliness

The reaction of living faith to selfish strife (James 4:1–5:12)
      A.      The condition manifesting worldliness (James 4:1–6)
         1.      The description of the condition (James 4:1–3)
           a.      The questions exposing the source (James 4:1)
           b.      The outcome of the condition (James 4:2a)
           c.      The reasons for the condition (James 4:2b–3)
         2.      The rebuke for the condition (James 4:4–6)
           a.      The adulterous character of worldliness (James 4:4)
             (1)      The question of rebuke (James 4:4a)
             (2)      The significance of their attitude (James 4:4b)
           b.      The authoritative message of Scripture (James 4:5a)
           c.      The divine response to the worldly (James 4:5b–6)
             (1)      The yearning of the Spirit (James 4:5b–6a)
             (2)      The verification from Scripture (James 4:6b)
      B.      The exhortation to the worldly (James 4:7–12)
         1.      The call to return to God (James 4:7–10)
           a.      The statement of the basic demand (James 4:7)
             (1)      Nearness to God (James 4:8a)
             (2)      Personal cleansing (James 4:8b)
             (3)      Open repentance (James 4:9)
             (4)      Godly humility (James 4:10)
      2.      The injunction against censoriousness (James 4:11–12)
           a.      The statement of the prohibition (James 4:11a)
           b.      The justification for the prohibition (James 4:11b–12)

The reaction of living faith to presumptuous planning (4:13–17)
      A.      The rebuke of their self-sufficient attitude (James 4:13–14)
         1.      The delineation of the attitude (James 4:13)
         2.      The presumption in the attitude (James 4:14)
      B.      The indication of the proper attitude (James 4:15)
      C.      The evil of their present attitude (James 4:16–17)
         1.      The evil of their boasting (James 4:16)
         2.      The sin of their inconsistency (James 4:17) (Hiebert's Commentaries – James)

James 4:1  What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members?

Amplified - WHAT LEADS to strife (discord and feuds) and how do conflicts (quarrels and fightings) originate among you? Do they not arise from your sensual desires that are ever warring in your bodily members?

NET  James 4:1 Where do the conflicts and where do the quarrels among you come from? Is it not from this, from your passions that battle inside you?

GNT  James 4:1 Πόθεν πόλεμοι καὶ πόθεν μάχαι ἐν ὑμῖν; οὐκ ἐντεῦθεν, ἐκ τῶν ἡδονῶν ὑμῶν τῶν στρατευομένων ἐν τοῖς μέλεσιν ὑμῶν;

NLT  James 4:1 What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don't they come from the evil desires at war within you?

KJV  James 4:1 From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?

ESV  James 4:1 What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?

ASV  James 4:1 Whence come wars and whence come fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your pleasures that war in your members?

CSB  James 4:1 What is the source of wars and fights among you? Don't they come from the cravings that are at war within you?

NIV  James 4:1 What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you?

NKJ  James 4:1 Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members?

NRS  James 4:1 Those conflicts and disputes among you, where do they come from? Do they not come from your cravings that are at war within you?

YLT  James 4:1 Whence are wars and fightings among you? not thence -- out of your passions, that are as soldiers in your members?

NAB  James 4:1 Where do the wars and where do the conflicts among you come from? Is it not from your passions that make war within your members?

NJB  James 4:1 Where do these wars and battles between yourselves first start? Is it not precisely in the desires fighting inside your own selves?

GWN  James 4:1 What causes fights and quarrels among you? Aren't they caused by the selfish desires that fight to control you?

BBE  James 4:1 What is the cause of wars and fighting among you? is it not in your desires which are at war in your bodies?

  • What is the source: Jas 3:14-18 
  • Is not the source your pleasures Jas 1:14 Ge 4:5-8 Jer 17:9 Mt 15:19 Mk 7:21-23  Joh 8:44 Ro 8:7 1Ti 6:4-10 Tit 3:3 1Pe 1:14 2:11 4:2,3 2Pe 2:18 3:3 1Jn 2:15-17 Jude 1:16-18 
  • pleasures Jas 4:3 
  • in your members Ro 7:5,23 Ga 5:17 Col 3:5 
  • James 4 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries


This is the opposite of Tolstoy's great novel "War and Peace," for here James moves from peace to war! What a contrast between James 3:18+ and James 4:1 (which is probably not the best chapter break) - "fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace" is now "quarrels and conflicts"! A veritable antithesis! James has just described the glorious nature and fruit of wisdom from above and now abruptly transitions to a less than glorious picture of the spirit that was present in the churches in the diaspora. James begins this section like a doctor because he is aware that the external signs are only symptoms of a deeper issue. And by asking questions, he quickly diagnoses the heart of the problem which is their heart (which is the problem of ALL of our hearts)! The doctor must first make the correct diagnosis to offer the correct cure. And remember he is speaking to believers and so these problems are clearly rearing their ugly head in the churches dispersed abroad (James 1:1+) and he wants to help them understand how a person grows up to a mature relationship in Christ. 

R C H Lenski - The readers have followed the earthly, unspiritual, devilish wisdom. James tells them plainly what kind of people they have become and calls on them in strong terms to repent. (The Interpretation of The Epistle to the Hebrews and The Epistle of James)

What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? - Amplified = "WHAT LEADS to strife (discord and feuds) and how do conflicts (quarrels and fightings) originate among you?" James asks the first of two sharp questions to identify the source of their strife. In your interpersonal relationships, what is it that brings about conflict and quarrels among you? His second question will answer the first one. And remember James has been addressing his readers as my brethren (James 3:12+), so he is speaking to believers in local bodies of Christ that have been dispersed abroad (Jas 1:1+). 

Jamieson makes a good point that "The cause of quarrels is often sought in external circumstances, whereas internal lusts are the true origin." 

Barton - At the end of chapter 3, James explains that false wisdom leads to disorder and every evil practice (Jas 3:16+), and that true wisdom results in good fruit (Jas 3:17+) and righteousness (Jas 3:18+). From this poetic description of wisdom expressed in general terms, James returns to practical application. His readers need to know what wisdom is, but they need even more to live wisely. Chapter 4 begins with a challenge to behavior that James saw as proof of (ungodly) wisdom—fights and quarrels among them. (Life Application Bible Commentary – James)

A T Robertson - This old interrogative adverb (pothen - here twice) asks for the origin of wars and fights. James is full of interrogatives, like all diatribes.  ("A diatribe is a style of teaching in ancient philosophical schools, generally characterized by rhetorical questions and imaginary interlocutors." - IVP Background Commentary) In Robertson's commentary on James he adds "This use of question gives life to style and is the mark of a good teacher. Note also the repetition of “whence,” which gives added piquancy....Basically, ecclesiastical strife does not differ in origin and spirit from wars between nations. Sometimes there is even more bitterness. Certainly no wars have been fiercer than the so-called “religious” wars of history. It does seem like irony that the two world wars should have come after so many years of growth of the peace sentiment in the world. " 

Lehman Strauss adds "Nations, churches, families and individuals could profit much from a study of these verses. Extirpate the cause of wars and fightings and you have settled the disposition of this evil monstrosity." (James, Your Brother: Studies in the Epistle of James)

Jewish Dutch philosopher Baruch Spinoza said "I have often wondered that persons who make boast of professing the Christian religion—namely love, joy, peace, temperance, and charity to all men—should quarrel with such rancorous animosity, and display daily towards one another such bitter hatred, that this, rather than the virtues which they profess, is the readiest criteria of their faith."

Quarrels(4171)(polemos gives us English polemics) literally refers to an armed conflict or war (opposite of eirene - peace which godly wisdom gives - Jas 3:17,18+). It is used here in James 4:1 in a negative figurative sense - strife, quarrels, conflicts. Robertson says that in James 4:1 "polemos (old word, Matthew 24:6) pictures the chronic state or campaign (I.E., A STATE OF WAR), while machē (also old word, 2 Cor. 7:5) presents the separate conflicts or battles in the war. So James covers the whole ground by using both words. The origin of a war or of any quarrel is sometimes hard to find, but James touches the sore spot here." Robertson adds this word "means a state of war and the lasting resentment connected with it."

Polemos - 20x in 16v - battle(4), quarrels(1), war(10), wars(5).

Matt. 24:6; Mk. 13:7; Lk. 14:31; Lk. 21:9; 1 Co. 14:8; Heb. 11:34; Jas. 4:1; Rev. 9:7; Rev. 9:9; Rev. 11:7; Rev. 12:7; Rev. 12:17; Rev. 13:7; Rev. 16:14; Rev. 19:19; Rev. 20:8

Polemos in Septuagint - 

Gen. 14:2,8; Exod. 1:10; 13:17; 15:3; 32:17; Lev. 26:6,36-37; Num. 10:9; 14:3; 20:18; 21:14,33; 31:14,21,36; 32:6,20,27,29-30; Deut. 2:5,9,19,24,32; 3:1; 4:34; 20:1-3,5-7,12,20; 21:10; 24:5; 29:7; Jos. 4:13; 8:14; 10:11,24; 11:18-20; 14:11,15; 22:33; Jdg. 3:1-2,10; 8:13; 20:20,22-23,28,34,39,42; 21:22; 1 Sam. 4:1-2; 7:10; 8:20; 13:5,22; 14:20,22-23,52; 17:1-2,8,47; 19:8; 23:8; 25:28; 26:10; 28:1; 29:4,9; 30:24; 31:3; 2 Sam. 1:4,25; 2:17; 3:1,6,30; 5:24; 10:8-9,13; 11:7,15,18-19,22,25; 18:6,8; 19:3,10; 21:15,17-20; 22:35,40; 23:9; 1 Ki. 2:5; 5:3; 8:44; 12:21; 14:30; 15:7,16; 20:14,18,26,29,39; 22:1,4,6,15,30,34-35; 2 Ki. 3:7,26; 8:28; 9:16; 13:25; 14:7; 16:5; 18:20; 24:16; 25:4; 1 Chr. 5:10,18-20,22; 7:4; 10:3; 11:13; 12:1,8,19,33,35-36; 14:15; 19:9,14; 20:4-6; 22:8; 26:27; 2 Chr. 6:34; 11:1; 13:2-3,14; 14:6,10; 15:19; 16:9; 17:18; 18:3,5,14,29,33-34; 20:1; 22:5; 25:5,13; 26:11-13; 27:7; 28:12; 32:6,8; 35:21; Est. 1:1; Job 5:15,20; 22:10; 33:18; 38:23; 39:25; 41:8; Ps. 18:34,39; 24:8; 27:3; 46:9; 68:30; 76:3; 78:9; 89:43; 140:2,7; 144:1; Prov. 21:31; 24:6; Eccl. 3:8; 8:8; 9:11,18; Cant. 3:8; Isa. 21:15; 22:2; 42:13,25; 46:2; Jer. 4:19; 6:4,23; 18:21; 28:8; 41:16; 42:14; 46:3; 49:2,14; 50:22,42; 51:20; Ezek. 7:15; 17:17; Dan. 7:8,21; 9:25-26; 11:20,25; Hos. 1:7; 2:18; 10:9,14; Joel 2:5; 3:9; Amos 1:14; Obad. 1:1; Mic. 2:8; 3:5; Zech. 10:3,5; 14:2-3

Conflicts (disputes)(3163)(mache from machomai = to fight - this word is used for physical combat, especially military) when used literally refers to physical combat or a contest fought with weapons = battle, conflict, fight. The idea is a serious clash or conflict, and can be either physical or non-physical. It pictures violent personal relationships. It is used only figuratively in the NT and is always in the plural referring to battles fought with words not weapons (although the tongue can certainly be a vicious weapon of sorts! James 3:8+), thus "word battles," disputes, quarrels, strifes, contentions ( 2 Cor 7:5; 2 Ti 2:23; Titus 3:9; Jas 4:1). Mache gives us our English word logomachy which describes arguments about words or the meaning of words. Robertson says mache in this context "refers to battles or outbursts of passion which occur during a state of war."

Dan McCartney - The word polemos refers to larger military engagements (battles or wars), whereas mache typically refers to engagements between individuals or smaller groups (fights, contests). A sword fight between two individuals is a mache; an engagement of two armies, or even a full-scale war, is a polemos. The use of both terms may indicate that conflict in the churches involves both individual animosities and party antipathy. (BECNT)

Guzik makes an interesting statement that "Almost all who have such a critical and contentious attitude claim they are prompted and supported by the Spirit of God. James makes it clear that this contentious manner comes from your desires. “It is self-evident that the Spirit of God does not create desire which issues in envying.” (Morgan)"   (James 4 Commentary)

Robertson on among you - James does not, of course, here refer to wars between nations but to the factional bickerings in the churches, the personal wrangles that embitter church life. “Among you,” he adds, to drive the question home. (Commentary)

Michael Andrus - Notice that James doesn't ask whether there are fights and quarrels among us–he assumes it. As I have already indicated, I believe some fights and quarrels in the church are legitimate and justified. It is clear that "peace at any price" is not a biblical concept. James, however, is clearly concerned about the kind of arguments and conflicts that cannot be justified. That is, they cannot be ascribed to righteous zeal but rather to selfish ambition. The fact of the matter is that most fights and quarrels in church are not legitimate or justified. In his book, The Unity Factor, my friend and fellow Free Church pastor, Larry Osborne asserts that "the fiercest battles in our churches are seldom fought over theology. More often, they are fought over change, sometimes even the slightest change." They are also fought over personalities, over music preferences, over leadership style, over Roberts' Rules of Order, and over injured feelings. Why? James offers an interesting insight here in the first verse. It is that believers are often at war with one another because . . . Believers are at war with themselves. (Sermon)

Perhaps it was this section of James which prompted someone to records this little (all too true) ditty...

To dwell above with saints we love,
That will be grace and glory.
To live below with saints we know;
That's another story!


Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? - CSB = "Don't they come from the cravings that are at war within you?" NIV = "Don't they come from your desires that battle within you?" This is rhetorical and expects a "Yes, you are correct James." So James answers his own question before they can wax eloquent (making excuses, rationalizing, etc - we never do that do we?)! His "diagnosis" is that the strife going on externally between saints (brethren Jas 4:11+) is a reflection of the war going on internally, in their hearts. They sought to selfishly satisfy their base, carnal inner cravings! Once again James simply validates what his half-brother Jesus had taught declaring “But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man., for out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders." (Mt 15:18, 19, cf Mk 7:21-23)

Selfish Passions
Cause Strife

The source your pleasures is more literally "out of" your sinful, sensual lusts, depicting the inner desire to get something that one does not possess and yet greatly desires to possess.

THOUGHT - Mark it down that selfishness will always destroy peace. Think of how this principle impacts so many marriages in our day! There is only one solution and it is to kill sin before it kills your marriage. In Ro 8:13 Paul says "if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live (AND SO WILL YOUR MARRIAGE BELOVED!)" Again Paul gives us the ONLY effective antidote to our continual tendency toward selfishness -  "But I say, walk (present imperative/ See discussion of the Need for the Holy Spirit to obey NT commands - Beloved, let's be honest - we need the Spirit to give us the desire to even want to walk by the Him!!!) by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. Gal 5:16-17+) (See Illustration below).

How can you know if you are in the flesh or in the Spirit? Here's a short checklist - Are you conscious of a secret spirit of pride? because of your natural gifts and abilities, love of human praise, a secret fondness to be noticed, love of supremacy, a touchy, sensitive spirit, a disposition to resent and retaliate when you are reproved of or contradicted, self-will, a stubborn unteachable spirit, harsh, sarcastic expressions, an arguing, talkative spirit, an unyielding, headstrong disposition, a disposition to criticize and pick flaws, a peevish, fretful spirit, an unpleasant sensation in view of the great prosperity and success of somebody else, a disposition to speak of the faults and failings rather than the gifts and virtues of those more talented and appreciated than yourself, given to exaggeration, etc, etc  

Don Anderson - It’s those passionate, earthly, natural, selfish, carnal desires. When you turn it over and the controls are taken by yourself rather than the Lord, that old nature rises to the surface and it acts in this way, totally contrary to the agenda and the program the Lord has in making you more Christlike.

The statement that wage war in your members suggests that the primary site of the war is internal, but while this is true, that is not what James is addressing, for his focus is on individuals continually at "war" (with words) with each other. The internal source feeds the external strife. 

Hiebert says this was "evidence that they are being governed by the spirit of worldliness."  (Hiebert's Commentaries – James)

One is reminded of Peter's exhortation to the saints "Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain (apecho = push away from, put some space so to speak, in the present tense only possible as we rely on the Holy Spirit to empower us! cf use in Acts 15:20, 29+, 1 Th 4:3+) from fleshly lusts which (continually - present tense) wage war (strateuomai - same verb used by James) against the soul. (1 Peter 2:11+)

Vincent points out that "The sinful pleasures are the outgrowths of the lusts, James 4:2." 

Tryon Edwards - Sinful and forbidden pleasures are like poisoned bread; they may satisfy appetite for the moment, but there is death in them at the end.

John Foster - The difference between false pleasure and true is just this: for the true, the price is paid before you enjoy it; for the false, after you enjoy it.

Joseph Hall - There is no earthly pleasure whereof we may not surfeit (satiate); of the spiritual we can never have enough.

Thomas Manton - All sins are rooted in love of pleasure. Therefore be watchful. All the pleasure that wicked men have is upon earth; here, and nowhere else.(ED: Or one could say it this way - for unsaved men this is as "good" as it gets, but for saved this short time is as bad as it gets.).

Thomas Manton - God allows us to use pleasures, but not to live in them; to take delights, but not that they should take us.

J. I. Packer - Pleasure seeking, as we learn from experience, is a barren business; happiness is never found until we have the grace to stop looking for it and to give our attention to persons and matters external to ourselves.

A. W. Tozer has a pithy (as usual) quote - That this world is a play-ground instead of a battle-field has now been accepted in practice by the vast majority of fundamentalist Christians.

Thomas Watson - Soft pleasures harden the heart. (INTERESTING!) 

The hardest victory is victory over self.

Pleasures is our English word hedonism which is the pursuit of pleasure as a matter of ethical principle. It says that pleasure is the main goal in life, like the commercial that says "You only go around once. Grab for all the gusto you can!" The Greek word (below) hedone is the root of our English hedonism, which is the doctrine that pleasure or happiness is the sole or chief good in life, and is manifest as an insatiable pursuit of self-satisfaction that so characterizes our modern society.

Pleasures(also in Jas 4:3)(2237)(hedone from hedos = delight, enjoyment > hedomai = have sensual pleasure) describes the state or condition of experiencing pleasure for any reason and thus speaks of gratification and enjoyment. Feelings that please self and selfish desires. Although the word has a strong philosophical flavor (GPT, 75-78; TDNT), it is to be taken here in a practical and bad sense. Ancient hedonism expressed itself in two ways: the cruder form was that proposed by Aristippus and the early Cyrenaics, who believed that pleasure was achieved by the complete gratification of all one’s sensual desires! In contrast, Epicurus' school, though accepting the primacy of pleasure, tended to equate it with the absence of pain and taught that it could best be attained through the rational control of one’s desires. In either case it was focused on SELF! In the NT hedone is used only in a bad sense, referring to indulgence and lack of control of natural appetites (sensual) pleasure. Used 5x - Lk. 8:14+; Titus 3:3+; Jas. 4:1; Jas. 4:3; 2 Pet. 2:13+. 

Vincent - The thought of wars and fightings is carried into the figurative description of the sensuality which arrays its forces and carries on its campaign in the members. The verb does not imply mere fighting, but all that is included in military service.

Barclay on wage war - “He does not mean that they war within a man – although that is also true – but that they set men warring against each other.”

Wage war (4754)(strateuomai from strategos = army, stratos = an encamped army) means literally to perform military service, serve as a soldier in the army, go to fight, carry on a military campaign, make a military expedition, lead soldiers to war or to battle. Strateuomai is used figuratively in this verse (and 1 Pe 2:11+) of spiritual battles, the picture being one of actively carrying on a campaign with the implication of battles planned and orchestrated by the indwelling flesh, the evil disposition all mankind inherited from Adam and which is still "latent" even in believers. Note the use of strateuomai in the present tense which indicates that the spiritual campaign spearheaded by fleshly lusts against our souls is a continual struggle we can expect to engage in until the day we see our Commander in Chief, the Lord Jesus Christ. Indeed, it is analogous to what Paul wrote in Galatians "For the flesh sets its desire (present tense) against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition (present tense) to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please." (Gal 5:17+) 

Vincent adds that "The thought of wars and fightings is carried into the figurative description of the sensuality which arrays its forces and carries on its campaign in the members. The verb does not imply mere fighting, but all that is included in military service. A remarkable parallel occurs in Plato, “Phaedo,” 66: “For whence come wars and fightings and factions? Whence but from the body and the lusts of the body?”

While "members" does not refer to "members" of the congregation, there is a sense in which it does because there were problems in the members of the members of the local body! 

Members(3196)(melos) refers to a limb or member of the body and in the plural (and in the context of the present verse) refers to the members of body as the seat of the desires and passions. In James 3:5+melos is singular (most of us have only one tongue, although some of us to often speak with a "forked tongue!") In the plural melos was used to describe the members of the body as the seat of the desires and passions (Ro 6:13, 19; Ro 7:5, 23; 1 Cor. 6:15; Col. 3:5; James 4:1). 

Nieboer writes: "So the real trouble was self-pleasing and self-love. Herod got into trouble because of the love of pleasure (Mark 6:14-29); Judas, because of the love of money (Mark 14:10, 11); Hezekiah, because of the love of display (2 Kings 20:12-18); Adoni-bezek, because of the love of power (Judges 1:5-7+); and Diotrophes, because of the love of preeminence (3 John 9, 10)." (A Practical Exposition Of The Epistle Of James Verse by Verse)

In our day an insatiable thirst for pleasure
is destroying our thirst for the things of God.
-- Lehman Strauss

Lehman Strauss - The conflict, says the Apostle, is "in your members," the lusts creating the conflict being part of the Old Nature. "The old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts" is at war with "the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness" (Eph. 4:22+, Eph 4:24+). In writing to the Galatians, Paul speaks of this same war with different words: "For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would" (Gal. 5:17+). If we yield our members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin instead of yielding ourselves unto God (Ro 6:13+), there will be unrest and turbulence within and without; hence the exhortation to "present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God." (Ro 12:1+). In our day an insatiable thirst for pleasure is destroying our thirst for the things of God, and these sinful, selfish gratifications are responsible for the strife among Christians, all the while warring against the soul (1 Pet. 2:11+). Desires of a good sort are commendable, but desires after the gratification of the flesh and the world disturb the peace of your life as well as the lives of others." (James, Your Brother: Studies in the Epistle of James)

Bruce Barton comments that James "doesn't waste time saying that these conflicts should not occur. When they do happen, are we wise enough to understand why? Do we know their source? Fortunately, most of us have experienced the conflicts that James describes as temporary struggles in local churches. When handled correctly, with godly wisdom, they can lead to growth. Sadly, however, some churches become permanent battlegrounds. New believers find themselves in a cross fire of arguments, resentments, and power struggles that may carry a veneer of spiritual truth, but are more often simply personal conflicts between people. In the process, innocent bystanders are sometimes deeply wounded.Many of us know people who have been alienated from the church because of a conflict that had nothing to do with the gospel. These battles and the issues at stake remind us of Jesus' words concerning people with twisted religious priorities: "But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea" (Matthew 18:1-9; Luke 11:37-54). (Life Application Bible Commentary – James)

ILLUSTRATION OF THE BATTLE OF THE FLESH AND SPIRIT - Pastor Tim Brown tells this story. Listen to this: Some time ago, I was having lunch in McDonald’s with my daughter and mother-in-law. We were enjoying a pleasant conversation when a man, with his wife and children, plopped down at a nearby table. The man was someone who in the past had hurt me very deeply. We faked pleasantries and exchanged hellos, but I could feel my blood begin to boil at the thought of what he had done to me. This person had wounded me badly, and I was surprised about how much hurt I still felt. My family and I gobbled down our food and on the way out of the restaurant I overheard “my enemy” and his arguing because neither had any money to purchase the food they had ordered. Their three kids were screaming for their Happy Meals. The couple was embarrassed. My first thought was, Praise God, there is justice in this world. He deserves every bit of embarrassment he’s feeling, and I’m so glad I got to see this. Suddenly God spoke to me through the text I had read that morning. “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord. On the contrary: ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink’” (Romans 12:17-20). God was saying to me: Here’s your chance to be set free of your pain and overcome your hurt. I knew I had a choice either to obey or bask in my bitterness. Somewhat reluctantly I reached into my wallet, pulled out $20, and gave it to this man who had been my enemy. “Have lunch on me,” I said with tears in my eyes.

ILLUSTRATION FROM CHARLES SWINDOLL - Ever eat grass? In the neighborhood where I grew up, that was the standard punishment for anybody who lost a fight. Victor and spectators jeered and howled while the vanquished grazed. Then we would all go play again—until the next fight. You probably had your own unwritten protocol that integrated fighting into the fabric of adolescent subculture. Our cycle of “fighting, eating grass, playing, fighting, eating grass, playing” sure sounds silly, doesn’t it? And it was. I just wish we had grown out of it by our adult years. No, we don’t eat grass anymore, but we still seem to work fighting into our lives. Fighting comes naturally to most people, especially men. Why? Because we’re each born with a scrappy nature that prefers going for the jugular instead of giving in. It all started after the Fall (Gen. 3). The first fight between Cain and Abel ended in murder (Gen. 4:1-8). Since then, we can chart history easily by its conflicts and wars. It isn’t surprising, then, that James addresses the cycle of conflicts among Christians. Worshiping, fighting, praying, worshiping, fighting, praying—it was the same two thousand years ago as it is today. That’s the problem James addresses in 4:1-10. (Swindoll's Living Insights New Testament Commentary – James, 1 & 2 Peter)

ILLUSTRATION - A father heard a commotion in his yard and looked outside to see his daughter and several playmates in a heated quarrel. When he reprimanded her, his daughter responded, "We're just playing church!" Actually, that's not too hard a scenario to believe when you think about all the conflict that plagues the average church. (Michael Andrus - see his sermon for two interesting personal examples of church conflicts)

James 4:2  You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask.

Amplified -  You are jealous and covet [what others have] and your desires go unfulfilled; [so] you become murderers. [To hate is to murder as far as your hearts are concerned.] You burn with envy and anger and are not able to obtain [the gratification, the contentment, and the happiness that you seek], so you fight and war. You do not have, because you do not ask.

NET  James 4:2 You desire and you do not have; you murder and envy and you cannot obtain; you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask;

GNT  James 4:2 ἐπιθυμεῖτε καὶ οὐκ ἔχετε, φονεύετε καὶ ζηλοῦτε καὶ οὐ δύνασθε ἐπιτυχεῖν, μάχεσθε καὶ πολεμεῖτε, οὐκ ἔχετε διὰ τὸ μὴ αἰτεῖσθαι ὑμᾶς,

NLT  James 4:2 You want what you don't have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can't get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don't have what you want because you don't ask God for it.

KJV  James 4:2 Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not.

ESV  James 4:2 You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask.

ASV  James 4:2 Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and covet, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war; ye have not, because ye ask not.

CSB  James 4:2 You desire and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. You do not have because you do not ask.

NIV  James 4:2 You want something but don't get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God.

NKJ  James 4:2 You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask.

NRS  James 4:2 You want something and do not have it; so you commit murder. And you covet something and cannot obtain it; so you engage in disputes and conflicts. You do not have, because you do not ask.

YLT  James 4:2 ye desire, and ye have not; ye murder, and are zealous, and are not able to attain; ye fight and war, and ye have not, because of your not asking;

NAB  James 4:2 You covet but do not possess. You kill and envy but you cannot obtain; you fight and wage war. You do not possess because you do not ask.

NJB  James 4:2 You want something and you lack it; so you kill. You have an ambition that you cannot satisfy; so you fight to get your way by force. It is because you do not pray that you do not receive;

GWN  James 4:2 You want what you don't have, so you commit murder. You're determined to have things, but you can't get what you want. You quarrel and fight. You don't have the things you want, because you don't pray for them.

BBE  James 4:2 You are burning with desire, and have not your desire, so you put men to death; you are full of envy, and you are not able to get your desire, so you are fighting and making war; you have not your desire, because you do not make request for it.

  • You lust and do not have: Jas 5:1-5 Pr 1:19 Ec 4:8 Hab 2:5 1Ti 6:9,10 
  • because you do not ask.: Jas 1:5 Isa 7:12 Mt 7:7,8 Lu 11:9-13  Joh 4:10 John 16:24 
  • James 4 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries


You lust and do not have - You lust, desire or covet, usually what others have and always what the fallen flesh wants. NLT says "You want what you don't have."  Lust is in the present tense (plural) describing this as their continual practice, and the active voice shows they were making a volitional choice to do this - they were not coerced and could not say the "devil made me do it!" Their fallen flesh urged them on to lust! Do not have basically means your sinful, selfish desires go unfulfilled, ungratified.

Michael Andrus asks "What are some of those frustrated desires? Let's name a few: power and influence certainly qualify. Some people desperately desire to be power brokers in the church; they want to be in on the decision-making, and if those desires get frustrated they can cause a lot of trouble. One man I knew expressed real anger to me that he had never been elected to the Elder Board in our church in St. Louis. It seems to me that an argument could be made that the very presence of such an attitude would disqualify him from serving as an Elder. Even good things can lead to frustrated desires. A person may wish to sing solos but isn't asked; or to teach an adult Bible study, but people don't respond; or to build friendships but people don't seem to return their hospitality. If such disappointments are not handled properly such people can generate a spirit of contention. And that's seems to be happening to James' parishioners. Let's face it, friends. Believers are often at war with each other because they are at war with themselves. (Sermon)

Note - John MacArthur (who I respect immensely) says on James 4:2-3 that "the asking is done or not done by those who do not belong to God and have no part in Him." I am not sure how he arrives at this interpretation and do not agree with it and it seems neither do most other commentators as for example

Yet this language is very much in keeping with the situation described in James 3:1-12, 14-16, that is, the atmosphere of conflict and infighting in the church. The language makes a great deal of sense as describing the serious discord in the community. (Grant Osborne - Cornerstone Biblical Commentary)

Two rhetorical questions try to locate the source of struggles and fights among Christians. (Max Anders - Holman New Testament Commentary)

James here dealt with the source of the hostility which existed among some Christians. (Gilbrant - Complete Biblical Library Commentary - The Complete Biblical Library – Hebrews-Jude)

This picture of open quarrels and bitter disputes among the readers of this letter at once dissipates any view that apostolic churches were ideal churches. Compare the conditions in the Corinthian church. (Hiebert's Commentaries – James)

Throughout his letter, he’s addressing Jewish Christian believers (James 3:1; 4:11). This section reveals that they are obviously having problems getting along. (Swindoll's Living Insights New Testament Commentary – James, 1 & 2 Peter)

Believers are at war with each other...It is that believers are often at war with one another because....Believers are at war with themselves. (James 4:1-3) (Michael Andrus)

James had already explained that we are each responsible and cannot blame God writing

"Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am being tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is carried away (FIRST "THE LOOK") and enticed (THEN "THE LURE") by his own lust ("THE SINFUL DESIRES" - epithumia). Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren." (James 1:13-16+)

THOUGHT - As discussed above the "lusts of the flesh" in 1 Peter 2:11+ where Peter exhorts believers to "abstain from fleshly lusts," which while not a command per se is an action only possible as we rely on the Holy Spirit to obey!

Lust (covet, desire) (1937)(epithumeo from epí = upon, used intensively + thumós = passion; epithumia) means literally to fix the desire upon (object could be good [Mt 13:17, Lk 22:15 used of Jesus] or evil [1Co 10:6]). The cravings which God has placed in the human body in themselves are not sinful; they are God-given and essential for continuance of life here on earth. Lusts occur in our mind (and heart - see Mt 5:28+, Ro 1:24+) and are not physical actions per se although they may (and frequently do) lead to physical actions. But they readily become sinful when used for illegitimate (ungodly) ends.  And so epithumeo means to have a strong desire to do or secure something, to desire greatly, to long for. And remember that desires lead to deedsappetites lead to actions. Note also that the preposition epi- can express motion toward or upon and thus one lexicon defines it as to set one's heart upon. In sum, epithumeo describes a strong impulse toward something so that one's passions or affections are directed toward an object, thing or person. Lust is like rot in the bones. Lust denotes the varied cravings of fallen human nature pursued in the interest of self in self-sufficient independence from God.

As Matthew Henry said "Natural desires are at rest when that which is desired is obtained, but corrupt desires are insatiable. Nature is content with little, grace with less, but lust with nothing....Our desires must not only be offered up to God, but they must all terminate in Him, desiring nothing more than God, but still more and more of Him." (Read Mt 6:33+, Ps 37:4)

POSB - Note that desire, lust, a yearning passion for is not always evil. In verse 5 the Spirit “lusts to envy.” In Luke 22:15 Christ desires (yearns) to eat the passover with the apostles. What is it that distinguishes a good desire from an evil desire? At least two major things.

Vine adds that lust "describes the inner motions of the soul, the natural tendency of men in their fallen estate toward things evil and toward things forbidden."

A W Pink writes that worldly lusts "are those affections and appetites which dominate and regulate the man of the world. It is the heart craving worldly objects, pleasures, honors, riches. It is an undue absorption with those things which serve only a temporary purpose and use. "Worldly lusts" cause the things of Heaven to be crowded out by the interests and concerns of earth. This may be done by things which are quite lawful in themselves—but through an immoderate use they gain possession of the heart. "Worldly lusts" are "the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life" (1 John 2:16+). (Grace Preparing for Glory)

Jamieson explains that the lusts of the flesh "is the lust which has its seat and source in our lower animal nature. Satan tried this temptation the first on Christ: Lk 4:3+, “Command this stone that it be made bread.” Youth is especially liable to fleshly lusts (2 Ti 2:22+). (1John 2 Commentary)

A wise man will desire no more than he may get justly, use soberly, distribute cheerfully and leave contentedly.

Thomas Brooks nails us all with this quote -- "A little will satisfy nature; less will satisfy grace; nothing will satisfy men's lusts."

Thomas Manton - Carnal desire is a gulf that is never filled up.

Josh McDowell - Love can wait to give; it is lust that can’t wait to get.

A. R. Fausset - Lust and lucre follow one another as closely akin, both seducing the heart from the Creator to the creature.

Thomas Fuller - Our eyes, when gazing on sinful objects, are out of their calling and God’s keeping.

Oswald Chambers rightly warned that "We cannot think anything without the thought having its consequence." (Shade of His Hand)

Oswald Chambers also said that "Love can wait and worship endlessly; lust says, "I must have it at once."" (Woe! Are you as convicted as I am?)

The Ten Commandments clearly addressed the problem of looking and desiring "You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet (chamad = desire, take pleasure in; Lxx = epithumeo the same verb Jesus used in Mt 5:28+ = to set one's heart upon and so to have a strong impulse in this context in a bad sense toward) your neighbor's wife or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor. (Exodus 20:17, cp Dt 5:21)

We can't afford to play with fire
Nor tempt a serpent's bite;
We can't afford to think that sin
Brings any true delight.
-- Anon.

Paul reminds us this battle with the lusts of our flesh is one that believers will wage every day (another reason you daily need spiritual sustenance [Lk 4:4+, Mt 4:4, cf Dt 8:2-3, cf Jn 17:17] and spiritual preparation - "Put on the full armor" [Eph 6:10-18+] not just one piece or you will be vulnerable!)-- it is a battle we cannot win on our own but only as we begin each morning surrendering our will to the sweet, perfect will of the all-powerful Holy Spirit of God! Why… (see the "for" = a term of explanation).

(Gal 5:17+) For the flesh sets its desire (present tense = continually!) against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for (another term of explanation!) these are in opposition to one another, so that (another term of explanation!) you may not do the things that you please. See Galatians 5:16+ for the ONLY WAY to defeat the incredible power of the lusts of our flesh!)

(Gal 5:24+) Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

THOUGHT- These fundamental desires of life are the steam in the boiler that makes the machinery go. Turn off the steam and you have no power. Let the steam go its own way and you have destruction. The secret is in constant control. These desires must be our servants and not our masters; and this we can do through Jesus Christ. (Wiersbe, W: Bible Exposition Commentary)

Hiebert notes that the "degeneration in the meaning of the term (epithumia from God given desires to perverted desires) is a revealing commentary on human nature. Left to himself, instead of gaining mastery over his base desires and steadfastly adhering to the good, the individual is characteristically overcome by his evil cravings, so that they become the dominating force of his life." (1 Peter. Page 94. Moody)

One can imagine James' readers when they came to this charge of "murder!" Clearly James was trying to startle and awaken in his readers an understanding (and admission) of the depth of evil when one has hatred toward another person. 

You are jealous and covet [what others have] and your desires go unfulfilled; [so] you become murderers. [To hate is to murder as far as your hearts are concerned.] You burn with envy and anger and are not able to obtain [the gratification, the contentment, and the happiness that you seek], so you fight and war. You do not have, because you do not ask.

[So] you commit murder - Notice how short the journey is from desire to death! Don't be deceived. You become the same as a murderers because to hate another person is to murder then. The murder James is referring to is with one's fleshly heart, not their physical hands. Have you ever "murdered" someone's character out of envy, anger, spite or hatred? 

Andrus comments "I don't know if the killing mentioned here (verse 2: “you kill and covet”) is literal or figurative. Some people can kill with their looks and kill with their words, and I'm inclined to think that is probably what is meant. But even literal physical violence is not unknown in the history of the church. Some pastors could tell you about deacon meetings that ended in fist fights. Far more have ended with verbal violence or seething tempers–all due to frustrated desires." (Sermon)

As Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount, one does not have to physically slay another person to be guilty of murdering them!

You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT MURDER’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’ 22 “But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.(Mt 5:21-22+)

Commit murder (5407)(phroneuo from phonos = murder) means to kill unjustly, "to deprive a person of life by illegal, intentional killing." (Louw-Nida) Reaffirmation of the sixth commandment prohibiting murder is found in Mt. 5:21+; Mt 19:18; Mk 10:19; Lk 18:20; Ro 13:9; Jas. 2:11. 

Phroneuo - 12x in 10v - commit murder(5), commits murder(1), murder(3), murdered(2), put to death(1).

Matt. 5:21+; Matt. 19:18; Matt. 23:31; Matt. 23:35; Mk. 10:19; Lk. 18:20; Ro 13:9; Jas. 2:11; Jas. 4:2; Jas. 5:6

Gilbrant - The Septuagint uses this word commonly to translate the Hebrew rātsach which is used in the commandment, “Thou shalt commit no murder” (Exodus 20:13; Deut 5:17, free translation). Though there are 10 Hebrew words (Old Testament) and 6 Greek (New Testament) words translated “kill” in the King James Version, phoneuō and its Hebrew counterpart clearly imply the taking of human life for intentional and personal evil reasons. Such conduct is specifically forbidden by God and is certain to be judged with severity (Matthew 5:21; 19:18; 23:31,35; Mark 10:19; Luke 18:20; Romans 13:9; James 2:11; 5:6). (Complete Biblical Library Greek-English Dictionary)

Phroneuo in Septuagint

Exod. 20:13; Exod. 21:13; Num. 35:6; Num. 35:12; Num. 35:19; Num. 35:21; Num. 35:25; Num. 35:26; Num. 35:27; Num. 35:28; Num. 35:30; Num. 35:31; Deut. 4:42; Deut. 5:17; Deut. 19:6; Deut. 22:26; Jos. 10:28; Jos. 10:30; Jos. 10:32; Jos. 10:35; Jos. 21:13; Jos. 21:21; Jos. 21:27; Jos. 21:32; Jos. 21:36; Jos. 21:38; Jdg. 16:2; Jdg. 20:4; Jdg. 20:5; 1 Ki. 20:40; 1 Ki. 21:19; 2 Chr. 25:3; Neh. 4:11; Neh. 6:10; Ps. 62:3; Ps. 94:6; Prov. 1:32; Prov. 7:26; Jer. 7:9; Lam. 2:20; Hos. 6:9; 

You are envious and cannot obtain - As with lust, are envious is in the present tense describing one in a continual state of "burning" or "boiling over" with envy (see word study below). I like the picture of the verb seethe which describes a person "filled with intense but unexpressed anger" or "in an agitated or angry mental state, as if boiling." And so you burn with envy and anger and are not able to obtain the gratification, contentment, and happiness that your fallen flesh desires. 

You are envious (eagerly seek) (2206)(zeloofrom zelos = zeal in turn from zeo = boil; source of our English word "zeal") properly, to bubble over from getting so hot (boiling) and figuratively to burn with zeal (or intensity), to be fervent, to "boil" with envy, to be jealous. It can be used commendably to refer to a striving for something or showing zeal. Zeloo is (an onomatopoeic word imitating the sound of boiling water!) means to be deeply committed to something, with the implication of accompanying desire – 'to be earnest, to set one's heart on, to be completely intent upon' Zeloo takes the notion of burning or boiling and applies it metaphorically to burning or boiling emotions, stance, or will for earnest striving, for passionate zeal, or for burning envy. Zeloo in the bad sense can be manifest in two forms, one in which the person sets their heart on something that belongs to someone else (That seems to the main sense here in James 4:2) or a second form in which one has intense negative feelings over another’s achievements or success.

[So] you fight and quarrel - Both verbs are in the the present tense describing this as this as an ongoing struggle.  Clearly such a life is an unsatisfying life! There can hardly be soul satisfaction when their is such hostility. 

Don Anderson - All of these things are the work of Satan (IN CONCERT WITH OUR FALLEN FLESH). He wants to foster dissension, antagonism, and misunderstanding, to wreck harmonious family and happy relationships. The work of the Spirit of Christ is the very opposite. It is to reconcile, to harmonize, to enlighten, to cement happy relationships. Christians of all people should be promoters of enlightenment, understanding and harmony, both among themselves and all the people. So James is hitting hard on this old nature in us. And when it acts it’s embarrassing and we must be doing battle daily with that nature.

Fight(3164)(machomai) means to war, quarrel, dispute fight or strive. This word describes a serious conflict, either physical (especially military combat as with armed combatants who engage in a hand to hand struggle - cf literal use in Acts 7:26) or non-physical, but clearly intensive and bitter. It was used of those of those who contend at law for property and privileges. Machomai in secular Greek is used to describe a wind of such high intensity that it leveled everything in its path, much like a hurricane. The servant of the Lord must not engage in a "war of words" and "blow away" those who block his path in one way or another.

Fight (4170)(polemeo from polemos = war) literally means to make or wage war (Rev 12:7; 13:4; 17:14) Figuratively polemeo means to be in opposition to, be hostile invoking military imagery which depicts the hostile attitude of opponents in a literal war. And so it means to be treated in a hostile manner and then to quarrel or wrangle with someone

Polemeo - 7x in 6v - make war (1), quarrel (1), wage war (2), waged (1), wages war (1), waging (1).

Jas. 4:2; Rev. 2:16; Rev. 12:7; Rev. 13:4; Rev. 17:14; Rev. 19:11

Revelation 2:16+  ‘Therefore repent; or else I am coming to you quickly, and I will make war against them with the sword of My mouth.

Revelation 12:7+  And there was war in heaven, Michael and his angels waging war with the dragon. The dragon and his angels waged war,

Revelation 13:4+ (Rev 13:3 "the whole earth was amazed") they worshiped the dragon because he gave his authority to the beast; and they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast, and who is able to wage war with him?”

Revelation 17:14+ (Second Coming) “These will wage war against the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, because He is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those who are with Him are the called and chosen and faithful.” 

Revelation 19:11+ (Second Coming) And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war.

Warren Wiersbe comments on this use in James writing that this shows that "The wars among us are caused by the wars within us. We want to please ourselves, even if it hurts somebody else." (With the Word)

Spurgeon - The whole history of mankind shows the failure of evil lustings to obtain their object.


You do not have because you do not ask - Amplified = "Yet you don't have what you want because you don't ask God for it."

Guzik on you do not ask - The reason these destructive desires exist among Christians is because they do not seek God for their needs (you do not ask). James reminds us here of the great power of prayer, and why one may live unnecessarily as a spiritual pauper, simply because they do not pray, or do not ask when they pray. We might state it as a virtual spiritual law: that God does not give unless we ask. If we possess little of God and His Kingdom, almost certainly we have asked little. “Remember this text: Jehovah says to his own Son, ‘Ask of me and I will give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.’ If the royal and divine Son of God cannot be exempted from the rule of asking that he may have, you and I cannot expect the rule to be relaxed in our favor. Why should it be?” (Spurgeon). “If you may have everything by asking, and nothing without asking, I beg you to see how absolutely vital prayer is, and I beseech you to abound in it. . . . Do you know, brothers, what great things are to be had for the asking? Have you ever thought of it? Does it not stimulate you to pray fervently? All heaven lies before the grasp of the asking man; all the promises of God are rich and inexhaustible, and their fulfillment is to be had by prayer.” (Spurgeon)  (James 4 Commentary)

Lehman Strauss - Here we are shown just why we "have not" real satisfaction of soul. There are two reasons given. First, prayerlessness. "Ye ask not." We failed to make our desires a matter of prayer. Our heavenly Father gives liberally to those who ask of Him (James 1:5, 6, James 1:17). "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened" (Mt. 7:7, 8+). Examine your prayer life, and I believe you will agree with God's Word that one reason we do not get things from God is that we do not ask things of God. I said prayers for many years before I could lay claim to having received one thing as a direct answer to my prayers. Not all prayer is petition, but certainly all who read the Scriptures know that asking is an essential part of one's prayer life. When we do not make our desires the subject of selfless, sincere, earnest prayer, we cannot hope to be satisfied. Indeed prayer is the secret to peace and contentment. Paul adds to the message of James: "Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus" (Phil. 4:6, 7+). The Christian who walks in unbroken prayer fellowship with his Lord is content in whatsoever state he finds himself (Phil. 4:11+). Where Christians depend upon God, the restlessness and discontent that generate strife are absent. Learn to trust your heavenly Father not only in spiritual matters that affect your eternal well-being but for all temporal needs amidst the cares of this world. We can depend upon Him for the life to come and for the present as well. (James, Your Brother: Studies in the Epistle of James)

Ask(154)(aiteo) means to ask for something or make petition (request, beg). It can mean to ask with a sense of urgency and conveys the sense of pleading, begging, imploring.

James used aiteo in James 1:5-6+ "But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask (present imperative - command to continually ask)of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask(present imperative - command to continually ask)in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind.

THOUGHT - Strauss on "do not have... cannot not have" -  If this verse tells us anything at all, it thrice reminds us that the natural heart of man is never contented. The awful craving for the pleasures, the privileges, and the preeminence in mundane things, fills us with jealousy and envy, which in turn produces an unholy restlessness with inevitable confusion and strife. Satisfaction in the things of this world is like a mirage, seemingly within our reach, but always eluding us, leaving us fretful and fighting like spoiled children. We all have passed through these experiences and we admit that under the sun all is vanity and vexation of spirit. "Ye lust... ye kill... ye fight... ye ask," and all to satisfy the lustings of the flesh which never can be satisfied. Our Lord said: "Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again" (John 4:13). The natural heart is always thirsting. If a man gets power, he craves more power. If he gets money, he wants more money. If he enjoys a season of sinful pleasure, he seeks more of the same. And so it goes! When one's body, mind, and spirit are not fully yielded to God, life becomes one vicious circle of seeking but never satisfying. Oh, my reader, can't you see that the desire for the wrong things, prompted by wrong motives at work in our members, wages ceaseless warfare against everything and everyone that stand in the way of their gratification? (ED: AGAIN THINK OF MARRIAGES) And when we get what we thought we wanted, we are left still empty, unsatisfied, and seeking! "Ye... cannot obtain."  (James, Your Brother: Studies in the Epistle of James)

Related Resources:

Thomas Guthrie - If you find yourself loving any pleasure better than your prayers, any book better than the Bible, any house better than the house of God, any table better than the Lord's Table, any persons better than Christ, any indulgence better than the hope of heaven, take alarm.

THE ONGOING BATTLE IN EVERY BELIEVER'S HEART AND MIND - On October 31, 1999, a full airplane took off from JFK International Airport, New York, on the routine flight to Cairo, Egypt. The final report of the National Transportation Safety Board concluded that, a short time after take-off, the relief first officer waited for the pilot to leave the cockpit and then disengaged the autopilot. He proceeded to move the throttle levers from their cruise power setting to idle, cutting the engines. Seconds later, the airplane began to pitch nose-downward and descended into a freefall. In the final moments before impact, the horrified pilot dashed back to his seat and battled the co-pilot for control of the plane. The pilot pulled back on his controls, desperate to bring the nose of the plunging Boeing 767 up, while the suicidal first officer pushed his own controls forward to keep the jet in its lethal dive. The result was a tragic crash of Egyptair Flight 990 into the Atlantic Ocean south of Nantucket, Massachusetts. It killed all 217 people aboard. The battle in that airline is the battle that’s going in your heart and mind right now. So many times we have made peace with it. We think we’re content with where we are. But spiritually, reality is here. We’re at war and we have an enemy inside the gates and we must deal with that. The writer says: The battle in that airliner’s cockpit is a picture of the inner life of a Christian. Each day, we choose either to hijack control of our lives—plunging ourselves into sin—or to remain locked in the direct of God’s will. That’s why  WE ALL NEED TO BE in the Word EVERY morning so that we will go forth "locked into" the will of God which is found in the Word of God. And you take it a day at a time and stack ‘em up because we don’t have a whole lot of them left.

CHURCH WARS - Weapons and strategies used in church fights and quarrels.

  • Missiles = Attacking church members from long range.
  • Guerrilla tactics = Ambushing the unsuspecting. 
  • Snipers = Well-aimed criticisms.
  • Terrorism = No one is immune from being hurt.
  • Mines = Ensuring that others will fail in their efforts to serve God.
  • Espionage = Using friendships to get potentially damaging information about others.
  • Propaganda = Using gossip to spread damaging information about others.
  • Cold War = Freezing out an opponent by withdrawing or refusing to talk to him or her.
  • Nuclear Attack = Being willing to sacrifice the church if the goals of my group are not met.

James tells us the exact location of the manufacturing plants for all these weapons. The trouble is in ourselves. (Life Application Bible Commentary – James)

James 4:3  You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.

Amplified - [Or] you do ask [God for them] and yet fail to receive, because you ask with wrong purpose and evil, selfish motives. Your intention is [when you get what you desire] to spend it in sensual pleasures.

NET  James 4:3 you ask and do not receive because you ask wrongly, so you can spend it on your passions.

GNT  James 4:3 αἰτεῖτε καὶ οὐ λαμβάνετε διότι κακῶς αἰτεῖσθε, ἵνα ἐν ταῖς ἡδοναῖς ὑμῶν δαπανήσητε.

NLT  James 4:3 And even when you ask, you don't get it because your motives are all wrong-- you want only what will give you pleasure.

KJV  James 4:3 Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.

ESV  James 4:3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.

ASV  James 4:3 Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may spend it in your pleasures.

CSB  James 4:3 You ask and don't receive because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your evil desires.

NIV  James 4:3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

NKJ  James 4:3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.

NRS  James 4:3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, in order to spend what you get on your pleasures.

YLT  James 4:3 ye ask, and ye receive not, because evilly ye ask, that in your pleasures ye may spend it.

NAB  James 4:3 You ask but do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.

NJB  James 4:3 when you do pray and do not receive, it is because you prayed wrongly, wanting to indulge your passions.

GWN  James 4:3 When you pray for things, you don't get them because you want them for the wrong reason-for your own pleasure.

BBE  James 4:3 You make your request but you do not get it, because your request has been wrongly made, desiring the thing only so that you may make use of it for your pleasure.

  • and do not receive: Jas 1:6,7 Job 27:8-10 35:12 Ps 18:41 66:18,19 Pr 1:28 15:8 Pr 21:13,27 Isa 1:15,16 Jer 11:11,14 14:12 Mic 3:4 Zec 7:13 Mt 20:22 Mk 10:38 1Jn 3:22 5:14 
  • so that you may spend it : Lu 15:13,30 16:1,2 
  • on your pleasures Jas 4:1 
  • James 4 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries


In this section James highlights three common problems in prayer - don't ask, ask for wrong things, ask for wrong reason. 

You ask and do not receive because you ask with wrong motives - Amplified = "[Or] you do ask [God for them] and yet fail to receive, because you ask with wrong purpose and evil, selfish motives." NLT = "And even when you ask, you don't get it because your motives are all wrong."  Ask is in the middle voice meaning "you ask for yourselves." In context James is describing selfish prayers, self-centered requests. Little wonder such prayers go unanswered (or answered with a divine "no").  

One trap we've all fallen into is to seek God's approval for something we have already planned to do. We just want His divine seal of approval. Little wonder we do not receive! 

Don Anderson - What he’s saying in essence, God is not in the business of just filling your agenda as you come to Him with all your requests. And selfish requests that are outside of the will of God are going to get a no. And what he’s saying here is that when you pray selfishly, in the flesh rather than prompted by the Spirit so that you know the desires of God even before you make requests....The big question comes, every time you pray do you say “Thy will be done” and you really mean it? Or are you saying “My desires be satisfied”? That will tell you whether your prayer is going to get out of the rafters or not. If in fact you really want His will and you’re agonizing over knowing it, then it will be revealed. But if you are yielding to your passions and you’re praying from the flesh, then you’ve got to say “My desires be satisfied.” (Notes)

What is the answer for unanswered prayers. The answer is given by John and in short calls for praying in the will of God

This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will (HIS WILL IS BEST DISCERNED IN HIS WORD - SO PRAYING HIS WORD IS ALWAYS "SAFE" AND EFFICACIOUS! ALSO BE SURE TO Pray in the Spirit), He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him.  (1 John 5:14-15+)

Comment - A wise father or mother will not give a little child something harmful just because he begs for it. When we pray for things which God knows will harm us, He purposely, out of love, withholds them. Why not thank Him that He never permits His children to make Him chargeable for their own lustful pleasures? We earthly parents are sometimes guilty of so injuring our children, but God never!...I am sure we shall be eternally thankful in heaven for our unanswered prayers, but while we pass through this earthly experience, let us not pervert the true Biblical practice of prayer by asking for those things that pander to our fleshly desires. When a Christian learns the Biblical rules of prayer, he will not unwittingly abuse its privileges nor belabor the ears of God. When we ask according to His will, we ask unselfishly in moderation for His glory (cf 1 Cor 10:31). (Strauss)

Guzik - After dealing with the problem of no prayer, now James addressed the problem of selfish prayer. These ones, when they did ask, they asked God with purely selfish motives. We must remember that the purpose of prayer is not to persuade a reluctant God to do our bidding. The purpose of prayer is to align our will with His, and in partnership with Him, to ask Him to accomplish His will on this earth (Matthew 6:10)....Destructive desires persist, even if we pray, because our prayers may be self-centered and self-indulgent.  (James 4 Commentary)

Peter H. Davids - This is not the trusting child asking for a meal, but the greedy child asking for the best piece or the spoiled child demanding his or her own way.

Spurgeon on asking with wrong motives -  When a man so prays he asks God to be his servant, and gratify his desires; nay, worse than that, he wants God to join him in the service of his lusts. He will gratify his lusts, and God shall come and help him to do it. Such prayer is blasphemous, but a large quantity of it is offered, and it must be one of the most God-provoking things that heaven ever beholds.

Barton - Sometimes we actually do get just what we wanted, only to discover that we still do not have what we really needed—the deep contentment that only comes when we are right with God. Trusted alone, our desires will only lead us to the things of this earth and not to the things of God. (Ibid)

So that (hina) is a purpose clause and always begs the question "What is the purpose?"

You may spend it on your pleasures - The idea of spend in context is our English word "squander" which means to to spend thoughtlessly, foolishly, extravagantly; to throw away or waste in a reckless manner. Clearly God does not not respond positively to prayers that have one's own pleasures as as one's chief goal.

Spend (1159)(dapanao from dapane = expense, cost; BDAG says it is from dapto = devour, of wild beasts) means to spend freely. It is notable that this same verb is used to describe the Prodigal Son who "had spent everything." (Lk 15:14+). James is saying when they pray with this selfish motive, even if God answered, they would be like the prodigal, squandering their inheritance on self and/or selfish interests. 

Pleasures(2237) see preceding discussion of hedone

Strauss sums up this first section - Would you live at peace with God, with yourself, and with your brethren in Christ? If you would, ask God not for what you want but only for those things He wants you to have; not for what you want to do, but for enablement to do that which He would have you do.

He whose main pursuit is pleasure will never attain to righteousness. - Walter J. Chantry

Barton - Prayers are not automatically answered with a yes from God. Although God gives many promises about the power of prayer (see Matthew 7:7-11; 17:20; Mark 11:23-24; Luke 18:1-8; John 14:13-14), these promises hinge upon the attitude of the person praying—how in tune he or she is with God. True prayer must express dependence on God. Especially when we are praying for ourselves, our attitude must be "Your will be done." A selfish person cannot say that to God. (Life Application Bible Commentary – James)

James 4:1-3 THE WAR WITHIN - Theodore Epp

James was well aware of the fact that conflict among believers comes from the personal war that goes on within each person.

This conflict within the believer is also referred to in Romans 7:23+: "But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members." Also, Peter warned, "Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul" (1 Pet 2:11+).

James's reference to killing was not necessarily referring to taking a person's life but to destroying someone's character. Previously, James dealt with the viciousness of the tongue. When the tongue is out of control, it can be a lethal weapon used for character assassination. These are sobering words from the Bible, and today more than ever we need to carefully examine our lives. Much bitterness is displayed not only among the unbelieving world but also among those who call themselves Christians. Sometimes, in the name of Christ and in a desire to be separate from sin, Christians commit sin by bitterly attacking fellow believers. We are to take a stand against sin, but we must guard our hearts so that the old nature does not take over, allowing the bitterness of hatred to grip us. Even though we may totally disagree with what another person is doing, we are still commanded as believers to seek that person's highest good.

"He that hideth hatred with lying lips, and he that uttereth a slander, is a fool" (Pr 10:18).

James 4:4  You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

Amplified  You [are like] unfaithful wives [having illicit love affairs with the world and breaking your marriage vow to God]! Do you not know that being the world's friend is being God's enemy? So whoever chooses to be a friend of the world takes his stand as an enemy of God.

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James 4:4-7 DON'T COURT THE WORLD - Theodore Epp

Consider the accusation of James concerning the illicit love affair with the world as stated in the following paraphrase: "You [are like] unfaithful wives [having illicit love affairs with the world and breaking your marriage vow to God]! Do you not know that being the world's friend is being God's enemy? So whoever chooses to be a friend of the world takes his stand as an enemy of God."(James 4:4, Amplified Bible).
Being a friend of the world indicates that the person agrees with the values of the world system. The Old Testament Prophet Amos asked, "Can two walk together, except they be agreed?" (Amos 3:3).
The believer who is able to be in agreement with this evil world system is woefully out of fellowship with Almighty God, who saved him from the penalty and power of sin.
If a person has a consistently worldly life-style, it is a clear signal that he has never trusted Jesus Christ as his personal Saviour.
On the other hand, there are believers who are out of fellowship with the Lord and who are worldly for a time. Perhaps this is because many want Christ as Saviour but not as Lord.
They want the assurance and peace of knowing that they are saved from eternal condemnation, but they also want to live to please themselves rather than letting Christ be the Master of their lives.
"Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him" (1 John 2:15).

James 4:5  Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: "He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us"?

Amplified   Or do you suppose that the Scripture is speaking to no purpose that says, The Spirit Whom He has caused to dwell in us yearns over us and He yearns for the Spirit [to be welcome] with a jealous love?

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James 4:6  But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, "GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE."

Amplified    But He gives us more and more grace (power of the Holy Spirit, to meet this evil tendency and all others fully). That is why He says, God sets Himself against the proud and haughty, but gives grace [continually] to the lowly (those who are humble enough to receive it).

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James 4:7  Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.

Amplified    So be subject to God. Resist the devil [stand firm against him], and he will flee from you.

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James 4:8  Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

Amplified  Come close to God and He will come close to you. [Recognize that you are] sinners, get your soiled hands clean; [realize that you have been disloyal] wavering individuals with divided interests, and purify your hearts [of your spiritual adultery].

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James 4:8-12 YOU GET NEARER BY GETTING LOWER - Theodore Epp

Concerning James's command to "draw nigh to God" (James 4:8), we must remember that it takes time to be holy.
Although our position in Christ at the moment of salvation provides an absolute holiness, as we live the Christian life from day to day, it takes time to apply the principles that result in holy living.
But as we move toward God, we can count on God's moving toward us. However, we must remember that our moving is the result of His indwelling power (see Phil. 2:12,13).
James said, "Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you" (James 4:8). He added, "Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded" (v. 8).
This injunction to cleanse oneself is most likely a reference to believers who have fallen into worldliness. God will not work through dirty hands that are contaminated by the value system and sins of the world.
Hebrews 10:22 tells us, "Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water."
The lesson for each believer is to humble himself, not to wait for the Lord to humble him. True humility is to comprehend our own utter unworthiness apart from Christ.
Of course, seeing ourselves as we really are is also impossible apart from the grace of God. As we appropriate all the grace that God has bestowed upon us, we will become humble before Him.
"By humility and the fear of the Lord are riches, and honour, and life" (Prov. 22:4).

James 4:9  Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom.

Amplified    [As you draw near to God] be deeply penitent and grieve, even weep [over your disloyalty]. Let your laughter be turned to grief and your mirth to dejection and heartfelt shame [for your sins].

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James 4:10  Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.

Amplified   Humble yourselves [feeling very insignificant] in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you [He will lift you up and make your lives significant].

The true way to be humble is not to stoop until you are smaller than yourself, but to stand at your real height against some higher nature that will show you what the real smallness of your greatness is. 

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James 4:11  Do not speak against one another, brethren. He who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks against the law and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge of it.

Amplified  [My] brethren, do not speak evil about or accuse one another. He that maligns a brother or judges his brother is maligning and criticizing the Law and judging the Law. But if you judge the Law, you are not a practicer of the Law but a censor and judge [of it].

GNT  James 4:11 Μὴ καταλαλεῖτε ἀλλήλων, ἀδελφοί. ὁ καταλαλῶν ἀδελφοῦ ἢ κρίνων τὸν ἀδελφὸν αὐτοῦ καταλαλεῖ νόμου καὶ κρίνει νόμον· εἰ δὲ νόμον κρίνεις, οὐκ εἶ ποιητὴς νόμου ἀλλὰ κριτής.

NLT  James 4:11 Don't speak evil against each other, dear brothers and sisters. If you criticize and judge each other, then you are criticizing and judging God's law. But your job is to obey the law, not to judge whether it applies to you.

KJV  James 4:11 Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law: but if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge.

ESV  James 4:11 Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge.

ASV  James 4:11 Speak not one against another, brethren. He that speaketh against a brother, or judgeth his brother, speaketh against the law, and judgeth the law: but if thou judgest the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge.

CSB  James 4:11 Don't criticize one another, brothers. He who criticizes a brother or judges his brother criticizes the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge.

NIV  James 4:11 Brothers, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it.

NKJ  James 4:11 Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge.

NRS  James 4:11 Do not speak evil against one another, brothers and sisters. Whoever speaks evil against another or judges another, speaks evil against the law and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge.

YLT  James 4:11 Speak not one against another, brethren; he who is speaking against a brother, and is judging his brother, doth speak against law, and doth judge law, and if law thou dost judge, thou art not a doer of law but a judge;

NAB  James 4:11 Do not speak evil of one another, brothers. Whoever speaks evil of a brother or judges his brother speaks evil of the law and judges the law. If you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge.

NJB  James 4:11 Brothers, do not slander one another. Anyone who slanders a brother, or condemns one, is speaking against the Law and condemning the Law. But if you condemn the Law, you have ceased to be subject to it and become a judge over it.

GWN  James 4:11 Brothers and sisters, stop slandering each other. Those who slander and judge other believers slander and judge God's teachings. If you judge God's teachings, you are no longer following them. Instead, you are judging them.

BBE  James 4:11 Do not say evil against one another, my brothers. He who says evil against his brother or makes himself his brother's judge, says evil against the law and is judging the law: and in judging the law you become, not a doer of the law but a judge.

  • Do not speak against one another: Ps 140:11 Eph 4:31 1Ti 3:11 2Ti 3:3 Tit 2:3 1Pe 2:1 
  • He who speaks against a brother or judges his brother: Mt 7:1,2 Lu 6:37 Ro 2:1 14:3,4,10-12 1Co 4:5 
  • speaks against the law: Ro 7:7,12,13 
  • you are not a doer of the law but a judge of it: Jas 1:22,23,25 Ro 2:13 
  • James 4:11-12 The Sin of Judging Others - Steven Cole - read this sermon especially the 7 ways we judge wrongly - excellent!
  • James 4 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries


James has dealt with the problem of the tongue in James 3:1-12+ but not returns to address a specific problem associated with the tongue. In addition, in the immediate context James has commanded his readers to manifest an attitude of humility, hardly possible when one is speaking against another brother! If we are right with God (humble), it will show by being right with people. James is saying they were not right with other people. In fact in a sense one is "exalting" himself over the other brother and in effect putting himself in the position of God, Who alone is the Judge (Jas 4:12). 

James' warning command in this passage recalls what he had just addressed in James 4:1 regarding "quarrels and conflicts" in their midst. Another problem with church wars is that the lost world watches saying in effect "O, how they hate each other," which is a far cry from Jesus' prayer in Jn 17:21 "that they (BELIEVERS) may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that (PURPOSE OF THE BEAUTIFUL ONENESS IN BELIEVERS) the world may believe that You sent Me." 

POSB notes that "God hates all sin, but there are a few sins that are constantly and strongly condemned by Scripture. Judging others—condemning, criticizing, backbiting, gossiping, speaking evil, and talking about others—is one of the sins that Scripture never lets up on. Judging others is severely condemned....All of us are really guilty of the terrible sin of evil speaking against other persons, but the temptation strikes at the gifted more often." (The Preacher's Outline & Sermon Bible – Hebrew, James)

Speaking against another is an "old" sin and even Moses' own brother and sister, Aaron and Miriam, spoke against him for marrying a Cushite woman (see Nu 12:1-8, note Moses' character in Nu 12:3!). And again in Numbers we find the people of Israel speaking against God and Moses by complaining about their conditions in the wilderness (Nu 21:5)! Job’s friends spoke against Job (not in the classic sense of slander which is speaking bad when one is not present), insulting, tormenting and crushing him to his face with their malicious words (Job 19:1-3).

Swindoll bluntly says that "James is suggesting that Christians who “speak against” their brothers or sisters in Christ include themselves in that biblical register of rebellious mumblers, moaning grumblers, deceitful slanderers, crushing insulters, and wicked slanderers. Not exactly the best company! Let me show you how this game works. You speak against the other person in the ears of the hearer, hoping to lower their estimate of the person—and in the process you hope to make yourself look all the better. Of course, you have to cover up your malicious intent with creative sentimentality. So, you begin your statements with “Now, stop me if I’m wrong, but . . .” or, “Now, I don’t mean to be critical, but . . .” or, “Perhaps I shouldn’t say this about him or her, but . . .” or even, “I really like so-and-so as a person, but . . ."(Swindoll's Living Insights New Testament Commentary – James, 1 & 2 Peter)

Steven Cole - YOU JUDGE SOMEONE WRONGLY WHEN YOU CRITICIZE HIM OUT OF JEALOUSY, BITTERNESS, SELFISH AMBITION, OR SOME OTHER SIN, RATHER THAN SEEKING TO BUILD HIM IN CHRIST. In other words, your motive is crucial!....Slander, which means maligning someone or damaging his reputation by sharing false or deliberately misleading information, is always sin. But the word that James uses has a broader meaning that includes any form of criticism or running someone down from selfish motives. In other words, what you are saying may be true, but the reason you’re sharing it is to make yourself look good and to put the other person in a bad light. If your motive in criticizing someone is jealousy, selfish ambition, rivalry, pride, or hatred, you are judging wrongly. (The Sin of Judging Others)

Do not speak against one another, brethren - James issues a command for them to cease slandering and speaking evil of one another. And here he clearly identifies this group as brethren indicating he is speaking to the members of the church. He is saying cease censorious speech! The command is in the present imperative with a negative which means stop doing this (or don't let it begin). And remember one much rely on the Holy Spirit to obey the NT commands. Our flesh slanders, but the Spirit enables us to speak well of our brothers and sisters. The upshot? Be filled continually with the Spirit (Eph 5:18+), for then you are supernaturally enabled to speak "to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs." (Eph 5:19+),

ESV Study note - James restates the basic problem behind the issues discussed in James 3:1-4:10: the misuse of the tongue to speak evil or to slander others. Speaking ill of others is the result of all the arrogant boasting (James 3:5+), jealousy (James 3:14, 16+), self-centered desires (James 4:1, 3), and pride (James 4:6) that James is warning against. Such slanderous conduct is decried in both the OT (Lev. 19:16; Ps. 50:20; Jer. 6:28) and NT (Ro 1:30; 2 Cor. 12:20; 1 Pe 2:1). (ESV Study Bible)

Andrew Bennett explains that "One of the problems with James’s audience was an inner conflict within individuals that spilled over into external conflicts with fellow believers. We saw in James 4:1–5 that this was due to a love for the world and the things of this world. One of the ways this manifested itself was in a hyper-critical or judgmental spirit. There are many ways in which someone call speak evil against another: slander, gossip, etc. These believers were leveling false accusations against one another. James’s solution is simple: stop it! But more than that, they needed to recognize why they should stop. (James 4:6-12)

James is like Hamlet who warned Ophelia, "Be thou as chaste as ice, as pure as snow, thou shalt not escape calumny [a false accusation of an offense or a malicious misrepresentation of someone's words or actions]" (Shakespeare, Hamlet, act 3, scene 1).

Do not speak against(2635)(katalaleo from katá = against, down + laleo = to speak; see katalalia) means literally to speak down or against and so to speak evil against (usually when they are not present). A modern phrase is "to tear someone to pieces" (verbally speaking)! To criticize, backbite (talk maliciously about someone who is not present), gossip, censor, condemn, and grumble against another person. It means to expose to shame or blame by means of falsehood, misrepresentation or evil speaking. Katalaleo refers to the act of defaming or slandering another person, in this case a brother or sister in Christ, speaking evil or malicious words intended to damage or destroy their reputation! The greatest slanderer of course is the Devil (false accuser, slanderer) also called Satan (means adversary), the one who continually opposes God’s people, slandering them and accusing them before God. This is another reason we must continually put on the full armor of God, especially (Eph 6:16+) "taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one," especially flaming arrows designed to tempt us to speak evil of our brethren!

THOUGHT - Bottom line is the Spirit forbids any speech that runs down another person created in the image of God. How have you done today?

"Most people think it is okay to convey negative information if it is true. We understand that lying is immoral. But is passing along damaging truth immoral? It seems almost a moral responsibility! By such reasoning, criticism behind another's back is thought to be all right as long as it is true. Likewise, denigrating gossip (of course it is never called gossip!) is okay if the information is true. Thus many believers use truth as a license to righteously diminish others' reputations." (R Kent Hughes)

The only other uses of katalaleo are by Peter, describing slander of believers by unbelievers...

1 Peter 2:12+ Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation.

1 Peter 3:16+  and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame.

William Barclay on slander - It is the psalmist's accusation against the wicked: 'You sit and speak against your kin; you slander your own mother's child' (Psalm 50:20). The psalmist hears God saying: 'One who secretly slanders a neighbour I will destroy' (Psalm 101:5). Paul lists it among the sins which are characteristic of the unredeemed evil of the non-Christian world (Romans 1:30), and it is one of the sins which he fears he will find in the warring church of Corinth (2 Corinthians 12:20). It is significant to note that, in both these passages, slander comes in immediate connection with gossip. Katalalia is the sin of those who meet in corners and gather in little groups and pass on confidential titbits of information which destroy the good name of those who are not there to defend themselves. The same sin is condemned by Peter (1 Peter 2:1).This is a much-needed warning. People are slow to realize that there are few sins which the Bible so unsparingly condemns as the sin of irresponsible and malicious gossip. There are few activities in which the average person finds more delight than this; to tell and to listen to the slanderous story - especially about some famous person - is for most people a fascinating activity. We do well to remember what God thinks of it.

John Phillips - Sins of the tongue! How terrible are sins of the tongue! Sins of the tongue can kill a person as surely as the sword. So David Livingstone discovered. His wife died a premature death, thanks to the backbiting tongues of some people in the white settlements of Africa. No wonder James waxes so eloquent when it comes to sins of the tongue! (Exploring the Epistle of James: An Expository Commentary)

My from a = denotes unity + delphus = a womb) means brother or near kinsman. Adelphós generally denotes a fellowship of life based on identity of origin, e.g., members of the same family, specifically referring to believers. Recall the Jewishness of his audience in James 1:1+ "To the twelve tribes who are dispersed abroad." So again James again appeals to them as those who are genuine believers.

Adelphos in James -

Jas. 1:2; Jas. 1:9; Jas. 1:16; Jas. 1:19; Jas. 2:1; Jas. 2:5; Jas. 2:14; Jas. 2:15; Jas. 3:1; Jas. 3:10; Jas. 3:12; Jas. 4:11; Jas. 5:7; Jas. 5:9; Jas. 5:10; Jas. 5:12; Jas. 5:19; 

Notice that the sin of slander keeps close company with the sin of judging others! In effect the one slandered is then condemned (presumably for that which he was slandered!) Paul had strong words for this attitude/action in Romans writing 

Therefore you have no excuse, everyone of you who passes judgment, for in that which you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things....But do you suppose this, O man, when you pass judgment on those who practice such things and do the same yourself, that you will escape the judgment of God?  (Ro 2:1, 3+) 

Paul alluded to a similar sin in his letter to the believers in Galatia...

But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.  (Gal 5:15+)

Comment: Then Paul gave the solution for biting and devouring one another = Galatians 5:16+ "Walk (continually - present imperative) by the Spirit."

He who speaks against (katalaleo) a brother or judges his brother, speaks against the law and judges the law - Amplified = " He that maligns a brother or judges his brother is maligning and criticizing the Law and judging the Law." NLT = "If you criticize and judge each other, then you are criticizing and judging God's law." In short James says, when we speak against others or judge them (pronounce condemnation upon them), we are guilty of sin because we have broken God's law, we are out of His will! And we in effect put ourselves in the place of the law (which judges) and so in a sense we act as a judge of the law (see God's warning in Ps 101:5)!

Phillips - The person who judges another brother or sister in Christ sets himself up as a substitute for the law itself. More than that, he actually becomes a critic of the law. The function of the Word of God is to monitor our lives and the lives of others. It is the work of the Spirit of God to apply the Word of God to the consciences of the people of God. That is not our work but God's work.


Don Anderson adds explains "for if I can run him down, it puts me in a better light because I don' do those things." The criticizer is passing judgment without knowing or wanting to know the truth. The one who is criticizing is also acting apart from humility because he feels he is taking God's place and judgment. So often the most critical are the most guilty. Tn the act of criticizing, we are breaking the LAW of LOVE that James has mentioned in James 2:8+. (Notes)

POSB says "When we criticize a brother or sister in Christ, we are slandering one of God's own children. Just think; we are actually slandering a son or daughter of God. This alone should keep us from speaking evil of our brothers in Christ." (Ibid)

THOUGHT- There are several reasons why people tend to judge and criticize.
1)  Criticism boosts our own self-image. Pointing out someone else's failure and tearing him down makes us seem a little bit better, at least in our own eyes. It adds to our own pride, ego, and self-image.
2)  Criticism is simply enjoyed. There is a tendency in human nature to take pleasure in hearing and sharing bad news and shortcomings about others.
3)  Criticism makes us feel that our own lives (morality and behavior) are better than the person who failed.
4)  Criticism helps us justify the decisions we have made and the things we have done throughout our lives. We rationalize our decisions and acts by pointing out the failure of others.
5)  Criticism points out to our friends how strong we are. Criticism gives good feelings because our rigid beliefs and strong lives are proven again. Proven how? By our brother's failure.
6)  Criticism is an outlet for hurt and revenge. We feel he deserves it. Subconsciously, if not consciously, we think, "He hurt me so he deserves to hurt, too." So we criticize the person who failed. (Ibid)

Why does the one who speaks against a brother speak against the law? The Law says "‘You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the LORD." (Lev 19:18+) When you are speaking against or judging your brother, you are speaking against and judging the truth written in the law (Lev 19:18+). Similarly, you are speaking against and judging the "royal law" to "love your neighbor as yourself." (James 2:8+) Just try loving your neighbor while you are speaking against them! Slander is passing judgment and that is God's purview not ours as he goes on to say in the next passage "There is only one Lawgiver and Judge." Only God is the perfect Judge. All of our judgments are tinged with our flesh and are therefore imperfect at best and sometimes are outright sin against the one we judge! Bewarewhen you are tempted to speak against or judge a brother or sister in Christ! 

Slander slays three persons:
the speaker, the spoken to, and the spoken of. 

Alexander Ross explains that "such censoriousness in speech leads to one of the worst forms of pride; the man who is guilty of it does not merely criticise his brother but really criticises the Law of God, that is, no doubt chiefly the Royal Law of love (James 2:8+). That kind of thing lands us in moral chaos. It is one of the fundamental axioms of the spiritual life that there is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy (cf. Matt. 10:28) and the thought of His august majesty and illimitable power ought to restrain the promptings of human pride. (The Epistles of James and John) 

Warren Wiersbe offers an antidote for a critical, censorious spirit in the church - Christians are to speak "the truth in love" (Eph. 4:15+); they are not to speak evil in a spirit of rivalry and criticism. If the truth about a brother is harmful, then we should cover it in love and not repeat it (1 Peter 4:8+). If he has sinned, we should go to him personally and try to win him back (Matt. 18:15-19; Gal. 6:1-2+).

To criticize is easy as you pass along life's road.
It is easy to condemn and sneer when another bears the load.

But if you know an easier way, lend a helping hand.
Do not let a worker sweat while you criticize and stand.

To criticize is easy as you pass along life's road
but a better and a nobler way is to help to bear the load.

Ridenour - Be genuine, be acceptant, be understanding. These three simple rules were practiced and lived by the same Person Who, one day, will judge us all. The best cue for criticism and judging others is to remember each of us will stand personally before the Judgment Seat of Christ. Each of us will give account of himself to God. (How to Be A Christian Without Being Religious)

Judges (2919) (krino English - critic, critical) basically means to divide out or separate off and thus means  to decide between in the sense of considering two or more things and reaching a decision, specifically in this context passing an adverse sentence on a brother. James is not saying do not show discernment in the church (cf Mt 7:15, 16+ which takes discernment), but just don't take God's place in passing judgment. As Jesus says below, we are to do a "speck check" before we a "saint critique!" Remember the inherent dangers in judging a brother - we cannot see their heart motive (only God can) and we do not have all the facts in the case to make a just and accurate judgment (only God does). 

Steven Cole illustrates - Years ago in another church I had a secretary who was often abrasive in the way she dealt with people. She needed to grow in that area, but many of us would criticize her behind her back rather than help her. One day I asked her to type a story about a little girl whose father suddenly told her that he was leaving her mother. He promised his daughter that she could visit him often. But he walked out of that room and she never saw him again. My secretary told me, “That’s exactly what happened to me.” I sat down and listened to her story, and after that I was much more patient with her shortcomings. I wasn’t as judgmental toward her because I now knew more of the facts about her past. (Sermon)

Hughes sums it up that "What the Scriptures forbid is judgmentalism, a critical and censorious spirit that judges everyone and everything, seeking to run others down." (Preaching the Word – James: Faith That Works)

James echoes Jesus' teaching in the Sermon on the Mount...

Do not judge (present imperative with a negative) so that you will not be judged. 2 “For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. 3 “Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 “Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? 5 “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. (Mt 7:1-5+)

Comment - Jesus is clearly not saying we should NEVER judge, but when we do judge we need to avoid doing so without a Pharisaical better-than-thou, legalistic attitude! (cf Paul's words to the church at Corinth - 1 Cor 5:12-13) Perhaps a better word for what Jesus affirms is right (righteous) discernment as He called for in John 7:24 "Do not judge (present imperative with a negative) according to appearance, but judge (present imperative which calls for one to be Spirit filled and Spirit led to obey Jesus' commands) with righteous judgment.” 

Swindoll adds "Remember, in his own letter James confronts fellow Christians about their sins. But there’s a difference between confrontation for the purpose of building up and condemnation for the purpose of tearing down." (Swindoll's Living Insights New Testament Commentary – James, 1 & 2 Peter)

In Luke Jesus commands not to judge and gives a warning against judging

Do not judge (present imperative with a negative), and you will not be judged; and do not condemn (present imperative with a negative), and you will not be condemned; pardon (present imperative), and you will be pardoned. (Lk 6:37+)

Related Resource: 

But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge of it - In other words what you do when you judge others you are judging the law and in essence have excused yourself from accountability to God. You have made yourself a judge of what is right or wrong, instead of obeying God and doing what is right. 

Douglas Moo - Such a person, becomes a judge of the law and sits himself 'outside' and 'above' the law. Thus the law is not kept but is 'disdained.' (The Letters of James - Pillar Commentary)

Chris Benfield - That is powerful when we consider the depth of what James reveals. Judgmental attitudes convey that we know what is best for others, regarding how they should behave and respond to the Word, and whether we realize it or not, convey that we have the right to judge the Word of God, determining what is acceptable and what isn’t. Keep that in mind the next time you want to offer a judgmental word to another! (James 4:11-17 What is Your Life?)

Gregg Allen says "When we determine to speak against a brother or judge a brother in this way, we are, in essence, telling God that His laws aren't sufficient enough. We are presuming to know how to modify God's for living and make them even better! We are actually claiming have a better standard of judging people than God does!! And when we judge our brother, we are sitting in judgment of God's law. And when we willfully sit in judgment of God's law, we are not, ourselves, doing it and are arrogantly unsubmitted to it (James 1:22+)." (Sermon)

Hughes sums it up by noting that James' "argument here is meant to deliver us from mind games which tell us it's okay to be judgmental because we are so spiritually sensitive and insightful, or because we have the Kingdom's good as the motivation behind our judgments. God says this is stupid arrogance of cosmic dimensions. Perhaps we should have been on Sinai with Moses!" (Preaching the Word – James: Faith That Works)

A little seed lay on the ground
and soon began to sprout.
Now which of all the flowers around, it mused,
shall I come out?

The lily's face is fair and proud,
but just a trifle cold.
The rose, I think, is rather loud
and then, its fashion's old.

The violet is all very well,
but not a flower I'd choose,
nor yet the Canterbury bell,
I'd never cared for blues.

And so it criticized each flower,
this supercilious seed,
until it woke one summer hour
and found itself a weed. (
source unknown)

STEVEN COLE - I once served on a jury for a drunk driving case. The defendant had a blood alcohol level twice the legal limit. The judge carefully instructed us that our job was to determine if this woman had, in fact, broken the law. I naively thought that the case was a slam-dunk. We shouldn’t have to deliberate longer than a few minutes.

We got into the jury room and one guy piped up, “I can drink that much and drive without any problem!” Someone else chimed in with similar comments. Some ladies said how nice the young woman seemed to be. I couldn’t believe it! They were totally ignoring the judge’s instructions! After three hours of wrangling, another juror and I finally had persuaded everyone of the woman’s guilt, except for one woman. She said, “I could never vote to convict her, because the Bible says, ‘Judge not, lest you be judged.’”

It was late in the day, and I knew that if we didn’t convict her, we’d all have to come back the next day. So I said, “None of us wants to come back tomorrow. We’re going to convict her, so you just keep quiet!” That’s how justice was done!

There is hardly any verse of the Bible that is more misunderstood than Jesus’ words, “Do not judge so that you will not be judged” (Matt. 7:1). And there is hardly any verse that is more frequently disobeyed among Christians than that verse! For years I have had it on my prayer list for myself, yet I have disobeyed it many times. I’m sure that I’m not an exception. Also, keep in mind that it is a sin to judge another person in your heart, even if you keep your thoughts to yourself. Judgmental words eventually will flow out of a judgmental heart, but the sin begins in the heart. It is a manifestation of pride; we think that we’re better than others are. (The Sin of Judging Others)

Christians Don't Slander
I was in Japan with a friend since gone to be with the Lord. We were walking down the street in Yokohama, in conversation. The name of a mutual friend came up, and I said something unkind about that person—a sarcastic, nasty put-down. My older friend stopped, turned, and faced me until his face was nearly touching my own. With slow, deliberate words he said, "Gordon, a man who says he loves God wouldn't talk like that about a friend." He could have put a knife into my ribs; the pain wouldn't have been any less. I hurt because he had me. He'd done what a prophet does. But I bet there've been ten thousand times in the last 20 years I've been saved from making a jerk of myself. Whenever I've been tempted to say something unkind about a brother or sister, I hear my friend's voice once again, saying, "Gordon, a man who says he loves God wouldn't talk like that about a friend." 


  • Slander, like coal, will either dirty your hand or burn it. Anon.
  • Slanders are the devil’s bellows to blow up contention. Anon.
  • Slander is almost invariably verbal coward ice. John Blanchard
  • The surest method against slander is to live it down by perseverance in welldoing. Hermann Boerhaave
  • No one should say behind a man’s back what he dare not, or would not, say to his face. William Booth
  • No greater injury can be inflicted upon men than to wound their reputation. John Calvin
  • Slander is best answered with silence. Ben Johnson
  • Slander has a marvellous way of driving us into the arms of our heavenly Father. Stuart Olyott
  • Lies and false reports are among Satan’s choicest weapons. J. C. Ryle
  • Slander is a vice that strikes a double blow, wounding both him that commits and him against whom it is committed. Jacques Sauin
  • Whispered insinuations are the rhetoric of the devil. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
  • A gossip’s mouth is the devil’s mailbag. Anon.
  • A gossip usually makes a mountain out of a molehill by adding some dirt. Anon.
  • Gossip is halitosis of the brain. Anon.
  • Gossip is like mud thrown against a clean wall; it may not stick, but it leaves a mark. Anon.
  • Gossip is something that goes in the ear and comes out of the mouth greatly enlarged. Anon.
  • Gossip is the art of confessing other people’s sins. Anon.
  • No one can have a gossiping tongue unless he has gossiping ears. Anon.
  • Whoever gossips to you will gossip of you. Anon.
  • Gossip is what no one claims to like but what everybody enjoys. Joseph Conrad
  • A lie has no leg, but a scandal has wings. Thomas Fuller
  • There would not be so many open mouths if there were not so many open ears. Joseph Hall
  • Gossip is the lack of a worthy theme. Elbert Green Hubbard
  • A gossip is one who talks to you about others; a bore is one who talks to you about himself; and a brilliant conversationalist is one who talks to you about yourself. Lisa Kirk
  • Never report what may hurt another unless it be a greater hurt to conceal it. William Penn
  • I hold it to be a fact, that if all persons knew what each said of the other, there would not be four friends in the world. Blaise Pascal
  • When tempted to gossip, breathe through your nose. T. N. Tiemeyer
  • Trying to squash a rumour is like trying to unring a bell. Shana Alexander
  • A rumour is about as hard to unspread as butter. Anon.
  • Rumour is one thing that gets thicker as you spread it. Anon.
  • There’s only one thing as difficult as unscrambling an egg, and that’s unspreading a rumour. Anon.
  • It is said that ‘where there’s smoke there’s fire’; but the smoke may be no more than dust and hot air. John Blanchard
  • There is no such thing as an ‘idle rumour’. Rumours are always busy. F. G. Kernan
  • I know nothing swifter in life than the voice of rumour. Plautus
  • Believe not half you hear; repeat not half you believe; when you hear an evil report, halve it, then quarter it, and say nothing about the rest. C. H. Spurgeon
  • Rumour is a loud liar, like a snowball that gathers as it goes. John Trapp
  • The first tale is good till the second be heard. John Trapp
  • The tale-bearer is an incendiary. Thomas Watson

Answering Slander
Once a man who had been slandered by a newspaper came to Edward Everett and asked him what to do about it. "Don't do anything," Everett advised. "Half the people who bought the paper never saw the article. Half of those who saw it did not read it. Half of those who read it did not understand it. Half of those who understood it did not believe it. And half of those who believed it are of no account anyway."

"Do not speak evil of one another." - James 4:11

Slanderers slaughter reputations. Sometimes they attack with the bold strokes of a butcher. At other times they do their evil work with the finesse of a surgeon.

Satan is an expert in subtle slander. Knowing the power of a well-placed question to destroy a reputation, he simply asked, "Does Job fear God for nothing?" (Job 1:9).

Satan's question is shrewd because it evades the dangers of an outright lie. An accusation flirts with the embarrassment of being proven wrong. But no one can call you a liar or a slanderer if you merely ask a question.

A question also avoids punishment. It's difficult for someone to attack you if you have simply asked a question. It's unlikely that you can be sued or pulled into court. Yet, Satan's query savaged a good man's motives by implying that all of the good Job did was a coverup for selfishness.

When we are inclined to ask a malicious question, let's stop and remind ourselves that we will be playing the devil's game. Our tongues were not given to us to rip people apart; they were given to us to build people up. We ought to speak well of others not only to their face but also behind their back. -- H W Robinson  (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. — Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)

The tongue can be a blessing
Or the tongue can be a curse;
Say, friend, how are you using yours:
For better or for worse?

Our words have the power to build up or to tear down.

Trash Disposal

Do not speak evil of one another. —James 4:11

Today's Scripture: James 4:11-17

While riding in a car, I passed a sign that warned: $100 FINE FOR THROWING LITTER ON HIGHWAY. Soon I saw another sign that stated: LITTER BARREL—1 MILE. A short time later, I passed a garbage truck on its way to the disposal plant.

There are three things you can do with garbage: You can collect it, scatter it, or dispose of it. Some people are garbage collectors; they are always listening for some choice bit of gossip. If they were only collectors, it would not be so serious. But these collectors are often litterbugs, and insist on scattering it all along life’s highway. Thank God, there are also those who know how to dispose of it. They put the refuse where it belongs—in the “litter barrel” of forgetfulness.

James 4:11 tells us, “Do not speak evil of one another.” If you can’t say something helpful, don’t say anything. If you hear a damaging rumor, immediately put it in the “litter bag.” Then breathe a prayer for the person being talked about, as well as for the one who told you. Don’t spread gossip, but dispose of it by silence. Gossip soon dies if it is not repeated.

Today you will find plenty of garbage. You can collect it, scatter it, or dispose of it. Ask God to help you do what pleases Him and is helpful to others. By:  Mart DeHaan (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. — Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)

Reflect & Pray

Button up your lip securely
'Gainst the words that bring a tear,
But be swift with words of comfort,
Words of praise, and words of cheer.

Do your part to silence gossip—don't repeat it.

Devotional - James 4:11  “Do not slander one another”
James reminds us that one of the most difficult things for us to do is to control our tongues.  This is a point that Proverbs certainly makes as well, since it has so much to say about harmful speech.  Here James simply instructs us not to slander one another, for anyone who speaks against a brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it.  When we judge the law, we are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it.  And there is only one Lawgiver and Judge.  So who are we to judge our neighbor?
Judging other people and slandering them are twin violations of the law of love.  Slander is the willful destruction of another person’s character and reputation by speaking maliciously against or about him.  Slander often repeats gossip and insinuation in order to smear the reputation of someone else.  It is driven by the desire to have a superior position over the one slandered. The word of God prohibits this sin without qualification.
Judging another person also is a way of destroying a person’s reputation, even though in this case there may be some substance to the charge that is made.  Here the person who judges also adopts a superior, self-righteous attitude, as if he had the right to judge other people.  God is the one who judges, because he is the Lawgiver, the only one able to save and destroy.
Christians are to exhibit love and compassion for one another.   That means that the Christian is to try to safeguard the reputation and integrity of fellow believers; and if there are faults and difficulties that surface, there are procedures that love would follow which leave no room for slander or judging.  What we say about each other must be uplifting and helpful; and how we respond to one another’s weaknesses and mistakes must be with compassion and understanding. (Allen Ross)


To silence slander we must regularly examine our attitudes and actions toward others. Do we build people up or tear them down? When we are ready to criticize someone, we ought to remember God's law of love and say something good instead. Saying something beneficial to others will cure us of finding fault and increase our ability to obey God's law of love. For those immersed in a culture that thrives on criticism and slander, Jesus set a standard to guide each of us: "I tell you, forgive your brother not seven times, but seventy-seven times" (Matthew 18:22 niv). One practical approach to silencing a slandering habit is to practice making seven positive, encouraging statements for every critical one we make. (Life Application Bible Commentary – James)

Thomas Watson The evil tongue is the censorious tongue, "Who are you that judge another?" (James 4:12). Some make it a part of their religion to judge and censure others. They do not imitate their graces—but censure their failings. Such an one is a hypocrite, for this comes from pride. Were men's hearts more humble, their tongues would be more charitable. The censurer sits in the chair of pride, and passes sentence upon another, and reprobates him; this is to usurp God's prerogative, and take his work out of his hands; it is God's work to judge, not ours. He who spends his time in censuring others spends but little time in examining himself, and does not see his own faults. There is not a greater sign of hypocrisy than to be overhasty in judging and censuring persons.

The evil tongue is the slanderous tongue, "You sit and slander your own mother's son" (Psalm 50:20). Slandering is when we speak to the harm of another, and speak that which is not true. Worth and eminency are commonly blasted by slander; holiness itself is no shield from slander. "For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, 'He has a demon.' The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, 'Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.'" (Matthew 11:18-19). Come and let us smite him with the tongue! A slanderer wounds another's name—and no physician can heal these wounds! The sword does not make so deep a wound—as the tongue! The Greek word for slanderer, signifies devil. Some think it is no great matter to slander and defame another; but know, this is to act the part of a devil. The slanderer's tongue is a two-edged sword, it wounds two at once; while the slanderer wounds another in his name, he wounds himself in his conscience. This is contrary to Scripture, "Speak not evil one of another" (James 4:11). God takes this evil at our hands—to speak evil of others, especially such as are eminently holy, and help to bear up the honor of religion: "Were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?" (Numbers 12:8). What! My servant who has wrought so many miracles—whom I have spoken with in the mount face to face—were not you afraid to speak against him? So will God say, You must take heed of this—it is a sin your nature is very prone to! Remember, it is no less sin to rob another of his good name—than to steal his goods or wares out of his shop! "Brothers, do not slander one another!" James 4:11 (The Evil Tongue - see full article)

Speak not evil one of another' (James 4:11). I (Thomas Watson) have read a story of one, Idor, that he was never heard to speak evil of any man. Augustine could not endure that any should eclipse and lessen the fame of others, therefore he wrote those two verses upon his table:

"Whoever loves another's name to blast,
 This table's not for him; so let him fast."

Our own imperfections unfit us for judging fairly (J.R. Miller)

"Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the law." James 4:11 

"And why do you look at the mote in your brother's eye, but do not consider the beam in your own eye?" Matthew 7:3 

Our own imperfections unfit us for judging fairly. With beams in our own eyes — we cannot see clearly to pick motes out of our brother's eye. 

One of the qualities which make us incapable of impartial judgment of others, is envy. There are few of us who can see our neighbor's life, work, and disposition — without some warping and distortion of the picture. Envy has a strange effect on our moral vision. It shows the beautiful things in others, with the beauty dimmed. It shows the blemishes and faults in them, exaggerated. 

Then, the lack of personal experience in struggle and pain, makes many people incapable of sympathy with sorely afflicted ones. Those who have never known a care, nor felt the pinching of poverty — cannot understand the experiences of the poor.

Thus in very many ways, we are unfitted to be judges of others.

"Who are you to judge someone else's servant? To his own master he stands or falls." Romans 14:4 

"You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother?" Romans 14:10

The Fine Art Of Slander

Whoever hides hatred has lying lips, and whoever spreads slander is a fool. —Proverbs 10:18

Today's Scripture:Proverbs 6:12-19

God hates slanderers. They are scoundrels and villains with hidden hatred in their hearts and deceit in their mouths.

Some people have turned slander into a fine art. They would never use a meat cleaver to cut down another person. They are more subtle than that. They have learned to slander with a gesture, a wink, or an evil smile.

Jonathan Swift, an author who knew well the ugliness of slander, described a man who could “convey a libel in a frown, and wink a reputation down.” Robert Louis Stevenson wrote, “The cruelest lies are often told in silence.” When someone is attacked in a conversation, the listeners can join the mugging with a nod.

The book of Proverbs describes people in the ancient world who used body language to destroy others (6:12-15). They winked, motioned, or gave a shrug to work their slander, and they felt safe in their attacks. After all, it is difficult to refute a gesture or to prove evil in a wink. Their actions were subtle, yet as deadly as bullets piercing the heart.

What are your gestures saying about others? Ask the Lord of love and truth to help you guard your speech and actions. For His sake, for your own sake, and for the sake of others, do it now!  —Haddon Robinson (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. — Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)

Reflect & Pray

Today let only thoughts that bless
Dwell in my heart and mind;
Silence my lips and tongue to all
That wounds or is unkind. 

The tongue, being in a wet place, is apt to slip!

Put Out The Fire!

Read: Proverbs 26:20-28 

Where there is no wood, the fire goes out; and where there is no talebearer, strife ceases. —Proverbs 26:20

To extinguish a fire, you must remove one of the essential elements needed for combustion. For example, eliminating what is fueling the blaze is a method often employed in fighting a forest fire. A controlled backfire is started from a cleared line ahead of the advancing flames. When the two fires meet, no timber is left to burn.

The Bible tells us that for lack of wood “the fire goes out” (Prov. 26:20). This refers to extinguishing something much more devastating than the combustion of physical elements. It’s the fire of an irresponsible tongue and the resentment and pain that burn in the hearts of those who have been seared by its heat. What deep and lasting wounds the tongue can inflict on others! Families and friendships have been disrupted and individuals hurt for life because of the effects of backbiting and slander.

How necessary it is for God’s people to eliminate from their conversation all thoughtless words! This would prevent many of the fires that ruin relationships.

By yielding our tongue to the Lord Jesus, who alone can control it, we can put out the harmful fires of slander and gossip.By Mart DeHaan  (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. — Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)

How many fires have swept the land
And left an ugly scar!
But of the blazing flames that burn,
The tongue's the worst by far.

Better to bite your tongue than to have a biting tongue.

Whispering Gallery

In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise. —Proverbs 10:19

Today's Scripture:Proverbs 10:11-23

London’s domed St. Paul’s Cathedral has an interesting architectural phenomenon called the “whispering gallery.” One Web site explains it this way: “The name comes from the fact that a person who whispers facing the wall on one side can be clearly heard on the other, since the sound is carried perfectly around the vast curve of the Dome.”

In other words, you and a friend could sit on opposite sides of architect Sir Christopher Wren’s great cathedral and carry on a conversation without having to speak above a whisper.

While that may be a fascinating feature of St. Paul’s Cathedral, it can also be a warning to us. What we say about others in secret can travel just as easily as whispers travel around that gallery. And not only can our gossip travel far and wide, but it often does great harm along the way.

Perhaps this is why the Bible frequently challenges us about the ways we use words. The wise King Solomon wrote, “In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise” (Prov. 10:19).

Instead of using whispers and gossip that can cause hurt and pain while serving no good purpose, we would do better to restrain ourselves and practice silence. By:  Bill Crowder  (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. — Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)

Reflect & Pray

 Lord, help us bridle what we say
And tend our conversations,
Avoiding careless gossiping
That murders reputations.

  Gossip ends at a wise person’s ears.  

Cutting Remarks

There is one who speaks like the piercings of a sword, but the tongue of the wise promotes health. —Proverbs 12:18

Today's Scripture:Proverbs 12:17-22

The writer of Proverbs describes an unwise person as “one who speaks like the piercings of a sword” (12:18). Our tongues can be like a multi-bladed Swiss Army knife when it comes to the variety of ways that we cut and destroy each other.

Unhealthy attitudes of anger, irritation, frustration, and impatience—even disappointment, stress, guilt, and insecurity—all contribute to our damaging speech. And as we cut with our words, we wound and divide friendships and relationships. It’s no wonder that the infamous list of seven things that are an abomination to the Lord includes anyone who “sows discord among brethren” (Prov. 6:16-19).

How do we stay off that list? For starters, we need to watch what we say. Gossip and slander are out, and words that hurt instead of heal are not welcome. Boasting, lying, and all the rest of the ways we use words to hurt and divide need to be gone as well. In their place, words that extend love and the healing power of forgiveness, mercy, and truth should rule our words and relationships. After all, where would we be if Jesus hadn’t spoken words of forgiving love and grace to us?

So, put the “knife” away and use your words to help and heal. By:  Joe Stowell  (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. — Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)

Reflect & Pray

Lord, put a seal upon my lips,
Help me to guard with care
The things I say and swift repeat;
O tongue of mine, beware!

Our words have the power to build up or tear down.

Wise Words

The tongue of the wise brings healing. —Proverbs 12:18

Today's Scripture & Insight: Proverbs 10:18-21; 12:17-19

What is the strongest muscle in the human body? Some say it’s the tongue, but it’s hard to determine which muscle is the most powerful because muscles don’t work alone.

But we do know that the tongue is strong. For a small muscle, it can do a lot of damage. This active little muscular organ that helps us eat, swallow, taste, and begin digestion has a tendency to also assist us in saying things we shouldn’t. The tongue is guilty of flattery, cursing, lying, boasting, and harming others. And that’s just the short list.

It sounds like a pretty dangerous muscle, doesn’t it? But here’s the good thing: It doesn’t have to be that way. When we are controlled by the Holy Spirit, our tongues can be turned to great good. We can speak of God’s righteousness (Ps. 35:28) and justice (37:30). We can speak truth (15:2), show love (1 John 3:18), and confess sin (1 John 1:9).

The writer of Proverbs 12:18 spells out one of the best uses of the tongue: “The tongue of the wise brings healing” (niv). Imagine how we could glorify the One who made our tongues when He helps us use it to bring healing—not harm—to everyone we talk to.By:  Dave Branon (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. — Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)

Reflect & Pray

Please guard each word we say so we reflect You and Your love. Help our tongues speak words of healing and not harm.

Encourage one another and build each other up. 1 Thessalonians 5:11NIV

The Silent Pen

The fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. —James 3:18

Today's Scripture & Insight: James 3:1-12

Former US President Harry Truman had a rule: Any letters written in anger had to sit on his desk for 24 hours before they could be mailed. If at the end of that “cooling off” period, he still felt the same sentiments, he would send the letter. By the end of his life, Truman’s unmailed letters filled a large desk drawer.

How often in this age of immediate communication would even 24 minutes of wise restraint spare us embarrassment! In his epistle, James addressed a universal theme in human history when he wrote about the damage an uncontrolled tongue can bring. “No man can tame the tongue,” he wrote. “It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison” (3:8).

When we’re gossiping or speaking in anger, we find ourselves outside the lines of what God desires. Our tongues, our pens, and even our keyboards should more often fall silent with thanks in our hearts for the restraint God provides. All too often, when we speak we remind everyone of our brokenness as human beings.

When we want to surprise others with the difference Christ makes, we may need to look no further than restraining our tongue. Others can’t help but notice when we honor God with what we say—or don’t say. By:  Randy Kilgore (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. — Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)

Reflect & Pray

Help me, Lord, to use my words not to
tear down others or build up my own reputation,
but to seek the good of others first, and in so doing
to serve You and Your kingdom.

Whoever guards his mouth and tongue keeps his soul from troubles. —Proverbs 21:23

Zero Tolerance

You shall not go about as a talebearer among your people. —Leviticus 19:16

Today's Scripture: Leviticus 19:11-18

When Shayla McKnight applied for a job for an online printing company, she was surprised to learn that they had a zero-tolerance policy for gossip. The employees are encouraged to confront one another, instead of gossip about their fellow employees. If employees are caught gossiping, they are reprimanded, and if they continue, they are fired.

Long before this kind of policy was ever implemented by a company, God spoke of His own zero-tolerance policy for gossip and slander among His people (Lev. 19:16). Idle talk that foolishly or maliciously spreads rumors or facts about another person was forbidden.

Solomon said that speaking badly of others could have disastrous effects. It betrays confidence (Prov. 11:13), separates close friends (16:28; 17:9), shames and saddles you with a bad reputation (25:9-10), and perpetually fuels the embers of a quarrel (26:20-22). People rarely can undo the damage their untrue words have done to a neighbor.

Let’s ask the Lord to help us not to engage in harmful talk about others. He wants us to set a guard over our mouths so that we’ll instead speak all the good we know about everybody. By:  Marvin Williams (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. — Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)

Reflect & Pray

Many things that others say
Are not for us to tell; Help us,
Lord, to watch our tongue—
We need to guard it well.

Destroy gossip by ignoring it.

INCOMPATIBLE - A quote in Sports Illustrated magazine expresses a truth that we as people of faith sometimes neglect: "What counts most in creating a successful team is not how compatible its players are, but how they deal with incompatibility." When we don't get along with others, we are tern ted to ignore them and shove them aside.

God calls us to take a different approach: "All of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another· love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous; not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this' (1 Peter 3:8-9+). 

Oswald Chambers reminds us in My Utmost For His Highest: "In the spiritual life, beware of walking according to natural affinities. Everyone has natural affinities; some people we like and others we do not like. We must never let those likes and dislikes rule in our Christian life. If we 'walk in the light,' (1 Jn 1:7+) as God is in the light, God will give us communion with people for whom we have no natural affinity."

If is natural to have likes and dislikes. But when we seek to honor the Cord in our relationships, compassion, love humility, and kindness are the God-ordered supernatural steps in dealing with incompatibility. - David Mccasland (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. — Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)

THINKING IT OVER Do you think unity is an unattainable goal?

Read Developing The Art Of Gracious Disagreement

The way to preserve the peace of the church is to promote the unity of it.

James 4:12  There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy; but who are you who judge your neighbor?

Amplified  One only is the Lawgiver and Judge Who is able to save and to destroy [the One Who has the absolute power of life and death]. [But you] who are you that [you presume to] pass judgment on your neighbor?

NET  James 4:12 But there is only one who is lawgiver and judge– the one who is able to save and destroy. On the other hand, who are you to judge your neighbor? 

GNT  James 4:12 εἷς ἐστιν [ὁ] νομοθέτης καὶ κριτὴς ὁ δυνάμενος σῶσαι καὶ ἀπολέσαι· σὺ δὲ τίς εἶ ὁ κρίνων τὸν πλησίον;

NLT  James 4:12 God alone, who gave the law, is the Judge. He alone has the power to save or to destroy. So what right do you have to judge your neighbor?

KJV  James 4:12 There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: who art thou that judgest another?

ESV  James 4:12 There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?

ASV  James 4:12 One only is the lawgiver and judge, even he who is able to save and to destroy: but who art thou that judgest thy neighbor?

CSB  James 4:12 There is one lawgiver and judge who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?

NIV  James 4:12 There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you--who are you to judge your neighbor?

NKJ  James 4:12 There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy. Who are you to judge another?

NRS  James 4:12 There is one lawgiver and judge who is able to save and to destroy. So who, then, are you to judge your neighbor?

YLT  James 4:12 one is the lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy; thou -- who art thou that dost judge the other?

NAB  James 4:12 There is one lawgiver and judge who is able to save or to destroy. Who then are you to judge your neighbor?

NJB  James 4:12 There is only one lawgiver and he is the only judge and has the power to save or to destroy. Who are you to give a verdict on your neighbour?

GWN  James 4:12 There is only one teacher and judge. He is able to save or destroy you. So who are you to judge your neighbor?

BBE  James 4:12 There is only one judge and law-giver, even he who has the power of salvation and of destruction; but who are you to be your neighbour's judge?

  • There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, Isa 33:22 
  • the One who is able to save and to destroy: Mt 10:28 Lu 12:5 Heb 7:25 
  • who are you who judge your neighbor: 1Sa 25:10 Job 38:2 Ro 2:1 9:20 14:4,13 
  • James 4 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries


Hughes comments that "The second parallel argument takes the absurdity of a critical spirit a step higher, suggesting that a judgmental person sets himself not only above the Law, but above God."  (Preaching the Word – James: Faith That Works)

There is only one Lawgiver and Judge - God's judgment is perfect because not only did He give the Law and thus perfectly understands its intent, He alone can see the thoughts and intentions of one's heart and thereby Judge with perfect justice and righteousness. The best Supreme Court judge in American history cannot even come close to this divine standard! God is the only One Who is above the Law because He gave the Law! 

Brian Bell adds that "It is highly probable we don’t have all the information on our friend, thus we could very well be mistaken, partial, misled! Only God knows the deepest facts! (HE ADDS THAT) Playing God ignores or excuses our own failures. (James 4:12a) One of the easiest ways to hide our sins is to expose the sins of others." (Sermon)

Ronald Blue says that God is "not only authored the Law; He also administrates the Law. He serves as both the executive and judicial branches of the divine government. God is King; He institutes and declares His Law. God is Judge; He upholds and enforces His Law." (Bible Knowledge Commentary)

Lawgiver (3550)(nomothetes from nomos = law + tithemi = put, set) is used only here in the NT and means one who gives or sets the law. God is the supreme Lawgiver. So we should not speak against the law. 

Judge (2923)(krites from krino = to judge) is one who decides, the one who makes decisions based on examination and evaluation. Krites is used of of men but James uses it of God twice, here and James 5:9+ (cf Heb 12:23; 2 Ti 4:8; Acts 10:42). 

The One who is able to save and to destroy - God alone has the power to save or destroy for He alone has the absolute power of life and death. It follows that only God has the right to judge. For a creature to usurp God's right to judge is the epitome of pride (exactly what Satan attempted in Isaiah 14:13-14 with his infamous 5 "I will's"!).

THOUGHT - May the Holy Spirit recall this truth to our mind every time we are tempted to slander a brother or sister in Christ! 

Blue comments that "There is one Author of the Law, one Judge over the Law, and but one Savior from the Law's condemnation. This reminder of a truth well known by James' Jewish readers was also a rebuke to their haughty attitudes and judgmental actions."  (Bible Knowledge Commentary)

Passages describing God's absolute power over life and death...

Deuteronomy 32:39  ‘See now that I, I am He, And there is no god besides Me; It is I who put to death and give life. I have wounded and it is I who heal, And there is no one who can deliver from My hand. 

Job 5:18 “For He inflicts pain, and gives relief; He wounds, and His hands also heal. 

Psalm 68:20 God is to us a God of deliverances; And to GOD the Lord belong escapes from death

1 Samuel 2:6 "The LORD kills and makes alive; He brings down to Sheol and raises up.

Henry Morris - This is a striking statement of faith in the resurrection on the part of Hannah. At this time, no records show a dead person being revived, nor had there been any explicit revelation given as yet concerning a future bodily resurrection. Yet Hannah, like Abraham and Job, believed that God could and would do this (Genesis 22:5; Hebrews 11:17-19; Job 19:25-27).

Isaiah 43:13  “Even from eternity I am He, And there is none who can deliver out of My hand; I act and who can reverse it?”

Hosea 6:1  “Come, let us return to the LORD. For He has torn us, but He will heal us; He has wounded us, but He will bandage us. 

Matthew 10:28   “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy (apollumi) both soul and body in hell.

Luke 12:5+  “But I will warn you whom to fear: fear the One who, after He has killed, has authority to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear Him!

Hebrews 7:25+ Therefore He is able also to save (sozo) forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. 

Revelation 1:17; 18+ When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man. And He placed His right hand on me, saying, “Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, 18 and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades.

Able(present tense)(1410)(dunamai) conveys the basic meaning of that which has the inherent ability to do something or accomplish some end. Thus dunamai means to be strong enough to do or have power to save and to kill. 

Save(heal, make well or whole) (4982)(sozo) has the basic meaning of rescuing one from great peril. Additional nuances include to protect, keep alive, preserve life, deliver, heal, be made whole. Jesus said "The Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”" (Lk 19:10+)

Destroy (622)(apollumi from apo = away from or wholly + olethros = state of utter ruin <> ollumi = to destroy <> root of apollyon [Re 9:11] = destroyer) means to destroy utterly but not to cause one to cease to exist. Apollumi as it relates to men, is not the loss of being per se, but is more the loss of well-being. It means to ruin so that the person (or thing) ruined can no longer serve the use for which he (it) was designed. To render useless. The gospel promises everlasting life for the one who believes. The failure to possess this life will result in utter ruin and eternal uselessness (but not a cessation of existence).

John MacArthur adds "The sin of slander, James warns, is no trivial matter. It is brazen, reckless treason against the Sovereign lawgiver and judge of the universe. No one has expressed the seriousness of sin any more clearly than the seventeenth-century English Puritan Ralph Venning, who wrote the following sobering words in his book The Sinfulness of Sin:

The sinfulness of sin not only appears from, but consists in this, that it is contrary to God. Indeed, it is contrariety and enmity itself. Carnal men, or sinners are called by the name of enemies to God (Romans 5:8 with 10; Colossians 1:21); but the carnal mind or sin is called enmity itself (Romans 8:7). Accordingly, it and its acts are expressed by names of enmity and acts of hostility, such as, walking contrary to God (Leviticus 26:21), rebelling against God (Isaiah 1:2), rising up against him as an enemy (Micah 2:8), striving and contending with God (Isaiah 45:9), and despising God (Numbers 11:20). It makes men haters of God (Romans 1:30), resisters of God (Acts 7:51), fighters against God (Acts 5:39 and 23:9), even blasphemers of God, and in short very atheists, who say there is no God (Psalm 14:1). It goes about to ungod God, and is by some of the ancients called Deicidium, God-murder or God-killing. (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1993; 29-30)

To control the sin of slandering others we must recognize the seriousness of sinning against the supreme lawgiver and judge. (MacArthur New Testament Commentary – James)


But who are you who judge your neighbor? - Another of James' pithy, pungent, penetrating rhetorical questions! The Amplified says it well - "[But you] who are you that [you presume to] pass judgment on your neighbor?" The idea is "Who in the world do you think you are sitting in condemnation of someone?" and in so doing God turns the spotlight away from others and puts it full force on the one with a judgmental spirit! Notice that now James says not just brethren, but our neighbor, which is a word that literally means near or close by and so our "neighbor" is the person who is close or near by! We must remember even though saved, we are still infested with sin and secondly we are not omniscient, so both sin and ignorance will mar every judgment we make on other people! William Beveridge spoke of how our old sinful flesh in some way "contaminates" (so to speak) even our most holy thoughts, words and deeds (if what he says offends you, read it again and then read the glorious last line which should free you of all offense)...

I cannot pray,
except I sin;
I cannot preach,
but I sin;
I cannot administer, nor
receive the holy sacrament,
but I sin.
My very repentance needs
to be repented of;
And the tears I shed
need washing in the
blood of Christ.

THOUGHT- Far too often, Christians criticize others before we get all the facts. We observe an event, catch a few words of a conversation, or gather a handful of random facts. We then leap to conclusions and start flapping our jaws about it. The jabbering catches on and spreads, and before you know it the “gossip” becomes “news.” There’s nothing more contagious in a church, student body, business, staff, organization, or home than a negative spirit. That infection is contagious—it spreads like a cold in a kindergarten!...The principle bears repeating: only God is qualified to judge, because only He has all the facts. (Swindoll's Living Insights New Testament Commentary – James, 1 & 2 Peter)

Barton - James takes away any rights we might claim for criticizing our neighbors. Behind the critical spirit is an attitude that usurps God's authority and is full of pride. There should be no critical, harsh faultfinding in the body of Christ. Romans 14:4 says, "Who are you to judge someone else's servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand" (niv).  WHO ARE YOU, INDEED? It is the height of arrogance to judge others because the right to judge belongs only to God. So the person who judges assumes God's role. Before passing sentence on others we ought to look in the mirror of our own identity. There we will find: sin, shortcomings, guilt for the very failure we see in others,  personal need for God's grace and mercy .(Life Application Bible Commentary – James)

Neighbor (Near) (4139)(plesion from pélas = near, near to or from plesios = close by) literally means near (literal use only in Jn 4:5), quite near, nearby = position quite close to another position. Figuratively, plesion means to be near someone and thus be a neighbor. Generally, plesion refers to a fellow man, any other member of the human family. TDNT explains that "Ho plesion" is the "neighbor," the person next to one" then more generally the “fellow human being.” James used plesion in James 2:8+ "YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF."


It is helpful to examine in prayer how well we are doing at loving our neighbor as we love ourselves. We can ask God to help us examine our way. Several questions to ask are:

  • Have I given myself the benefit of the doubt, but refused it to my brother or sister?
  • Have I made excuses for my shortcomings, but remained intolerant of others?
  • Have I judged my brothers and sisters according to the letter of the law while expecting grace for myself? (Life Application Bible Commentary – James)

J R Miller - One reason why judging is wrong—is because it is putting one's self in God's place. He is the only Judge, with whom every human soul has to do. Judgment is not ours—but God's. "There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?" James 4:12. In condemning and censuring others—we are thrusting ourselves into God's place, taking His scepter into our hands, and presuming to exercise one of His sole prerogatives! (Do Not Judge)

THE TRAGIC CONSEQUENCES OF A SLANDEROUS TONGUE - They were a happy little family, living in a small town in North Dakota, even though the young mother had not been entirely well since the birth of her second baby. But each evening the neighbors were aware of a warmth in their hearts when they would see the husband and father being met at the gate by his wife and two small children. There was laughter in the evening too, and when the weather was nice father and children would romp together on the back lawn while mother looked on with happy smiles. Then one day a village gossip started a story, saying that [the father] was being unfaithful to his wife, a story entirely without foundation. But it eventually came to the ears of the young wife, and it was more than she could bear. Reason left its throne, and that night when her husband came home there was no one to meet him at the gate, no laughter in the house, no fragrant aroma coming from the kitchen—only coldness and something that chilled his heart with fear. And down in the basement he found the three of them hanging from a beam. Sick and in despair, the young mother had taken the lives of her two children, and then her own. In the days that followed, the truth of what had happened came out—a gossip's tongue, an untrue story, a terrible tragedy. (MacArthur)

Steven Cole has a good application of James 4:11-12 - What should you do if someone shares damaging or critical information about another person with you? Bill Gothard offers some helpful questions to ask. He points out that often the person with the evil report will test your spirit to detect if you’re open to hearing it. He may ask for your opinion of the person, or he may drop a negative comment about the person and watch your response. He may try to get your curiosity up by asking, “Have you heard about so-and-so?” He may pose as asking you for counsel on how to help this person, but you discover that he has no intention of helping the person. You may discover that he’s already shared the situation with many others that had no need to know.

I find that sometimes I cannot stop the person before they share the judgmental information, but I try to ask at least the first question as soon as I can. The questions are: (1) What is your reason for telling me? If the only reason I need to know is so that I can pray, I probably don’t need to know. (2) Where did you get your information? If the person will not reveal his sources, he is probably spreading rumors or unreliable information. (3) Have you gone to those directly involved to seek to restore them? (4) Have you personally checked out all the facts? If he has not gone directly to those involved and has not checked out the facts, he isn’t interested in helping. If he really needs counsel on how to do it, he will not be asking for such help from several sources. I often say, “After you’ve gone to him, let me know how it went.” This holds him accountable. (5) Can I quote you if I check this out? If someone is spreading judgmental falsehoods or half-truths, he won’t want to be quoted!

Setting yourself up as judge leads to conflict and broken relationships. Humbly submitting to God and His Word and obediently seeking to love and build up others leads to harmony and restored relationships. The next time you’re tempted to run down someone, remember James’ pointed question, “But who are you who judge your neighbor?” Judge yourself instead! (Sermon)

James 4:13  Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit."

Amplified  Come now, you who say, Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a city and spend a year there and carry on our business and make money.

NET  James 4:13 Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go into this or that town and spend a year there and do business and make a profit."

This Video Should End Steven Furtick’s Career!

James 3 Commentary

Click chart to enlarge
Chart from recommended resource Jensen's Survey of the NT - used by permission

Faith for Living

The Place of Works:
Outward Demonstration of Inner Faith
Jas 1:1-18Jas 1:19-2:13Jas 2:14-25Jas 3:1-12Jas 3:13-4:12Jas 4:13-5:12Jas 5:13-19
Trials &
Word &
Faith &







and the

and our


PART 2: The Test Marks of a Living Faith

   V.  Faith tested by its response to the Word of God (James 1:19–27)

   VI.  Faith tested by its reaction to partiality (James 2:1–13)

   VII. Faith tested by its production of works (James 2:14–26)

   VIII. Faith tested by its production of self-control (James 3:1–18)
      A. The significance of a controlled tongue (James 3:1–2)
         1.      The responsibility of the teacher (James 3:1)
         2.      The evidence of the perfect man (James 3:2)
      B. The need for control over the tongue (James 3:3–6)
         1.      The effects of a controlled tongue (James 3:3–5a)
           a.      The illustrations of proper control (James 3:3–4)
             (1)      The horse and the bridle (James 3:3)
             (2)      The ship and the rudder (James 3:4)
           b.      The application to the boasting tongue (James 3:5a)
         2.      The damage of an uncontrolled tongue (James 3:5b–6)
           a.      The illustration of vast damage (James 3:5b)
           b.      The nature of an uncontrolled tongue (James 3:6)
      C. The untamable nature of the tongue (James 3:7–8)
         1.      The ability to tame animals (James 3:7)
         2.      The inability to tame the tongue (James 3:8)
      D.The inconsistency of the tongue (James 3:9–12)
         1.      The statement of the inconsistency (James 3:9–10a)
         2.      The rebuke for the inconsistency (James 3:10b)
         3.      The condemnation from nature’s consistency (James 3:11–12)
      E. The wisdom controlling the tongue (James 3:13–18)
         1.      The challenge to the wise to show his wisdom (James 3:13)
         2.      The evidence of false wisdom in control (James 3:14–16)
           a.      The manifestation of this wisdom (James 3:14)
           b.      The character of this wisdom (James 3:15)
           c.      The outcome of this wisdom (James 3:16)
         3.      The evidence of the true wisdom in control (James 3:17–18)
           a.      The characteristics of this wisdom (James 3:17)
           b.      The fruit of this wisdom (James 3:18)
                   (Hiebert - James Commentary)

James 3:1 Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment.

Amplified   my brethren, for you know that we [teachers] will be judged by a higher standard and with greater severity [than other people; thus we assume the greater accountability and the more condemnation]. 

Phillips Don't aim at adding to the number of teachers, my brothers, I beg you! Remember that we who are teachers will be judged by a much higher standard.

Wuest  Stop becoming many teachers, my brethren, knowing that we shall receive a more severe sentence of condemnation,

NET  James 3:1 Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers and sisters, because you know that we will be judged more strictly.

GNT  James 3:1 Μὴ πολλοὶ διδάσκαλοι γίνεσθε, ἀδελφοί μου, εἰδότες ὅτι μεῖζον κρίμα λημψόμεθα.

NLT  James 3:1 Dear brothers and sisters, not many of you should become teachers in the church, for we who teach will be judged more strictly.

KJV  James 3:1 My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation.

ESV  James 3:1 Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.

ASV  James 3:1 Be not many of you teachers, my brethren, knowing that we shall receive heavier judgment.

CSB  James 3:1 Not many should become teachers, my brothers, knowing that we will receive a stricter judgment,

NIV  James 3:1 Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.

NKJ  James 3:1 My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment.

NRS  James 3:1 Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers and sisters, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.

YLT  James 3:1 Many teachers become not, my brethren, having known that greater judgment we shall receive,

NAB  James 3:1 Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you realize that we will be judged more strictly,

NJB  James 3:1 Only a few of you, my brothers, should be teachers, bearing in mind that we shall receive a stricter judgement.

GWN  James 3:1 Brothers and sisters, not many of you should become teachers. You know that we who teach will be judged more severely.

BBE  James 3:1 Do not all be teachers, my brothers, because we teachers will be judged more hardly than others.

  • Let not many of you become teachers: Mal 2:12 Mt 9:11 10:24 23:8-10,14 Joh 3:10 Ac 13:1 Ro 2:20,21 1Co 12:28 Eph 4:11 1Ti 2:7 2Ti 1:11 1Pe 5:3 
  • knowing that as such Lev 10:3 Eze 3:17,18 33:7-9 Lu 6:37 12:47,48 16:2 Ac 20:26,27 1Co 4:2-5 2Co 5:10 Heb 13:17 
  • incur a stricter judgment, Mt 7:1,2 23:14 1Co 11:29-32
  • James 3 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries 


I will confess that as a teacher of God's Word for over 30 years, I find this verse very disturbing (that's putting it mildly)! What Bible teacher or preacher does not "quake" a bit when reading this strong command and the companion warning which supports the command? And in the most bizarre of paradoxes, every teacher who seeks to explain this passage in a sense invites potential condemnation on himself! So at the outset, I am "treading lightly" on these passages and begging God's Spirit to direct me to rightly divide the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15+). In Jesus' Name. Amen.

Remember that chapter breaks are not inspired, so we do well not to forget that James has just been explaining the difference between a faith without works and a faith that has works (a "faith that really works"). Now he seems to "jump into" a discussion of the tongue, but context is always important for the most accurate interpretation. The point is that the demonstration of a genuine, living faith will be seen in the words that come from our mouth because ultimately they come from our heart. If our faith has resulted in a changed heart, a new heart (Ezek 36:26,27+, see Circumcision of the Heart), then the words we say will reflect our new birth showing that we are a new creation in Christ. And so James begins with teachers, who major in use of words to carry out their art. A T Robertson suggests that "there is thus a clear complaint that too many of the Jewish Christians were attempting to teach what they did not clearly comprehend." And so James begins by issuing a strong command to "Stop becoming teachers." But James does not stop with this strong command, but follows with a strong warning of greater accountability for teachers which should make anyone considering teaching to give it very serious thought. 

Recall also that the "tongue" has been addressed in chapter 1, so this is not an unusual theme for James...

This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; (James 1:19+)

If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless. (James 1:26+)

In summary, in chapter 2 James considers the importance of works and in chapter 3 he considers the importance of words in the life of believers (note "my brethren" = addressing believers). In James 2 the the question is do your works match your words ("I believe") and in James 3 the question is do your words match your words ("I am a believer")? 

Lenski links this section (James  3:1-12) with the preceding sections as follows - James now takes up "swift to hear, slow to speak," which were mentioned in James 1:19+ and develops "slow to speak" as he developed "swift to hear" in James 1:19-27. A general connection is obvious: proper hearing of the Word will not make us respecters of persons (James 2:1-13) nor people with dead faith (James 2:14-26); proper hearing will bridle the tongue (James 1:26+) and will not put the needy off with mere words (James 2:15+, etc.). (The Interpretation of The Epistle to the Hebrews and The Epistle of James)

Grant Osborne agrees that "chapter 3 is closely related to chapter 1 and actually is the third section (after James 2:1-13; James 2:14-26) of examples of practical ethical issues that have grown out of chapter 1. The two parts of chapter 2 developed the command to be doers as well as listeners (James 1:19, 22-25). This section develops the commands to avoid improper speech (James 1:19, 26). Several other parallels can be found (see Blomberg and Kamell 2008:147)—"judged" (James 3:1; 2:12-13); "perfect" (3:2; 1:4, 17, 25; 2:22); the bit in the horse's mouth (3:3; 1:26); the ship in strong winds (James 3:4; 1:6); wickedness (James 3:6; 1:15); restless instability (James 3:8; 1:8); the curses/slander (James 3:9-10; 2:7). In short, this section is closely interwoven into the previous material in James and continues to develop ethical themes previously introduced. (Cornerstone Biblical Commentary – Volume 18: James)

Hiebert - James insists that a living faith must demonstrate its vitality by exercising control over the tongue. In the previous test (James 2:14-26), James insisted that a living faith must reveal itself in the production of works. In chapter 3 this demand for a productive faith is continued but with a difference. James insists that a living faith also must produce an inward result, the development of self-control. And this power of self-control is tested most readily in the matter of controlling the tongue. James agreed with Jesus (Matt. 12:34-37) that a man's words are the revelation of his character. As the organ of speech, a man's use of his tongue provides a ready revelation of his inner nature, for "out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks" (Matt. 12:34).  (James Commentary)

Ronald Blue summarizes Jemes 3 as follows - He appealed, however, not only for controlled tongues (James 3:1-12) but also for controlled thoughts (James 3:13-17). The mouth is, after all, connected to the mind. Winsome speech demands a wise source. Both controlled talk and cultivated thought are necessary. (The Bible Knowledge Commentary)

Charles Swindoll introduces the "tongue chapter" with some pithy thoughts - In James 2:14-26, the half brother of our Lord zoomed in on his central message—real faith produces genuine works. Throughout the book of James, a probing question holds his whole theme together: “If you say you believe like you should, why do you behave like you shouldn’t?” In James 3:1-12, he develops this general theme in a very specific direction: controlling the tongue. No other section of the Bible speaks with greater clarity and impact on the potential destructive power of our words. We might summarize this powerful passage in the form of a question: “If you say you believe like you should, why do you say things you shouldn’t?” (Swindoll's Living Insights New Testament Commentary – James) (Bold added)

Warren Wiersbe - James has explained to us two characteristics of the mature Christian: he is patient in trouble (James 1) and he practices the truth (James 2). In this section, he shares the third characteristic of the mature believer: he has power over his tongue. (BEC)

Some suggest that James shifts from faith/works to the tongue because the relationship between faith and works is very evident in one's speech. John MacArthur says that "What you are will inevitably be disclosed by what you say. It might be said that a person's speech is a reliable measure of his spiritual temperature, a monitor of the inner human condition. The rabbis spoke of the tongue as an arrow rather than a dagger or sword, because it can wound and kill from a great distance. It can wreak great damage even when far from its victim." (MacArthur New Testament Commentary – James)

Beloved, James is not discouraging people from becoming teachers. After all, James is himself a teacher. As discussed in this section what he is discouraging is the tendency for those who are not qualified or gifted to rush into teaching. His warning is calculated to restrain this rush, so to speak! But if God has called you to be a teacher than by all means teach as Paul says in Romans 12 "Having therefore gifts differing according to the grace given us, whether that of prophecy, prophesy according to the proportion of faith; or serving, exercise that gift within the sphere of service; or teaching, within the sphere of teaching (Ro 12:6-7+ Wuest Paraphrase) In sum, James is not prohibiting one from the use of his or her gift of teaching, but is simply warning that the ministry of teaching should not be entered into lightly.

Let not manyof you become teachers - This is actually a command (present imperative with a negative) = Stop becoming teachers (as apparently so many were doing). At first glance James 3:1-2 may seem somewhat unrelated to James' treatment of the tongue in James 3:3-12. But which "organ" does the teacher rely on primarily? Clearly he or she makes major use of their tongue. And of course God desires teachers to articulate His Word of truth, so James is not saying one should not become a teacher. What he is saying is that one should not take on a teaching role without considering the seriousness of this position in the Church. Don't be like the old Elvis Presley song which has the line "only fools rush in." Do not foolishly rush into a teaching role! Why? Because as noted you are primarily using your tongue and you can have considerable influence. But if the words that come out of your mouth in teaching are not in line with the Word of Truth, than you are making yourself open to potential condemnation. 

Jamieson on becoming teachers - The idea that faith (so called) without works (Jas 2:14-26) was all that is required, prompted "many" to set up as "teachers," as has been the case in all ages of the Church. At first all were allowed to teach in turns. Even their inspired gifts did not prevent liability to abuse, as James here implies: much more is this so when self-constituted teachers have no such miraculous gifts.

Paul has a parallel passage writing

"For some men, straying from these things, have turned aside to fruitless discussion, wanting to be teachers of the Law, even though they do not understand either what they are saying or the matters about which they make confident assertions." (1 Ti 1:6-7)

James' warning is also better understood if we keep in mind that teachers were highly respected in the culture of the first century, and this respect included the Greco-Roman teachers as well as Jewish teachers. Jesus was often give the highly respected titles of Rabbi (Mk 9:5; Jn 1:38) or Teacher (Mt 8:19; 12:38; Mk 5:35; 9:17, 38; Lk 7:40; 11:45; Jn 20:16). Similarly, the Jewish Scribes and Pharisees were both held in high esteem by the Jewish populace. And so it naturally follows that many would seek out the position of teacher even though they were not gifted or qualified.

Teachers(1320)(didaskalos from didasko = teach <> cp didaskalía) is one who provides instruction or systematically imparts truth with the goal of shaping the will of the one being taught by the content taught. As someone said "The great teacher is the one who turns our ears into eyes so that we can see the truth." Henry Brooks added that "A (Bible) teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops."

MacArthur explains that "A faith which does not transform the tongue is no saving faith at all. So since speech is the mark of true faith, it should be a proper measure, then, of those who articulate the faith, those who teach the faith." Is this in fact not James had stated in James 1:26 "If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless."

Spurgeon on James 1:26 -  If religion does not salt your tongue, and keep it sweet, it has done nothing for you. If the doctor wants to know the state of your health, he says, “Let me see your tongue;” and there is no better test of the health of the mind than to see what is on the tongue. When it gets furred up with unkind words, when it turns black with blasphemy, when it is spotted with lasciviousness, there is something very bad inside the heart, you may be quite sure of that.

My brethren(80)(adelphos from a = denotes unity + delphus = a womb) means brother or near kinsman. "Adelphós generally denotes a fellowship of life based on identity of origin, e.g., members of the same family, specifically referring to believers. Recall the Jewishness of his audience in James 1:1+ "To the twelve tribes who are dispersed abroad."

So again James appeals to them
as those who are genuine believers

Adelphos in James -

 Jas. 1:2; Jas. 1:9; Jas. 1:16; Jas. 1:19; Jas. 2:1; Jas. 2:5; Jas. 2:14; Jas. 2:15; Jas. 3:1; Jas. 3:10; Jas. 3:12; Jas. 4:11; Jas. 5:7; Jas. 5:9; Jas. 5:10; Jas. 5:12; Jas. 5:19; 

Knowing that - NIV translates this as "because" which is a good paraphrase for in this context the phrase knowing that functions essentially as a term of explanation. And so James uses this phrase to explain why individuals should stop becoming teachers. It is like putting the "pause button" on the video - he wants his readers to "pause" and "ponder" the responsibility that this position entails! If you are called by God to be a teacher (cf Eph 4:11, Ro 12:7, 1 Cor 12:29) then "Amen!" But if you are definitively called by God to be a teacher, then "O my!"


Authority (to teach for God) comes with accountability (of teacher to God). Many were apparently enamored with the former, but ignorant of the latter! (Compare Lk 12:48+).

As such we will incur a stricter (greater) judgment - A "greater sentence." (cf Mk 12:40) Why? One reason is the ever present danger that we may teach something that does not square with God's Word (cf Jesus' warning in Lk 20:46-47+, Eph 4:14, Col 2:21-22, 1 Ti 4:1-4, 1 Ti 6:3, 2 Ti 4:3-4). There is an added danger if one has a glib tongue or charismatic personality, which may result in the students more enamored with the smooth technique than with sound doctrine (or lack of it! cf Jim Jones). Notice James includes himself with the first person plural pronoun "we." He is fully aware that he too must appear before his earthly Half-Brother Jesus, the Righteous Judge at the Bema Seat, and that he will receive no "family favors!" Clearly a teacher's words can affect the belief and behavior (we behave the way we behave, because we believe what we believe), either positively or negatively. In addition teachers need be sure they practice what they preach (teach), and if they do not, they are hypocritical teachers (cf Mt 23:2-5). And Swindoll really nails this one down when he declares that "the real test of teachers isn’t what they say, but what their families say. The extent of people’s ministries isn’t the size of their churches, it’s the depth of their family life. Teachers must never forget that." (Ibid)

Robertson adds they will receive heavier judgment because "The reason is obvious. The pretence of knowledge adds to the teacher's responsibility and condemnation."

Judgment (Condemnation) (2917)(krima from krino = to judge, the suffix –ma indicating the result of the judging, ie, that is, the result of making a decision) is a neutral word which can be either positive or negative. In the NT krima is most often used negatively (Mark 12:40; Luke 20:47; 1 Tim. 5:24) which is how James uses it in this passage. For unbelievers this judgment will be the Great White Throne judgment of Rev 20:11-15, although by calling them my brethren, James is not addressing unbeliever. More to the point, for believers the judgment will occur at the Bema Seat of Christ (2 Cor 5:10, Ro 14:12, cf 1 Cor 3:13-15). 

2 Corinthians 5:10+ For we must (dei = obligation, necessity) ALL (NO EXCEPTIONS) appear before the judgment seat (bema) of Christ, so that each one (hekastos) may be recompensed (komizo) for his deeds (NOT SINS) in the body (DURING OUR TIME AS BELIEVERS ON EARTH), according to what he has done, whether good or bad (phaulos = worthless) (NOT FOR SINS - Ro 8:1+ = "No Condemnation" = katakrima).. 

Romans 14:10-12+  But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we will ALL (NO EXCEPTIONS) stand before the judgment seat (bema) of God. For it is written, “AS I LIVE, SAYS THE LORD, EVERY KNEE SHALL BOW TO ME, AND EVERY TONGUE SHALL GIVE PRAISE TO GOD.”  So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God. 

1 Corinthians 3:13-15  each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. 

J Vernon McGee has a pithy comment regarding the "fiery" judgment in 1 Cor 3:13-15 --  "I like to put it like this: there are going to be some people in heaven who will be there because their foundation is Christ but who will smell as if they had been bought at a fire sale! Everything they ever did will have gone up in smoke. They will not receive a reward for their works." 

Stricter judgment - Clearly this teaches that there will be varying degrees of judgment at the Judgment Seat of Christ (some stricter, some less strict). 

The writer of Hebrews echoes James except his warning is addressed to the "sheep," to the "congregation"

Obey (present imperative - only possible to keep this by continually relying on the Holy Spirit to obey) your leaders and submit (present imperative relying on the Holy Spirit) to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account (FUTURE JUDGMENT AT BEMA SEAT). Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.  (Hebrews 13:17+)

Paul alludes to this stricter judgment for teachers in his last letter

Be diligent (aorist imperative - command calling for dependence on the Holy Spirit to obey) to present yourself approved (dokimos = a qualification that results from trial and examination) to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15+)

Grant Osborne comments that Paul "restates what James is saying here. A teacher who mishandles God's truth and "shoots off their mouth" in the wrong way will stand before God in shame at the final judgment. The quality of one's teaching and preaching matters a great deal to God, and too many preachers and teachers are guilty of shallowness and irrelevance." (Cornerstone Biblical Commentary – James)

Spiros Zodhiates sums up this section remarking that "If we teach because of the desire to show off, without living Christ before we preach Him, the judgment of God will be a severe condemnation; but if our teaching is motivated by a sincere and honest love for the Lord and the edification of those who hear us, then we can welcome this judgment, for it will mean a great reward." (Faith, Love & Hope: An Exposition of the Epistle of James)

Jon Courson writes that "The longer I walk with the Lord, the more I see that the key to life is to learn to be content where God has placed you (Philippians 4:11). If you're called to teach, that's great! If you're called to listen, that's wonderful! In either place, contentment is the key." (Jon Courson's Application Commentary New Testament) 

Luke Timothy Johnson wrote that speech by teachers before a "captive audience" "provides temptations to virtually every form of evil speech: arrogance and domination over students; anger and pettiness at contradiction or inattention; slander and meanness toward absent opponents; flattery of students for the sake of vainglory." (The Letter to James, 1995).

ILLUSTRATION (similar to one mentioned by McGee) - One day a very learned preacher was met by an illiterate preacher who despised education. "Sir, you have been to college, I suppose?" "Yes, sir," was the reply. "I am thankful," replied the illiterate preacher, "that the Lord opened my mouth without any learning." "A similar event," answered the learned clergyman, "took place in Balaam's time, when his donkey spoke, but such things are of rare occurrence in the present day. Maybe you are one of the rarities." (Zodhiates)

J Vernon McGee has a number of witty sayings about the tongue...

James has already indicated that he was going to come to this subject. He said back in James 1:26 "If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain." He also said, "let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak" (James 1:19). You have two ears, and God gave them to you so that you can hear twice as much as you can say.

The tongue is the most dangerous weapon in the world. It is more deadly than the atom bomb, but no careful inspection is made of it. Some wag made the statement that it was a miracle in Balaam's day for a donkey to speak, but today it is a miracle when he keeps quiet. Someone else pointed out that it takes a baby two years to learn to talk and fifty years to learn to keep his mouth shut. The story is told of a man who had been fishing out on a pier for several hours and had not caught anything. As two women walked out on the pier, he finally pulled in a fish. It wasn't a very large fish, and one of these two women took it upon herself to rebuke this man: "Aren't you ashamed of yourself for so cruelly catching this poor little fish?" And the man, without even looking up, because he was a little discouraged anyway, said, "Maybe you are right, lady, but if the fish had kept his mouth shut he wouldn't have been caught." Another has expressed it this way:

If your lips would keep from slips,
Five things to observe with care:
To whom you speak, of whom you speak,
And how, and when, and where.
-- Author unknown

The importance of the tongue has been expressed in many different ways, and practically every nation has had something to say about it. I read this in Spurgeon's "Salt Cellars" years ago:

"The boneless tongue, so small and weak,
Can crush and kill, " declared the Greek.
"The tongue destroys a greater hoard,
The Turk asserts, "than does the sword."
A Persian proverb wisely saith,
"A lengthy tongue -- an early death";
Or sometimes takes this form instead,
"Don't let your tongue cut off your head."
"The tongue can speak a word whose speed,"
The Chinese say, "outstrips the steed";
While Arab sages this impart,
"The tongue's great storehouse is the heart."
From Hebrew wit this maxim sprung,
"Though feet should slip, ne'er let the tongue."
The sacred writer crowns the whole,
"Who keeps his tongue doth keep his soul!"

All of these sayings are very wise. I believe fervently that the most dangerous thing in the world is the tongue. I think the church is more harmed by the termites within than by the woodpeckers on the outside. Someone has put it like this: "Thou art master of the unspoken word, but the spoken word is master of you." In other words, my friend, once you have said it, it is beyond your control. (Thru The Bible)

ILLUSTRATION - Years ago I visited a college friend at his home. On campus we had enjoyed a significant sharing of personal values and philosophies, much of it through discussion of literature, history and music. When we met at his home, he wanted me to hear a certain Mahler symphony that expressed some of his aspirations toward the attainment of love and peace. We listened together in silent pleasure, caught up in the music and our high ideals—until, at a particularly moving point in the symphony, my friend's mother broke the spell by entering the room and asking a mundane question about supper. Her innocent interruption received a fierce verbal rebuke from her son. How dare she spoil the exquisite music! Startled and embarrassed, she retreated from the room, but the damage to our mood had been done. The damage to our illusions had also been done. My friend and I talked about the incident. What good were ideals of love and aspirations to "self-actualization" if we could not control our tongues enough to speak respectfully to other human beings? The spirituality was only a feeling, an illusion, if it could not purify our behavior in the practical( matter of what we said. (IVP New Testament Commentary Series – James)

The teacher's tongue is the tool of their trade, and teachers must master this tool!

"A slip of the foot you may soon recover, but a slip of the tongue you may never get over." Benjamin Franklin

A small slip of the tongue can launch a great avalanche of destruction! 

All of us may learn a cultural lesson from the Chinese people. They have the custom of not answering a speaker until he is completely finished speaking. They think that it is discourteous to reply immediately, for a rash reply indicates a lack of thinking and poor judgment. - Simon Kistemaker

TEACHERS' MISTAKES - In New Testament times, many teachers failed and misused their positions of responsibility. Some of the teachers:

  • l Introduced Judaism, Mosaic laws, and circumcision (Acts 15:24), weakening the gospel truth that we are saved by grace alone
  • l Lived in contradiction to what they taught (Romans 2:17-29)
  • l Taught before they knew anything themselves (1 Timothy 1:6-7)
  • l Catered to people's "itching ears" (2 Timothy 4:3)

WHAT ARE MY MOTIVES FOR BEING A TEACHER? Those who take on teaching roles should ask themselves the following questions as a way of evaluating their fitness to teach:

  • Am I teaching as an act of service?
  • Am I trying to advance my own status or position in the church?
  • Am I teaching to discharge a duty?

Christian teachers need to be primarily models of integrity and secondarily instructors of content; therefore, they should submit both their lives and their words to God's scrutiny. Their teaching must not be frivolous or selfish. Teachers should teach God's truth, not merely their own opinions. If we teach others, we must make sure that our lives do not contradict what we teach. (Bruce Barton Life Application Bible Commentary – James)

Let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment (James 3:1).
Author Mark Twain was often outspoken about his bitterness toward the things of God. Sadly, church leaders were largely to blame for his becoming hostile to the Bible and the Christian faith. As Twain grew up, he knew elders and deacons who owned slaves and abused them, and he knew ministers who used the Bible to justify slavery. He heard men use foul language and saw them practice dishonesty during the week after speaking piously in church on Sunday. Although he saw genuine love for the Lord Jesus in some people, including his mother and his wife, he was never able to understand the bad teaching and poor example of certain church leaders. Leadership is a privilege, and with privilege comes responsibility. God holds teachers of His truth doubly responsible because they are in positions where they can either draw people toward Christ or drive them away from Him. Serving as an elder, a deacon, a Sunday school teacher, or a Bible club leader is an awesome responsibility. Those who are called to these positions are responsible to lead people to the Savior rather than away from Him. According to James 3, they can do this by exemplifying true wisdom, which is "pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy" (v. 17). —H. V. L.(Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. — Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)

The best kind of leadership produces fellowship.

Charles Swindoll has an imaginary illustration that vividly depicts the power of our words - If you ever see a wild animal prowling your neighborhood, you can call your local animal control agency to round it up and haul it off. The dogcatcher can take stray dogs to the pound or return loose dogs to their owners. Feral cats can be caught, skunks chased off, raccoons lured away. All these wild and roaming animals can be rounded up. Why not have a catcher and a pound for stray words? Now that’s an occupation that could earn a decent living in any economy! Imagine a razor-toothed invective cornered by a couple word catchers: “Careful now, careful—that’s a mean one!” “Who would let such a thing loose?” “Aw, some guy got worked up and unleashed it on his poor wife.” “I’d hate to see what that gal feels like now.” “Like shredded wheat, probably.” “Well, let’s get this pit bull of a word off the street before it bites somebody else.” Now then, let’s say you’re home and these same word catchers suddenly ring your doorbell. “Excuse me, sir,” they ask, “does this word belong to you? We caught it running loose out there, backbiting everyone where you work. Your boss said it sounded like it was one of yours.” You take a long look at their catch and sure enough, you let that little gossip out on Wednesday and by Saturday it’s ruined a dozen weekends. Red-faced, you claim your nasty words and send the word catchers away. Of course, word catching is an imaginary profession. But my guess is if you could find a way to round up and return people’s words in time to stop their damage, it would be a lucrative business in our world of loose lips and unrestrained tongues. I know there are a few nasty ones I’ve let loose in my life that I would have paid almost anything to take back. I’m sure you’ve got your list, too. (Swindoll's Living Insights New Testament Commentary – James)

Loose Lips Sink Ships

On December 7, 1941, Japanese aircraft attacked Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. This sneak attack disabled much of the U.S. Pacific naval fleet and destroyed many aircraft, propelling enraged Americans to arms. World War II took place on both land and sea, but it was clear that, for the war being waged in the Pacific, aircraft carriers were the most important weapon.
The fear of enemy spies finding out key locations of U.S. naval vessels prompted the government to wage a publicity campaign. They sent advice to GIs about what to say and not say when writing letters home, when carrying on conversations, or if captured by the enemy. Posters carried the message to the home front: Loose Lips Might Sink Ships.
The epistle of James also warns those in the Lord's army that the lips can do devastating damage: our lips can make our ships sink or float! Last week James emphasized what we do—our works—not what we say. Just in case his readers got the wrong idea, James gave clear instructions to counterbalance the works-only idea: Saying and doing go hand in hand.
Modern Christians have the same problem with works, thinking, If I don't drink, smoke, or swear, I'm okay. Yet they engage in gossip, slander, and backbiting. They may build up the body of Christ with their actions while their loose lips spring leaks in the body of Christ. (Womens Bible Journal)

The Teacher And The Tongue Warm-up: James 3:1–12
If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man . . .James 3:2
Words, said Aristotle, are what set human beings above the lower animals. Not necessarily.
Words can bring us down: “Not many of you should presume to be teachers,” writes James, “because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check” (James 3:1–2).
I’m a teacher by trade—a vendor of words. It’s a good profession—one of the “greater gifts” we’re encouraged to seek (1 Corinthians 12:31)—yet there is peril in the task: Teachers are more culpable than others.
We’re at risk because we multiply words, and as the wise man said, “When words are many, sin is not absent” (Proverbs 10:19), a text which, as Augustine said, “frightens me a good deal.”
James indicts all of us when he says, “If anyone is not at fault in what he says, he is a perfect [mature] man, able to keep his whole body in check.” Like good physicians everywhere, Dr. James invites us to stick out our tongue because that member of our body, more than any other, reveals the state of our being. Our tongues tell on us; we’re only as good as our words.///

Don Anderson's Summary of Study of James from chapter 1-3

In our study of James, with the subject POINTERS FOR PROGRESS, we "' have noted thus far that we: 1


Now we treat another very practical area of Christian maturity and that is the subject of:


Ways Christ can be seen in me:

  1. Attitude in Test
  2. Victory in Temptation
  3. Intake of Word
  4. Love without Partiality
  5. Living Faith
  6. Tongue Spiritual Maturity is reflected by a controlled tongue.

Boys flying kites haul in their white-winged birds.
You can't do that when you are flying words.
Careful with fire is good advice, we know.
Careful with words is 10 times doubly so.
Thoughts unexpressed sometimes fall back dead,
but God, Himself, can't kill them once they're said.

Imperfect Leaders James 3:1
Spirituality does not guarantee infallible judgment. Spirit-filled people are less likely to make mistakes of judgment than their secular counterparts, but perfection eludes us all, whatever our level of spiritual development. Even the apostles made mistakes that required divine correction.
Spiritual leaders who have given such a significant share of their lives to knowing God, to prayer, and to wrestling with the problems of renewal and revival may find it difficult to concede the possibility of misjudgment or mistake. Surely leaders must be people of strength and decisiveness, to stand for what they believe. But willingness to concede error and to defer to the judgment of one’s peers increases one’s influence rather than diminishes it. Followers will lose 
confidence in leaders who appear to believe they are infallible. It is strange but true that a perception of infallibility in one area of life often coexists with great humility in other areas.
Many influential Christians have fallen before the temptation of indispensability. It seems that Christians are especially prone to it. They cling to authority long after it should have passed to younger people. I met a wonderful Christian in his nineties who was still superintendent of his church’s Sunday school. Younger people were willing and available, but no one in the church had been able to approach this saint about retirement. One unfortunate consequence is that young people who have energy to fill a role are held up and stagnate.
Sometimes sincere and well-meaning followers encourage the notion of indispensability, which feeds a leader’s ego and makes him or her even less objective about performance in office. And we can become less objective about our work as we get older.
Missionaries who have raised a church to believe that they are indispensable have done the church an injustice. From the earliest days of the work, missionaries should be planning on working their way out of a job. National leadership needs to learn how to depend on the Lord, how to train its own spiritual leaders, and how to take responsibility for the work. (J Oswald Sanders)

James has been talking about the Christian and his WORKS in chapter 2 the first 12 verses of chapter 3 his WORDS, and in the last 6 verses, about the Christian's WISDOM

Ironside points out - So the tongue, seemingly so weak in-itself, has power to make or break one's life and testimony. Nor can any man control it in his own strength. When the tongue is surrendered to Christ, and dominated by the Spirit, it becomes one of our most useful members. When it falls under the control of the Enemy, it works untold grief and damage.

Only a word of anger,
but it wounded one sensitive heart.
Only a word of sharp reproach,
but it made the teardrops start.

Only a hasty, thoughtless word,
sarcastic and unkind,
but it darkened the day before so bright
and left a stain behind.

James 3:2 For we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well.

Amplified  For we all often stumble and fall and offend in many things. And if anyone does not offend in speech [never says the wrong things], he is a fully developed character and a perfect man, able to control his whole body and to curb his entire nature. 

Phillips We all make mistakes in all kinds of ways, but the man who can claim that he never says the wrong thing can consider himself perfect, for if he can control his tongue he can control every other part of his personality! 

Wuest  for with reference to many things everybody stumbles [makes a mistake, goes astray, sins]. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, this one is a spiritually mature man, able to hold in check also his entire body. 

NET  James 3:2 For we all stumble in many ways. If someone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect individual, able to control the entire body as well.

GNT  James 3:2 πολλὰ γὰρ πταίομεν ἅπαντες. εἴ τις ἐν λόγῳ οὐ πταίει, οὗτος τέλειος ἀνὴρ δυνατὸς χαλιναγωγῆσαι καὶ ὅλον τὸ σῶμα.

NLT  James 3:2 Indeed, we all make many mistakes. For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way.

KJV  James 3:2 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.

ESV  James 3:2 For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body.

ASV  James 3:2 For in many things we all stumble. If any stumbleth not in word, the same is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body also.

CSB  James 3:2 for we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a mature man who is also able to control his whole body.

NIV  James 3:2 We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check.

NKJ  James 3:2 For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body.

NRS  James 3:2 For all of us make many mistakes. Anyone who makes no mistakes in speaking is perfect, able to keep the whole body in check with a bridle.

YLT  James 3:2 for we all make many stumbles; if any one in word doth not stumble, this one is a perfect man, able to bridle also the whole body;

NAB  James 3:2 for we all fall short in many respects. If anyone does not fall short in speech, he is a perfect man, able to bridle his whole body also.

NJB  James 3:2 For we all trip up in many ways. Someone who does not trip up in speech has reached perfection and is able to keep the whole body on a tight rein.

GWN  James 3:2 All of us make a lot of mistakes. If someone doesn't make any mistakes when he speaks, he would be perfect. He would be able to control everything he does.

BBE  James 3:2 For we all go wrong in a number of things. If a man never makes a slip in his talk, then he is a complete man and able to keep all his body in control.

  • For we all stumble in many ways: 1Ki 8:46 2Ch 6:36 Pr 20:9 Ec 7:20 Isa 64:6 Ro 3:10 Ro 7:21 Ga 3:22 Gal 5:17 1Jn 1:8-10 
  • If anyone does not stumble in what he says: Jas 3:5,6 1:26 Ps 34:13 Pr 13:3 1Pe 3:10 
  • he is a perfect man: Jas 1:4 Mt 12:37 Col 1:28 4:12 Heb 13:21 1Pe 5:10 
  • able to bridle the whole body as well: 1Co 9:27 
  • James 3 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries 


For (gar) is a term of explanation. What is James explaining here? He is explaining the teacher's responsibility is weighty because of the universal propensity to sin ("stumble"), not just teachers but everyone. 

Douglas Moo adds that "The probable logic of the argument is: Teachers are more susceptible to judgment than others because they regularly engage in that activity which is hardest to keep from sin—one's speech." (The Pillar New Testament Commentary – The Letter of James)

We all stumble in many ways We = James does not hesitate to include himself as a "stumbler!" Lenski says "This is James' great confession of sin." 

All = no exceptions so now it is not only teachers but all believers.

In many ways - We don't just have "slips" of our tongue, but James says this stumbling occurs in many ways which would include sins of various "shapes and sizes" so to speak. So while many ways most likely means a variety of sins, it is worth noting that even if one restricted the many ways to the tongue, there are still many ways to sin. As Theodore Epp says "The tongue can be used in so many ways that dishonor the Lord. It can be used to tell an off-color story; it can be used to utter profanity in a time of anger; it can be used to pass on idle gossip; and it can be used to report dishonest half-truths."

Stumble = we all commit sin (even believers like James)! Why? Because the sin of Adam spread like a virulent virus to all men "and so death spread to all men, because all sinned." (Ro 5:12). This is an indisputable fact of life "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." (Ro 3:23). Solomon adds that "Indeed, there is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and who never sins. "(Ecclessiastes 7:20) And just "as it is written, “THERE IS (absolutely) NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE." (Ro 3:10). The verb stumble is in the present tense describing this as something that will occur not just once or twice but repeatedly throughout our life on earth. There is not a single day when we as believers do not stub our toe spiritually and fall short of God's perfect will for our life!

A prayer we might all consider in the morning is David's plea "Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; Keep watch over the door of my lips." (Ps 141:3) In another psalm David took responsibility for guarding his mouth declaring “I will guard my ways That I may not sin with my tongue; I will guard my mouth as with a muzzle While the wicked are in my presence.” (Ps 39:1).

As Zodhiates says "It is good as we start the day, not only to pray that the Lord may direct our steps in the path of righteousness, but also that He may direct the tongue and its movements during the day. Our tongues are apt to go to places where our steps would never dream of going." (Faith, Love & Hope: An Exposition of the Epistle of James)

Stumble(4417)(ptaio) means literally to loose one's footing and so to fall, stumble or “to be tripped up” and thus to lose one’s footing. Ptaio was used in secular Greek writings to refer to a “sure-footed as a horse that does not stumble” (Xenophon), and to describe a good man (Epictetus, Marcus Antoninus). All 4 NT uses of ptaio (Ro 11:11; Jas. 2:10; Jas. 3:2; 2 Pe 1:10) are figurative and mean to err, to wander from the right way; to miss the right way; to commit error, and ultimately to fail to keep the law of God. James has already used ptaio explaining that "whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all." (James 2:10+). In summary, to stumble means to commit any moral lapse, to fail to do what is right.

Hiebert on stumble - In its literal sense the term conveys the picture of the foot striking against some obstacle so as to cause the individual to trip or stumble; metaphorically it denotes the fact of a failure in duty, a mistake that is blameworthy, or a sin. (Ibid)

Lenski adds that "To stumble (iterative present) is figurative for sinning without falling from grace. One stumbles and yet goes forward on the road....This is James's great confession of sin. It includes far more than sins of teaching or even sins of the tongue. James places these sins into the class of the many sins which true Christians confess daily (Matt. 6:12)." (Ibid)

James has just generalized our stumbling as occurring in many ways, but now focuses down on our speech, what we say, what comes out of our mouth. 

J Vernon McGee - Remember the maid who said to Simon Peter, "...thy speech betrayeth thee" (Matt. 26:73) -- he could not deny that he was from Galilee. Your speech tells who you are; your tongue gives you away. It tells where you came from. It tells whether you are ignorant or educated, cultured or crude, whether you are clean or unclean, whether you are vulgar or refined, whether you are a believer or a blasphemer, whether you are a Christian or a non-Christian, whether you are guilty or not guilty. My friend, I am of the opinion that if you had a tape-recorded message of everything you have said this past month, you would not want the world to hear it. (Thru The Bible)

William MacDonald - Just as an old-fashioned doctor examined a patient's tongue to assist in diagnosis, so James tests a person's spiritual health by his or her conversation. Self-diagnosis begins with sins of speech. James would agree with the modern wit who said, "Watch your tongue. It's in a wet place where it's easy to slip!" (Believer's Bible Commentary)

If anyone does not stumble in what he says - More literally this reads "if anyone in a word (logos) does not stumble." Amplified = "if anyone does not offend in speech [never says the wrong things]" Phillips = the man who can claim that he never says the wrong thing." NIV = "If anyone is never at fault in what he says." NRSV = "Anyone who makes no mistakes in speaking."

The IF is first class condition which assumes what follows is true. Notice the emphasis on what he says. Teachers constantly use their tongues and thus are continual danger of stumbling (sinning) by the words they speak. But James had addressed this to ALL, so this description would refer to the speech of all believers, not just teachers.

James is clearly depicting control of one's tongue as a significant marker of one's overall spirituality. How's your tongue control? Do curse words fly easily off of your tongue? 

John has a parallel passage...

If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.  (1 Jn 1:8-10+)

Says (3056)(logos - English logic, logical, etc) has the primary sense of thought and thus presupposes intelligence. And so the idea is the word by which the inner thought is expressed, the expression of thought, the coming out of that which is within one's heart. The implication of this definition of "says" would indicate that when one stumbles by what they say (logos), their stumbling (aka, sin) is not an accident but a result of thought which makes James' indictment even more pointed. In other words, the stumbling was in essence premeditated, making us even more culpable!

He is a perfect man - James uses an adjective (teleios) that speaks of the totality of this man. This man is not partially but completely perfect, which would literally apply to only the Man, Christ Jesus. And so one could interpret the perfect man as a hypothetical description, for no man except Christ lives a life of absolute perfection. So for example the ESV Study Bible says James "probably has absolute perfection in view." From my survey of a number of commentaries on James, this seems to be the minority view.

MacArthur - "Perfect" may refer to true perfection, in which case James is saying that, hypothetically, if a human being were able to perfectly control his tongue, he would be a perfect man. But, of course, no one is actually immune from sinning with his tongue. More likely, "perfect" is describing those who are spiritually mature and thus able to control their tongues. (MacArthur Study Bible)


Most commentators feel that James uses teleios with its common NT meaning to describe one who is spiritually mature (see uses of this same adjective in Col 1:28+ = "complete in Christ" and Heb 5:14+ = "solid food is for the mature"). Translators also favor the interpretation that perfect conveys the sense of one who is spiritually mature (or growing in spiritual maturity). And so we see Wuest = "spiritually mature man." Amplified = "fully developed character and a perfect man." CSB = "he is a mature man." Now if Jesus is the only fully perfect Man, it follows that in order for us to begin to grow toward that goal of Christ-like maturity, we need to imitate walking the way Jesus walked while He was on earth. And how did He walk? Filled with, empowered by, led by the Holy Spirit (Luke summarizes Jesus' 3+ year ministry in Acts 10:37-38+, cf the very beginning of Jesus' ministry - Lk 4:1+, Lk 4:14+, Lk 4:18+, etc). Imitating Jesus' walk is the exhortation of Paul, John and Peter (see passages below). For a more thorough discussion of this vitally important truth see the article The Holy Spirit-Walking Like Jesus Walked!

Be (present imperative = a command, not a suggestion!) imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.  (1 Cor 11:1+)

The one who says he abides in Him ought (opheilo - expresses obligation, necessity to follow the example of Jesus! So this is not optional but mandatory for believers!) himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.  (1 John 2:6+)

For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps (1 Pe 2:21+)

John MacArthur agrees writing "To the degree that our holiness approaches that of Christ's, to that degree we are spiritually perfect or mature. As in all else, He is our supreme and glorious example." 

And so, dear follower of Christ, enabled by the Holy Spirit, we are called to continually "grow (present imperative) in grace and the knowledge (aka progressive sanctification) of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Pe 3:18+), and as we take in the Word of Truth (cf Lk 4:4+, Jn 17:17, 1 Pe 2:2+), we "are being (passive voice = subject acted upon from Source without = the Spirit) transformed (metamorphoo = present tense continually) into the same image (CHRIST-LIKENESS) from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit." (2 Cor 3:18+). 

Perfect(5046)(teleios from telos = end, purpose, aim, goal) means complete, mature, fully developed, full grown, brought to its end, finished, wanting nothing necessary to completeness. Teleios signifies consummate soundness, includes the idea of being whole and in the context of the Bible refers to the goal that has been set by God for men. Interestingly the Gnostics used teleios of the one fully initiated into their mysteries. Teleious is found only 17x in the NT and the short epistle of James has 3 of the uses - James 1:4+ = "And let endurance have its perfect (teleios) result, so that you may be perfect (teleios) and complete, lacking in nothing." So James sees Christian "perfection" or better spiritual maturity, as a goal for all believers and emphasizes trials aid us on our journey to Christian maturity. James 1:17+ speaking of every gift God gives as "perfect" and here in James 3:2.

Robert Johnstone explains perfect as "a maturity of religious life, a ripeness and richness of knowledge and character, such as may be supposed to mark the full-grown man, as contrasted with the babe in Christ." (Lectures Exegetical and Practical on the Epistle of James)

Wiersbe explains that James links the tongue with the whole body "because words usually lead to deeds. During World War II we were accustomed to seeing posters that read LOOSE LIPS SINK SHIPS! But loose lips also wreck lives."

Roy Gingrich quips "If we can make the lion (the tongue) behave, surely we can make the cats and the dogs (the body’s other members) behave." (The Book of James)

Able to bridle the whole body as well - NIV = "able to keep his whole body in check." Amplified = "able to control his whole body and to curb his entire nature." James explains how the spiritual state of the perfect man can be most easily discerned -- by listening to what/how he speaks! Since he is able to bridle and control his tongue, he is able to control his whole body, most likely referring to the passions of his body, not just his words. In other words, he is able to control the old self, the fallen flesh. How is this even possible? There is only one way to curb or check the flesh and that is to "Walk (present imperative) by the Spirit and you will (ABSOLUTELY) not fulfill the desires of the flesh (DOES NOT SAY WON'T HAVE DESIRES BUT WON'T ACT ON THEM)." (Gal 5:16+ - NOTE ORDER - SPIRIT FIRST, THEN FLESH IS SUPPRESSED, NOT VICE VERSA) And if one is walking by the supernatural power of the Spirit, he or she brings forth fruit, one component being self-control (Gal 5:23+egkrateia = It is self-control proceeding out from within oneself, but not by oneself, and for the believer is only possible by depending on the power of the indwelling Spirit ). Spirit enabled "victory" over one's tongue is intimately related to "victory" over one's whole body!

THOUGHT - As an aside, if what comes out of our mouths as believers is one of the most accurate "barometers" (so to speak, pun intended!) of our state of spiritual maturity, I would submit it is also a measure of the man or woman who is most consistently filled with or controlled by the Holy Spirit. Why? Because Ephesians 5:18+ which describes the filling is IMMEDIATELY followed in the Greek text with the verb lalountes which is the verb  laleo and in present tense could be translated "continuously speaking" (it is also a participle). In other words, the first notable "fruit" of a Spirit filled believer is their speech, what comes out of their mouth. Applying this observation, it would seem theologically reasonable to state that one of the best ways to be a perfect man or woman is to be one who is continually being filled with the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit, Who frankly is the only Power stronger than the power of the tongue! Conversely, if one is not continually filled with the Spirit, the chances of stumbling in what one says (and not being able to bridle the whole body) is considerably greater, in fact is very likely! Upshot? Be continually filled (present imperative - command not a suggestion) with the Spirit! 

Another Thought - Notice the context of Paul's charge "do not grieve (present imperative with a negative) the Holy Spirit of God" in Eph 4:30+. What command has he just issued in Eph 4:29+? "Let no unwholesome (sapros = rotten, putrid) word proceed (present imperative with a negative - either stop doing this or do not begin doing it - and only way to keep this command is to depend on the Holy Spirit to obey) from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear." So cleary "rotten words" will grieve the Holy Spirit. This is a slippery slope, for when we grieve the Spirit, we short-circuit the power to control our tongue! Rotten words need to be quickly confessed and repented, lest a downward spiral begins! 

Another Thought - How do you know when the Spirit is truly controlling your tongue? (1) Praise to God (2) Speaking words of gratitude and thanksgiving (3) Love to sing godly choruses, hymns or spiritual songs (4) Speak words of love and edification. 

A Final Thought - This subject of "tongue control" brings to mind the radical transformation that took place in Peter. Before Pentecost, he was open his mouth primarily to "exchange feet" (so to speak)! After Pentecost, after receiving the gift of the Spirit and His power (Acts 1:8), his speech was supernaturally transformed! One one hand in the Gospels, as an immature disciple, he often lost control of his tongue and had to be either reproved or taught by the Lord, but after Pentecost, his spiritual discipline was evident by his controlled speech, now possible because He was controlled by the Spirit giving us a good illustration of a "perfect" (mature) believer. 

Able (1415)(dunatos from dunamai = referring to power one has by virtue of inherent ability and resources; cf dunamis) means powerful, able, strong, describing that which has sufficient or necessary power to not stumble and to bridle the whole body. As Jesus said "The things that are impossible with people (ED: LIKE CONTROLLING OUR TONGUE!) are possible (SAME WORD - dunatos) with God.”  (Lk. 18:27+) Paul gives us a clue as to how we can tap into God's supernatural strength (dunatos) when he asked Jesus three times to remove the thorn in the flesh "And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power (dunamis) is perfected (teleo) in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power (dunamis) of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am (present tense) strong (dunatos). (2 Cor 12:9+, 2 Cor 12:10+) 

And so the only man or woman who can possibly achieve this objective of "Christian maturity" is the one who is learning more and more to jettison self reliance and to rely more wholly on the Holy Spirit for the supernatural power (the dunamis) to kill sins of the tongue and body (See Paradoxical Principle of 100% Dependent and 100% Responsible). In Romans 8:13+ Paul gives us one of the most important passages in the NT in regard to progressive sanctification (growth into a mature man or woman, more like Christ) declaring that " if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live." 

Dunatos in NT - able (6), could (1), impossible*(1), influential men(1), man of power(1), mighty(3), mighty one(1), possible(12), power(1), powerful(1), strong(3), strong enough(1).

Mt. 19:26; Mt. 24:24; Mt. 26:39; Mk. 9:23; Mk. 10:27; Mk. 13:22; Mk. 14:35; Mk. 14:36; Lk. 1:49; Lk. 14:31; Lk. 18:27; Lk. 24:19; Acts 2:24; Acts 7:22; Acts 11:17; Acts 18:24; Acts 20:16; Acts 25:5; Ro 4:21; Ro 9:22; Ro 11:23; Ro 12:18; Ro 15:1; 1 Co. 1:26; 2 Co. 10:4; 2 Co. 12:10; 2 Co. 13:9; Gal. 4:15; 2 Ti 1:12; Titus 1:9; Heb. 11:19; Jas. 3:2

Given the evil propensity of a tongue not controlled by the Spirit, we might all do well to ponder Isaiah's words from time to time  -- "Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I live among a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.” (Isa. 6:5)

Bridle (5468)(chalinagogeo from chalinos = bridle + ago = lead) means to guide with a bit and bridle and figuratively to hold in check, to restrain, to control. Only other use is James 1:26+ "does not bridle his tongue." The picture James paints is one with which all his readers were familiar - so just as a huge horse was led by the mouth, a perfect man follows the "bit and bridle" of his own mouth. Hiebert adds "The picturesque term "to keep... in check" (chalinagōgēsai) denotes that he is able to restrain his whole body effectively to prevent its use by sin, as well as to guide and direct its activities in desirable ways. He exercises self-mastery over his whole body, so that, like a horse under a stiff rein, it does his bidding." (Ibid)

MacArthur writes that "if we can control our tongues—which respond so readily and limitlessly to sin—then controlling everything else will follow. If the Holy Spirit has control of this most volatile and intractable part of our being, how much more susceptible to His control will the rest of our lives be? That principle also supports the second meaning of perfect (mature, complete), which, if it carried the idea of absolute perfection, would have no practical significance here. When a person's speech is Christ-exalting, God-honoring, and edifying, one can be sure the rest of his life is spiritually healthy—and vice versa." 

Hiebert adds that "Barclay notes that "James is not for a moment saying that silence is better than speech. He is not pleading for... a cowardly silence, but for a wise use of speech." Nor does James hint that men must subject themselves to prolonged periods of enforced silence in order to gain mastery over their tongues. The ability to check and guide the tongue effectively only comes through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit." (Ibid) (Bold added)

Max Anders - One method of complying with the biblical warning about the tongue would be enforced silence. The Bible does not call for silence but for a tongue empowered by the Holy Spirit and used for the glory of God. Silence would not bring complete control of our thoughts. James wanted us to use divine power in bringing our thoughts into captivity to Christ (2 Cor. 10:5+). (Holman New Testament Commentary – Hebrews & James)

Douglas Moo - So difficult is the mouth to control, so given is it to utter the false, the biting, the slanderous word, so prone to stay open when it were more profitably closed, that the person who has it in control surely has the ability to "keep in check" other, less unruly, members of the body. (Ibid)

Kurt A Richardson adds an interesting comment - The tongue has its way much like the human will without the bridle of the Word of God and the anticipation of judgment. But with these instruments, Christians will be enabled to stand accepted by God." (New American Commentary – Volume 36: James)

Osborne - Stulac (1993:123) says, "If you control what you say, you can control the rest of what you do." The desire is "to motivate us to diligence in speech because it is so influential over the rest of our lives." "Control" ("BRIDLE") is the same verb as in James 1:26 that uses the image of a horse's bridle that "reins in" the tongue (see James 3:3) and therefore the rest of, literally, "the whole body," meaning every other area of one's life. The idea of keeping the tongue in check is found often in Proverbs (Pr 9:8-9; 10:8, 14, 19; 11:9; 12:18; 13:13; 15:1; 16:21; 17:7; 18:6-7; 21:23) (ED: SEE LIST BELOW), so the control of the tongue as the key to the rest of one's being is a common emphasis in Wisdom Literature.(Ibid)

Zodhiates - There was an old man who often complained of pain and weariness in the evening, as many of us do. A friend asked him why he complained so. The old man replied, "Alas! I have every day so much to do. I have two falcons to tame, two hares to keep from running away, two hawks to manage, a serpent to confine, a lion to chain, and a sick man to tend and wait upon." "Why, you must be joking," said his friend. "Surely no man can have all these things to do at once." "Indeed, I am not joking," said the old man, "but what I have told you is the sad, sober truth; for the two falcons are my two eyes, which I must diligently guard; the two hares are my feet, which I must keep from walking in the ways of sin; the two hawks are my two hands, which I must train to work, that I may be able to provide for myself and for my brethren in need; the serpent is my tongue, which I always bridle, lest it speak unseemly; the lion is my heart, with which I have a continued fight, lest evil things come out of it; and the sick man is my whole body, which is always needing my watchfulness and care. All this daily work wears out my strength." The old man was certainly frank about the struggle the believer has in this life. He very aptly described the tongue as a serpent, for it can spread deadly poison around. (Faith, Love & Hope: An Exposition of the Epistle of James)

The depth of a person's freedom is revealed in and through his ability to hold his silence and to use it discerningly. The most famous Christian I know is a man who remains silent on any subject that might lead to self-congratulations. Whenever conversation reaches a point where he might need to comment on his latest writings, honors, speech makings~ experiences with other important people, he grows strangely silent or attempts to change the subject. There is a great power and freedom in him because there is much that runs deep in his soul, unarticulated and secret. I cannot imagine this man name dropping or relating his most recent prayer experience or exclaiming for all to hear how wonderfully the Lord is using him. A man like this is rooted and grounded in God's presence and is free of the external need to be babbling like a shallow brook. (Don Gilmore - Freedom to Fail) (ED: I read those words and simply shudder. How far short I fall! Help me Holy Spirit for the glory of the Lamb. Amen)

F B Meyer - James 3:2
  If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man.
Think of the sins of speech! How innumerable they are! When we see them in the light of this chapter, we can understand the holy Isaiah saying, “Woe is me, for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for mine eyes have seen the King.”
The sins of speech about ourselves. — The tongue boasteth great things. We are all apt to be vain, boastful, exaggerated. We tell stories that redound to our own credit; contrive to focus attention on our own words and deeds; and even in delivering God’s messages manage to let it be seen that we have a clearer insight into truth or a closer familiarity with God than our fellows.
The sins of speech about others. — “We break the law of courtesy, and become harsh, insolent, and uncivil; or the law of purity, and repeat stories that leave a stain; or the law of truth, and practise insincerity, equivocation, and dissimulation; or the law of kindness, and are harsh and implacable to those who are beneath us in station. Or in our desire to stand well with others we are guilty of flattery, servility, time-serving, and the like.”
The sins of speech in connection with God’s work. — We disparage other workers; compliment them to their faces on addresses they have delivered, and disparage them behind their backs; pass criticisms which take away the effect which their words had otherwise exercised over others; contrive to indicate one defect in which was otherwise a perfect achievement. Alas for us! How greatly we need to offer the prayer of the psalmist: Set a watch, O God, upon our lips! 

Criswell: "Do you remember those three little monkeys? One has his eyes covered--see no evil. One has his mouth covered--speak no evil. And one has his ears covered--hear no evil. The whole body.

A gossipy tongue is a dangerous thing
If its owner is evil at heart.
He can give whom he chooses many a sting
That will woefully linger and smart.
But the gossipy tongue would be balked in its plan
For causing heartburning and tears,
If it weren't helped out by the misguided man
Who possesses two gossipy ears…

If I am not to be a talebearer and a whisperer and a defamer and a slanderer then what am I to do? This is what I am to do. I am to speak beautifully, graciously, and kindly. The apostle Paul writes, 'Speak every man truth with his neighbor: for we are members one of another … Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.'"


James 3:1-6

Consider four parallels that a fire has with words spoken by the tongue: It hurts, it spreads, it consumes, but it can have a good use under control.

It only takes one false or bitter word to hurt deeply. In fact, the hurt may be so deep that recovery is impossible.

Just as fire spreads, so do spoken words. Some people are always willing to listen to destructive words about others, and they spread the words further so the damage becomes even more extensive.

Just as fire consumes, so do words spoken by a tongue that is out of control. Fire will destroy anything combustible that lies within its path. Words, too, have been known to destroy careers and lives. This is especially seen in the news media when political viewpoints are at stake.

We who know Jesus Christ as Saviour need to think solemnly about this matter so our tongues are not used to the disadvantage of others. Proverbs 18:21 says, "Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit" (NASB).

Think of it! The power of death and life reside in the tongue. And the last phrase of this verse especially applies to those who spread gossip: "Those who love it will eat its fruit."

"Whoso keepeth his mouth and his tongue keepeth his soul from troubles" (Prov. 21:23).

Brian Bell - James still helping us to discover a “genuine faith” or a Functioning Faith (Active Faith; Intentional; Authentic; Real; Expressive; Demonstrative; Gushing; Friendly; Affectionate Faith) He now adds a more specific manifestation of faith expressed through the self-control of our speech & the origin of our wisdom.  Question - Can you name the muscle in your body that receives more exercise & less control than any other? The tongue weighs only 2 oz.; it has 8 muscles to change its position; approx 4” long.   It helps us to chew, taste, swallow, & articulate words.  It also is used for deceit, destruction, it devours, it is sharp sword, it breaks bones (Pr 25:15), backbites, flatters, & poisons. 3. So it also is known as, “The 2 oz. Beast!” It’s this beastly nature that James address in this passage. But is it our literal tongues that are the real problem? Read Mt.15:11;17-19  The tongue is neither friend nor foe. It’s merely a messenger that delivers the dictates of a desperately sick heart. So when James uses tongue, think heart. Quaker Proverb, “Of your unspoken words, you are the master; of your spoken words, the servant; of your written words, the slave.” (Sermon)

THE TONGUE James Smith JAMES 1:19, 26; James 3:1-12

In the early Christian Church there evidently was great freedom of speech, and that liberty was abused. From the severity with which James deals with the tongue it is clear that there had been a great deal of ill-considered, ill-natured, self-assertive and violent speech amongst the Jewish Christians.
Probably this had taken the form of angry debating and bitter strife in the Assembly. At any rate verse 1 of chapter 3 seems to hint at this. The verse clearly shows that there were many who aspired to leadership and public ministry, without taking in mind the serious responsibilities of that position. In this verse James refers to the danger associated with too great a readiness to put forward one’s opinions on matters of religion.
Associated here with warning are bright Gospel lessons, and the reminder that one proof of our justified state is seen in our words; that our speech will reveal what and whose we are.
A young man was sent to Socrates to learn oratory. On being introduced to the philosopher he talked so incessantly that Socrates asked for double fees. “Why charge me double?” asked the young fellow. “Because,” replied the orator, “I must teach you two sciences, the one how to hold your tongue, the other how to speak.”

I. An Awakening Statement (James 3:2). Who is a perfect man? James informs us: “If any man offend not in Word.” Having mastery of that difficult member, the tongue, the rest is easy. “Able to curb his whole nature” (W.). “The same is a perfect man” is in W.: “That man has reached maturity of character.” This then is the mark of a mature Christian.

II. A Sobering Description. Note the suggestive descriptions James gives of the tongue.
1. A FIRE (James 3:6). Setting the whole being on fire as from Hell.
2. “A WORLD OF INIQUITY” (James 3:6). Defiling the whole being of each individual.
3. “FULL OF DEADLY POISON” (James 3:8).
4. “UNRULY EVIL” (James 3:8).

III. A Dread Possibility (James 3:9, 10). That the same tongue can:
1. Bless and curse (James 3:9, 10).
2. A fountain sending forth two kinds of water (James 3:11).

IV. A Wise Admonition (James 1:19; 3:13–18). Notice how affectionately James addresses his readers. “Swift to hear, slow to speak”—what wise words! A wise man will seek only to produce “Good conversation.”

V. A Sad Confession (James 3:7, 8). Most living things can be tamed, yet “the tongue can no man tame,” save the Man, Christ Jesus.

VI. A Glorious Possibility (James 1:26; James 3:3–6). This point forces itself upon us as we ponder the figures used by James for the tongue.
1. BIT AND BRIDLE (James 3:2, 3). To turn the whole body of the horse a firm hand on the bridle is required. The hand of the Man, Christ Jesus, can grip and firmly use the bit and bridle on our tongues.
2. SMALL HELM (James 3:4). The pierced Hand can firmly control and wisely use the helm of our lives—our tongue.


NOTE: These are quoted from KJV but hold pointer over reference for NASB.

APPLICATION - Here’s an exercise that might just help you get a hold on your words. Observe the wise words from Proverbs (bad and good) noting what the Word says about words. As you do, make a simple list of the positive and negative effects of Words spoken. Ask the Holy Spirit to lead you into all Truth and enable you to obey what you learn, even as He transforms you from glory to glory into the image of Jesus the Living Word. Amen (2 Cor 3:18).

SPEECH (Bad Speech)

  • "Violence covereth the mouth of the wicked" (Proverbs 10:6).
  • "Violence covereth the mouth of the wicked" (Proverbs 10:11).
  • "The mouth of the foolish is a present destruction" (Proverbs 10:14).
  • "He that hideth hatred is of lying lips" (Proverbs 10:18).
  • "He that uttereth a slander is a fool" (Proverbs 10:18).
  • "In the multitude of words there wanteth not transgression" (Proverbs 10:19).
  • "The perverse tongue shall be cut off" (Proverbs 10:31).
  • "The mouth of the wicked speaketh perverseness" (Proverbs 10:32).
  • "The words of the wicked are of lying in wait for blood" (Proverbs 12:6).
  • "In the transgression of the lips is a snare to the evil man" (Proverbs 12:13).
  • "A false witness, deceit" (Proverbs 12:17).
  • "There is that speaketh rashly like the piercings of a sword" (Proverbs 12:18).
  • "A lying tongue is but for a moment" (Proverbs 12:19).
  • "Lying lips are an abomination to Jehovah" :12:22).
  • "The heart of fools proclaimeth foolishness" (Proverbs 12:23).
  • "He that openeth wide his lips shall have destruction" (Proverbs 13:3).
  • "A righteous man hateth lying" (Proverbs 13:5).
  • "In the mouth of the foolish is a rod for his pride" (Proverbs 14:3).
  • "A grievous word stirreth up anger" (Proverbs 15:1).
  • "The mouth of fools poureth out folly" (Proverbs 15:2).
  • "Perverseness therein is a breaking of the spirit" (Proverbs 15:4).
  • "The mouth of fools feedeth on folly" (Proverbs 15:14).
  • "The mouth of the wicked poureth out evil things" (Proverbs 15:28).
  • "A worthless man deviseth mischief; And in his lips there is as a scorching fire" (Proverbs 16:27).
  • "A whisperer separateth chief friends" (Proverbs 16:28).
  • "He that compresseth his lips bringeth evil to pass" (Proverbs 16:30).
  • "An evil-doer giveth heed to wicked lips" (Proverbs 17:4).
  • "A liar giveth ear to a mischievous tongue" (Proverbs 17:4).
  • "Excellent speech becometh not a fool: Much less do lying lips a prince" (Proverbs 17:7).
  • "He that harpeth on a matter separateth chief friends" (Proverbs 17:9).
  • "He that hath a perverse tongue falleth into mischief" (Proverbs 17:20).
  • "A fool's lips enter into contention, And his mouth calleth for stripes" (Proverbs 18:6).
  • "A fool's mouth is his destruction, And his lips are the snare of his soul" (Proverbs 18:7).
  • "The words of a whisperer are as dainty morsels. And they go down into the innermost parts" (Proverbs 18:8).
  • "He that giveth answer before he heareth, It is folly and shame unto him" (Proverbs 18:13).
  • "A man's belly shall be filled with the fruit of his mouth" (Proverbs 18:20).
  • "Death and life are in the power of the tongue" (Proverbs 18:21).
  • "The rich answereth roughly" (Proverbs 18:23).
  • "Better is the poor that walketh in his integrity Than he that is perverse in his lips and is a fool" (Proverbs 19:1).
  • "A false witness shall not be unpunished; And he that uttereth lies shall not escape" (Proverbs 19:5).
  • "A false witness shall not be unpunished; And he that uttereth lies shall perish" (Proverbs 19:9).
  • "The contentions of a wife are a continual dropping" (Proverbs 19:13).
  • "A poor man is better than a liar" (Proverbs 19:22).
  • "A worthless witness mocketh at justice" (Proverbs 19:28).
  • "The mouth of the wicked swalloweth iniquity" (Proverbs 19:28).
  • "Most men will proclaim every one his own kindness; But a faithful man who can find?" (Proverbs 20:6).
  • "He that goeth about as a talebearer revealeth secrets" (Proverbs 20:19).
  • "Company not with him that openeth wide his lips" (Proverbs 20:19).
  • "Whoso curseth his father or his mother, His lamp shall be put out in blackness of darkness" (Proverbs 20:20).
  • "It is a snare to a man rashly to say, It is holy, And after vows to make inquiry" (Proverbs 20:25).
  • "The getting of treasures by a lying tongue Is a vapor driven to and fro by them that seek death" (Proverbs 21:6).
  • "A false witness shall perish" (Proverbs 21:28).
  • "The scoffer is an abomination to men" (Proverbs 24:9).
  • "Be not a witness against thy neighbor without cause" (Proverbs 24:28).
  • "Deceive not with thy lips" (Proverbs 24:28).
  • "As clouds and wind without rain, So is he that boasteth himself of his gifts falsely" (Proverbs 25:14).
  • "A man that beareth false witness against his neighbor Is a maul, and a sword, and sharp arrow" (Proverbs 25:18).
  • "The north wind bringeth forth rain; So doth a backbiting tongue an angry countenance" (Proverbs 25:23)
  • "The legs of the lame hang loose; So is a parable in the mouth of fools" (Proverbs 26:7).
  • "As a thorn that goeth up into the hand of a drunkard, So is a parable in the mouth of fools" (Proverbs 26:9).
  • "Where there is no whisperer, contention ceaseth" (Proverbs 26:20). "The words of a whisperer are as dainty morsels, And they go down into the innermost parts" (Proverbs 26:22).
  • "Fervent lips and a wicked heart Are like an earthen vessel overlaid with silver dross" (Proverbs 26:23).
  • "He that hateth dissembleth with his lips; But he layeth up deceit within him: When he speaketh fair, believe him not; For there are seven abominations in his heart: Though his hatred cover itself with guile, His wickedness shall be openly showed before the assembly" (Proverbs 26:24-26).
  • "A lying tongue hateth those whom it hath wounded; And a flattering mouth worketh ruin" (Proverbs 26:28).
  • "Let another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth; A stranger, and not thine own lips" (Proverbs 27:2).
  • "A man is tried by his praise" (Proverbs 27:21).
  • "A man that flattereth his neighbor Spreadeth a net for his steps" (Proverbs 29:5).
  • "Seest thou a man that is hasty in his words? There is more hope of a fool than of him" (Proverbs 29:20).

SPEECH (Good Speech)

  • "In the lips of him that hath discernment wisdom is found" (Proverbs 10:13).
  • "He that refraineth his lips doeth wisely" (Proverbs 10:19).
  • "The tongue of the righteous is as choice silver" (Proverbs 10:20).
  • "The lips of the righteous feed many" (Proverbs 10:21).
  • "The mouth of the righteous bringeth forth wisdom" (Proverbs 10:31),
  • "The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable" (Proverbs 10:32),
  • "The mouth of the righteous shall deliver them" (Proverbs 12:6).
  • "A man shall be satisfied with good by the fruit of his mouth" (Proverbs 12:14).
  • "He that uttereth truth showeth forth righteousness" (Proverbs 12:17).
  • "The tongue of the wise is health" (Proverbs 12:18).
  • "The lip of truth shall be established for ever" (Proverbs 12:19).
  • "Heaviness in the heart of a man maketh it stoop; But a good word maketh it glad" (Proverbs 12:25).
  • "A man shall eat good by the fruit of his mouth" (Proverbs 13:2).
  • "He that guardeth his mouth keepeth his life" (Proverbs 13:3).
  • "The lips of the wise shall preserve them" (Proverbs 14:3).
  • "A soft answer turneth away wrath" (Proverbs 15:1). •
  • "The tongue of the wise uttereth knowledge aright" (Proverbs 15:2).
  • "A gentle tongue is a tree of life" (Proverbs 15:4).
  • "The lips of the wise disperse knowledge" (Proverbs 15:7).
  • "A man hath joy in the answer of his mouth" (Proverbs 15:23).
  • "A word in due season, how good is it! (Proverbs 15:23).
  • "Pleasant words are pure" (Proverbs 15:26).
  • "The heart of the righteous studieth to answer" (Proverbs 15:28).
  • "The answer of the tongue is from Jehovah" (Proverbs 16:1).
  • "A divine sentence is in the lips of the king; His mouth shall not transgress in judgment" (Proverbs 16:10)
  • "Righteous lips are the delight of kings; And they love him that speaketh right" (Proverbs 16:13).
  • "The sweetness of the lips increaseth learning" (Proverbs 16:21).
  • "The heart of the wise instructeth his mouth, And addeth learning to his lips" (Proverbs 16:23).
  • "Pleasant words are as a honeycomb, Sweet to the soul, and health to the bones" (Proverbs 16:24).
  • "The words of a man's mouth are as deep waters; The wellspring of wisdom is as a flowing brook" (Proverbs 18:4).
  • "With the increase of his lips shall he be satisfied" (Proverbs 18:20).
  • "Death and life are in the power of the tongue; And they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof" (Proverbs 18:21).
  • "The poor useth entreaties" (Proverbs 18:23).
  • "The lips of knowledge are a precious jewel" (Proverbs 20:15).
  • "Whoso keepeth his mouth and his tongue Keepeth his soul from troubles" (Proverbs 21:23).
  • "The man that heareth shall speak so as to endure" (Proverbs 21:28).
  • "He kisseth the lips Who giveth a right answer" (Proverbs 24:26).
  • "Debate thy cause with thy neighbor himself" (Proverbs 25:9).
  • "A word fitly spoken Is like apples of gold in network of silver" (Proverbs 25:11).
  • "As an ear-ring of gold, and an ornament of fine gold, So is a wise reprover upon an obedient ear" (Proverbs 25:12).
  • "As the cold of snow in the time of harvest, So is a faithful messenger to them that send him; For he refresheth the soul of his masters" (Proverbs 25:13).
  • "A soft tongue breaketh the bone" (Proverbs 25:15).
  • "Answer a fool according to his folly, Lest he be wise in his own conceit" (Proverbs 26:5).
  • "The rod and reproof give wisdom" (Proverbs 29:15).


  • It is easier to look wise than to talk wisely. Ambrose
  • God has given us teeth and a mouth—teeth to cage in that deadly weapon, and a mouth to close it in. The most ferocious monster in the world has his den just behind the teeth.
  • No part of us is in a more slippery place than the tongue.
  • There's many a slip 'twixt cup and lip.  - German proverb
  • A lengthy tongue and early death.  - Persian saying
  • The boneless tongue, small and weak, can crush and kill.
  • A bird is known by his note, a man by his talk. Anon.
  • A sharp tongue is no evidence of a keen mind. Anon.
  • There are many messages that would have been twice as effective with half the words!
  • It's when you feel like you have to say something that you end up saying the dumbest things.
  • Talk is cheap.
  • A sharp tongue is the only edged tool that grows keener with constant use. Washington Irving
  • Actions don’t always speak louder than words—your tongue can undo everything you do. Anon.
  • His heart cannot be pure whose tongue is not clean. Anon.
  • In company, guard your tongue—in solitude, your thoughts. Anon.
  • Lord, make my words gracious and tender, for tomorrow I may have to eat them! Anon.
  • No physician can heal the wounds inflicted by the tongue. Anon.
  • Nothing is so opened more by mistake than the mouth. Anon.
  • One thing you can give and still keep is your word. Anon.
  • The Christian should learn two things about his tongue: how to hold it and how to use it. Anon.
  • The tongue is but three inches long, yet it can kill a man six feet high. Anon.
  • There are two sciences which every person ought to learn: the science of speech and the more difficult one of silence. Anon.
  • What is in the well of your heart will show up in the bucket of your speech. Anon.
  • When you speak, remember God is one of your listeners. Anon.
  • Words are leaves—deeds are fruit. Anon.
  • Words are our thoughts going public! Anon
  • The tongue is the hinge on which everything in the personality turns. T. C. Baird
  • It is a sad fact that the tongues of professing Christians are often all too busy doing the devil’s work. Donald Grey Barnhouse
  • One of the first things that happens when a man is really filled with the Spirit is not that he speaks with tongues, but that he learns to hold the one tongue he already has. J. Sidlow Baxter
  • Gentle words fall lightly, but they have great weight. Derick Bingham
  • A sanctified heart is better than a silver tongue. Thomas Brooks
  • Of all the members in the body, there is none so serviceable to Satan as the tongue. Thomas Brooks
  • We know metals by their tinkling and men by their talking. Thomas Brooks
  • A word spoken is physically transient but morally permanent. Francis Burkitt
  • The vice of the tongue spreads and prevails over every part of life. It is as active and potent for evil in old age as ever it was in the days of our youth. John Calvin
  • There is nothing more slippery or loose than the tongue. John Calvin
  • During a long life I have had to eat my own words many times and I have found it a very nourishing diet. Winston Churchill
  • When you have nothing to say, say nothing. C. C. Colton
  • Think all you speak but speak not all you think. Patrick Delaney
  • The worst of speaking without thinking is that you say what you think. James Denney
  • Let thy speech be better than silence, or be silent. Dionysius the Elder
  • Nothing is often a good thing to say. Will Durant
  • Kind words are the music of the world. Frederick W. Faber
  • The heart of a fool is in his mouth, but the mouth of a wise man is in his heart. Benjamin Franklin
  • If I speak what is false, I must answer for it; if truth, it will answer for me. Thomas Fuller
  • The jawbone of an ass was a killer in Samson’s time. It still is. Morris Gilber
  • A sanctified heart is better than a silver tongue. Thomas Goodwin
  • If the mouth be bad, the mind is not good. Matthew Henry
  • It is bad to think ill, but it is worse to speak it. Matthew Henry
  • If nobody said anything unless he knew what he was talking about, what a ghastly hush would descend upon the earth! A. P. Herbert
  • There will come a time when three words, uttered with charity and meekness, shall receive a far more blessed reward than three thousand volumes written with disdainful sharpness of wit. Richard Hooker
  • Many people would be more truthful were it not for their uncontrollable desire to talk. Edgar Watson Howe
  • There is a time for saying nothing; there is occasionally a time for saying something; there is never a time for saying everything. Hugh of St Victor
  • A sharp tongue is the only edged tool that grows keener with constant use. Washington Irving
  • A fool is hardly discerned when silent; his picture is best taken when he is speaking. William Jenkyn
  • An evil speaker is his own scourge. William Jenkyn
  • If you can hold your tongue you can hold anything. E. Stanley Jones
  • Sharp tongues have a way of sharpening other tongues. E. Stanley Jones
  • Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt. Abraham Lincoln
  • Blessed are they who have nothing to say and who cannot be persuaded to say it. James Russell Lowell
  • The tongue is the ambassador of the heart. John Lyly
  • When the hands are idle, the tongue is usually very active. Henry T. Mahan
  • A tongue that is set on fire from hell shall be set on fire in hell. Thomas Manton
  • Evil words show a wicked heart, and idle words a vain mind. Thomas Manton
  • Most of a man’s sins are in his words. Thomas Manton
  • If you think twice before you talk once, you will speak twice the better for it. William Penn
  • Man’s speech is like his life. Plato
  • A word spoken is physically transient but morally permanent. J. C. Ryle
  • Our words are the evidence of the state of our hearts as surely as the taste of the water is an evidence of the state of the spring. J. C. Ryle
  • By the striking of the clapper we guess at the metal of the bell. William Secker
  • Speech is the index of the mind. Seneca
  • When I think over what I have said, I envy dumb people. Seneca
  • Speech is … only good when it is better than silence. Richard Sibbes
  • If we cannot be believed on our word, we are surely not to be trusted on our oath. C. H. Spurgeon
  • The word of a man is as powerful as himself. Richard Sibbes
  • Some men’s tongues bite more than their teeth. C. H. Spurgeon
  • Tongues are more terrible instruments than can be made with hammers and anvils, and the evil which they inflict cuts deeper and spreads wider. C. H. Spurgeon
  • Whatever moves the heart wags the tongue. C. T. Studd
  • The heart is the metal of the bell, the tongue but the clapper. George Swinnock
  • Speech is the mirror of the soul; as a man speaks, so he is. Publilius Syrus
  • Evil tongues are the devil’s bellows. John Trapp
  • A ready tongue without an informed mind, a devout character and a holy life will hinder rather than advance the cause of Christ. Curtis Vaughan
  • How can Christ be in the heart when the devil has taken possession of the tongue? Thomas Watson
  • Words are the looking-glass of the mind. Thomas Watson

James 3:3  Now if we put the bits into the horses' mouths so that they will obey us, we direct their entire body as well.

Amplified  If we set bits in the horses’ mouths to make them obey us, we can turn their whole bodies about. 

Phillips  Men control the movements of a large animal like the horse with a tiny bit placed in its mouth. 

Wuest  Now if, as is the case, we put bridles in the mouths of the horses in order that they may be obeying us, we also guide their entire body.

NET  James 3:3 And if we put bits into the mouths of horses to get them to obey us, then we guide their entire bodies.

GNT  James 3:3 εἰ δὲ τῶν ἵππων τοὺς χαλινοὺς εἰς τὰ στόματα βάλλομεν εἰς τὸ πείθεσθαι αὐτοὺς ἡμῖν, καὶ ὅλον τὸ σῶμα αὐτῶν μετάγομεν.

NLT  James 3:3 We can make a large horse go wherever we want by means of a small bit in its mouth.

KJV  James 3:3 Behold, we put bits in the horses' mouths, that they may obey us; and we turn about their whole body.

ESV  James 3:3 If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well.

ASV  James 3:3 Now if we put the horses' bridles into their mouths that they may obey us, we turn about their whole body also.

CSB  James 3:3 Now when we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we also guide the whole animal.

NIV  James 3:3 When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal.

NKJ  James 3:3 Indeed, we put bits in horses' mouths that they may obey us, and we turn their whole body.

NRS  James 3:3 If we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we guide their whole bodies.

YLT  James 3:3 lo, the bits we put into the mouths of the horses for their obeying us, and their whole body we turn about;

NAB  James 3:3 If we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we also guide their whole bodies.

NJB  James 3:3 Once we put a bit in the horse's mouth, to make it do what we want, we have the whole animal under our control.

GWN  James 3:3 We put bits in the mouths of horses to make them obey us, and we have control over everything they do.

BBE  James 3:3 Now if we put bits of iron into horses' mouths so that they may be guided by us, we have complete control of their bodies.

  • Jas 1:26 2Ki 19:28 Ps 32:9 39:1 Isa 37:29 
  • James 3 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries 



The reader might be thinking that James is exaggerating on the potential of the tongue to affect one's whole body (James 3:2). He will now give illustrations of the power of the tongue to control by describing relatively small things that were well known to exert control over something much larger. Note that in each of these "little things," when they are controlled or directed, the larger, much more powerful things are controlled.  Winkler phrases it this way

"That the mastery of the tongue
aids the mastery of the whole body
is illustrated by comparison."

Calvin - By these two comparisons he proves that a great part of true perfection is in the tongue, and that it exercises dominion, as he has just said, over the whole life.

Simon Kistemaker introduces the illustrations commenting on the significance of our "words" - "Let no one ever say that words are insignificant. Martin Luther's hymn "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God" mentions the prince of darkness, whose

Rage we can endure,
For lo! his doom is sure,
One little Word shall fell him.

One word can alter the course of human history. For example, Jesus spoke the words It is finished,which in the Greek is only one word (tetelestai). (Baker New Testament Commentary – Exposition of James)

McCartney writes that "Leading a large animal by putting a bit in its mouth is a common metaphor for speech control in many languages. Wisdom literature the world over knows of the problems that uncontrolled speech generates and therefore sees that the control of one’s own speech must be as rigorous and unremittent as the control of a recalcitrant and unruly large animal.....Horses and ships are large things of great power that are nevertheless controlled by human will and by means of very small items. The controlling verb is the same (metago); they are directed or steered. The horse example is interesting because the literal mouth is the means of control; the ship is interesting because it harnesses great powers outside of itself (strong winds) that are then directed by means of the small rudder. Both examples emphatically illustrate the power of speech: if it is controlled well, its effect is wonderful, but if uncontrolled or controlled poorly, the disaster can be enormous (ED: See James 3:5b+)." (BECNT-James)

Now if - With this "IF" James presents another first class conditional statement (assumed to be true).

As Hiebert explains "since common experience shows that the application of control at the proper point is effective in dealing with horses, effective control also can be applied to the human tongue." (Ibid)

Brian Bell quips that "The tongue is a bit, a small, 2 ounce bit nestled in our mouths that controls the direction of our lives....The rudder of the human body is that small slab of muscle called the tongue."

We put the bits into the horses' mouths - The picture of bridling the whole body in James 3:2 is a natural segue to the illustration of bridling a horse. Horse's mouths - notice this connects with the tongue in the mouth of a person. And where does the bit lie in the horse's mouth? The bit actually sets upon the horse's tongue. The bit must be in the proper place to function, for if we place it under the tail it does not work!

The words of the psalmist are apropos - 

Do not be as the horse or as the mule which have no understanding, Whose trappings include bit and bridle to hold them in check, Otherwise they will not come near to you.  (Ps 32:9)

So that they will obey us So that expresses purpose. And so the purpose or goal of the bit in the mouth is to make the whole horse obey, not just its mouth! Obey is in the present tense depicting the horse's continual obedience. So with just the small bits in their mouths, one can direct the horse's head to the right or to the left and with this movement can cause the entire horse to go in the direction we desire.

Hiebert writes that "James is not interested merely in a "tamed tongue" but in a properly controlled tongue manifesting itself in all areas of human life." (Ibid)

Guzik has somewhat of an applicational comment -  "A small bit in the mouth controls a strong horse. A small rudder turns a large ship. Even so, if we have control over our tongue it is an indication that we have control over our self. Whoever can control the tongue can bridle the whole body (James 3:2).  The bit and the rudder are small but extremely important. If they are not controlled the entire horse is out of control and the entire ship is out of control. It is possible for something as small as the tongue to have tremendous power for either good or evil.  You don’t solve the problem of an unruly horse by keeping it in the barn, or the problem of a hard-to-steer ship by keeping it tied to the dock. In the same way, even a vow of silence (ED: OR "BITE YOUR TONGUE") is not the ultimate answer for the misuse of our tongue.. If the tongue is like a bit in the mouth of a horse or the rudder on a ship, it leaves us with the question: Who or what holds the reigns, or who or what directs the rudder? Some people have no hand on the reigns or rudder, and therefore say whatever comes into mind. Others direct their tongue from their emotions or from aspects of their carnal nature. James points us towards having the Spirit of God (SEE PRECEDING NOTE ON ROLE OF SPIRIT CONTROLLING THE TONGUE), working through the new man, setting (His) directing hands on the reigns and rudder of our tongue." (Ibid) (Bold and editorial notes added)

John Phillips writes that "It is an evidence of man's lordship over nature that he has been able to tame and harness the mighty horse, a creature bigger and stronger and swifter than he." (Exploring the Epistle of James: An Expository Commentary)

Obey (3982)(peitho) literally means to persuade or induce by words to believe, but clearly in this context means to obey, to follow the commands or guidance of the one leading or commanding. Peitho is used with this same nuance in Gal 5:7+, Heb 13:17+. 

We direct their entire body as well - James is painting a dramatic contrast between the horse's small mouth and their massive, powerful body. The horse's body follows his mouth which in turn is guided by the bridle. So just as the a bit can make a large horse go where one wants, the tongue controls the whole body. Osborne comments "The thrust is that the tongue, like a small bit in a horse's mouth, turns one's whole life around and directs the way it will go." 

MacArthur points out that "Even gentle horses, which have been ridden for many years, are not controllable without bits in their mouths. As long as they are expected to perform service, whether for riding or for pulling a wagon or plow, they require that control. So it is with believers. To be useful to God, we will need our tongues controlled (ED: SEE NOTE ON TONGUE CONTROL), with everything else following in submission." (Ibid)

Douglas Moo writes that "as the bit determines the direction of the horse, so the tongue can determine the destiny of the individual. Believers who exercise careful control of the tongue  (ED: ONLY POSSIBLE BY THE SPIRIT'S TONGUE CONTROL) are able also to direct their whole life in its proper, divinely charted course: they are "perfect" (James 3:2). But when that tongue is not restrained, small though it is, the rest of the body is likely (ED: ALMOST GUARANTEED!) to be uncontrolled and undisciplined also." (Ibid)

Donald Burdick - A very small bit "can turn the whole animal." So a man who controls his tongue can control his whole being (ED: SEE NOTE ON TONGUE CONTROL). (Expositor's Bible Commentary, 1976).

Gary Holloway - Not just control, but restraint is pictured by the horse’s bit. (ED: ENABLED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT - SEE Php 2:13NLT+) We must say “whoa” to our words before we speak them too hastily. (College Press NIV Commentary - James)

To bridle your tongue,
Give God the reins of your heart.

Barton applies this illustration - If a person's impulsive speech is uncontrolled, his or her whole life is headed in the wrong direction....We should let Christ (ED: VIA INDWELLING SPIRIT OF CHRST'S POWER) bridle our mouths instead of speaking out every time a thoughtless word comes to mind. (Ibid)

Simon Kistemaker applies this illustration - If, then, man controls powerful horses with small bits placed in their mouths, he certainly should be able to control his own tongue. The points of comparison are mouth and body. (Ibid)

ED COMMENT: The only way he is "able to control his own tongue" is by continual submission to the Spirit Who enables this fruit of self-control See preceding note. The alternative is fleshly "self-control" which can work for a while as we "bite our tongue" to keep from sounding off! But eventually your flesh will fail and give sway to the lusts of the flesh which can result in all manner of negative communication!"

Direct (3329)(metago from meta = change of place/position + ago = lead) means to change the direction, to move from one side to another, to turn about, guide in another direction. Louw-Nida - to cause to move from one place to another by bringing or leading - 'to direct, to steer, to guide" Only used by James to describe horse's bit (James 3:3) and the ship's rudder (James 3:4) which though small were able to effectively "turn about" large things. The meaning in the Septuagint (Lxx) the meaning is to convey from one place or person to another, to carry into captivity (1 Ki 8:47, 48, 2 Chr 36:3).

Metago in the Septuagint (Lxx) - 1 Ki. 8:47; 1 Ki. 8:48; 2 Chr. 6:37; 2 Chr. 36:3; Est. 8:12

THOUGHT - (This has been alluded to above) There is one other interesting application of James' illustrations (of bridle and rudder). Just as the bit/bridal is guided by a rider of the horse and the rudder is guided by a pilot, so too the tongue is guided by either the Spirit or the flesh! And as a corollary thought, one can get a good sense of whether or not he or she is filled with/controlled by the Spirit by the words that fly off of their tongues! (See preceding discussion of tongue control).

Let's apply this illustration - the bridle guiding the horse...

If we would permit the Spirit of God to put His bridle in our mouths (resting on our tongues) in order that we might obey Him, He like the horse back rider, would be able to guide our whole body! 

Prayer of a young lady - Lord, of all patience and understanding, I confess unto you today the wild and untamed nature of my tongue. It slips the leash of my will and goes off on paths of its own choosing. It has wounded my parents, scarred my friends and sent my little brother crying upstairs to bed. When it has calmed down I am surprised at the wild chase it had and the strange things it did. Yet, Oh God, I know that it is mine and in sorrow I confess my ownership. The hate of its words was the hate of my heart. The gossip that it carried was but my own innermost self brought out into the open. Its falsehood grew out of my own fears. Teach me, my Father God, something of the patient understanding of Jesus when He looked at the faults of other people. Save me from foolish anxiety and thoughtless plans, thus put Thou a bridle on my tongue.

James 3:4  Look at the ships also, though they are so great and are driven by strong winds, are still directed by a very small rudder wherever the inclination of the pilot desires.

Amplified  Likewise, look at the ships: though they are so great and are driven by rough winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the impulse of the helmsman determines. 

Phillips  Ships too, for all their size and the momentum they have with a strong wind behind them, are controlled by a very small rudder according to the course chosen by the helmsman. 

Wuest Behold also the ships, though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, are guided by a very small rudder wherever the impulse of the steersman leads him. 

NET  James 3:4 Look at ships too: Though they are so large and driven by harsh winds, they are steered by a tiny rudder wherever the pilot's inclination directs.

GNT  James 3:4 ἰδοὺ καὶ τὰ πλοῖα τηλικαῦτα ὄντα καὶ ὑπὸ ἀνέμων σκληρῶν ἐλαυνόμενα, μετάγεται ὑπὸ ἐλαχίστου πηδαλίου ὅπου ἡ ὁρμὴ τοῦ εὐθύνοντος βούλεται,

NLT  James 3:4 And a small rudder makes a huge ship turn wherever the pilot chooses to go, even though the winds are strong.

KJV  James 3:4 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.

ESV  James 3:4 Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs.

ASV  James 3:4 Behold, the ships also, though they are so great and are driven by rough winds, are yet turned about by a very small rudder, whither the impulse of the steersman willeth.

CSB  James 3:4 And consider ships: Though very large and driven by fierce winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs.

NIV  James 3:4 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.

NKJ  James 3:4 Look also at ships: although they are so large and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires.

NRS  James 3:4 Or look at ships: though they are so large that it takes strong winds to drive them, yet they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs.

YLT  James 3:4 lo, also the ships, being so great, and by fierce winds being driven, are led about by a very small helm, whithersoever the impulse of the helmsman doth counsel,

NAB  James 3:4 It is the same with ships: even though they are so large and driven by fierce winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot's inclination wishes.

NJB  James 3:4 Or think of ships: no matter how big they are, even if a gale is driving them, they are directed by a tiny rudder wherever the whim of the helmsman decides.

GWN  James 3:4 The same thing is true for ships. They are very big and are driven by strong winds. Yet, by using small rudders, pilots steer ships wherever they want them to go.

BBE  James 3:4 And again ships, though they are so great and are moved by violent winds, are turned by a very small guiding-blade, at the impulse of the man who is using it.

  • are driven by strong winds: Ps 107:25-27 Jon 1:4 Mt 8:24 Ac 27:14-38 
  • James 3 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries 


Look at the ships also, though they are so great and are driven by strong winds, are still directed by a very small rudder - Again James presents the striking contrast between a small component that has the power to control a huge structure. He is building his case for the power of the relatively small member of our body, the tongue. 

Robertson on great - If James had only seen the modern mammoth ships. But the ship on which Paul went to Malta carried 276 persons (Acts 27:37+).

Look (BEHOLD)(2400)(idou) is the second person singular aorist middle imperative of eidon which means to see, perceive, look at. In the NT idou is used as a demonstrative particle that draws attention to what follows. Idou in the middle voice means "you yourself look, see, perceive!" The aorist imperative is a command emphasizing "Do it now! Don't delay!" Idouis used by the Biblical writers to (1) prompt or arouse the reader's attention (introducing something new or unusual), (2) to mark a strong emphasis ("Indeed!" Lk 13:16) and (3) to call the reader to pay close attention (very similar to #1) so that one will listen, remember or consider. 

Spurgeon reminds us that "Behold is a word of wonder; it is intended to excite admiration. Wherever you see it hung out in Scripture, it is like an ancient sign-board, signifying that there are rich wares within, or like the hands which solid readers have observed in the margin of the older Puritanic books, drawing attention to something particularly worthy of observation." I would add, behold is like a divine highlighter, a divine underlining of an especially striking or important text. It says in effect "Listen up, all ye who would be wise in the ways of Jehovah!"

Driven (1643)(elauno) means to urge, drive or propel along, to drive (of ships - Jas 3:4, of "mists driven by a storm" = 2 Pe 2:17+). BDAG has a more figurative meaning = "Of a spirit who drives a possessed person." (Lk 8:29+ of the man who would "be driven by the demon into the desert.")  In John 6:19 elauno means "rowed" (the boat) (cf similar sense in Mk 6:48 = "straining at the oars," where oars is the verb elauno - so they were propeling the boat by rowing with oars; cf similar use in Isa 33:21).

Gilbrant - Outside the New Testament it is used in the sense of driving chariots, driving off stolen horses, and persecution (driving to extremes). Sometimes elaunō describes the act of striking with a weapon and forging metal.(Complete Biblical Library Greek-English Dictionary)

Elauno - 5x in NT - driven(3), oars(1), rowed(1).

Mk. 6:48; Lk. 8:29; Jn. 6:19; Jas. 3:4; 2 Pet. 2:17. In Septuagint (Lxx) 4x - Exod. 25:12; 1 Ki. 9:27; Isa. 33:21; Isa. 41:7;

Gary HollowayStrong winds are mentioned to show the danger of misusing a rudder. One small slip can sink the ship. One small slip of the tongue can also destroy lives.(College Press NIV Commentary - James)

Strong(harsh, difficult) (4642)(skleros) means hard, stiff, unyielding, all good descriptions of the powerful winds that frequently arise at sea. 

Robertson - "There is more imagery drawn from mere natural phenomena in the one short Epistle of James than in all St. Paul's epistles put together" (Howson).

Directed (3329) see preceding discussion of metago, the only other use of this verb in the NT.

Gilbrant - What is in the heart determines speech content and attitude (Matthew 12:34). If there is genuine faith in the heart, the accompanying works will be both appropriate speech and conduct. (ED: Yes, "genuine faith" is important but there must also be reliance on the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, not the fallen flesh.)

A very small rudder - Ancient rudders were more like blades and not like single rudders we see on ships today.

Rudder (4079)(pedalionfrom pedon = blade of an oar) was a large plank at the stern of a ship used to direct its course or steering the ship. See ancient steering oars. These were blades of oars and refers to paddle rudders extending from the sides of the ship and were tied while the ship was at anchor. BDAG adds that "each ship had two rudders, connected by a crossbar and operated by one man." 

Jon Courson - Just as surely as an insignificant-looking rudder controls an entire ship, or a little piece of metal controls a powerful horse, so the tongue, weighing a mere twenty ounces, can either bring direction or destruction—for truly the power of life and death is in the tongue (Proverbs 18:21). (Jon Courson's Application Commentary New Testament)

Roy Gingrich - In the two illustrations, men use a small thing to control a big thing to do a lot of good. In the application, the body’s evil passions use a small thing, the tongue, to unloose a big thing, the body, to do a lot of evil (damage). The one point in common in the illustrations and the application is the great effect brought about by a small thing. (Book of James)

MacArthur- James provided several analogies that show how the tongue, even though small, has the power to control one's whole person and influence everything in his life. (The MacArthur Study Bible)

Wherever the inclination of the pilot desires - Wuest "wherever the impulse of the steersman leads him."  One application is that the “impulsive” use of a little human tongue can result in great evils.

Inclination (3730)(horme) refers to a rapid motion forwards, onrush, violent impulse, assault. Zodhiates adds that "Hormé often times has in view motion toward an object with the purpose of propelling and repelling it still further from oneself." BDAG describes the figurative means - "a psychological state of strong tendency = impulse, inclination, desire."  In the use in Acts 14:5 we read  of swift and capricious mob action, Luke writing "an attempt (horme) was made by both the Gentiles and the Jews with their rulers, to mistreat and to stone them." So here horme describes an assault of unbelieving Jews and Gentiles, with the leaders of the city of Iconium, against the synagogue where Paul was preaching and so depicts a violent quick attack.

Horme a wide range of meanings, usually involving motion, but it could also express such ideas as impulse or eagerness (Liddell-Scott). The Leipzig collection of inscriptions read, “He stopped the force of the Barbarian rush” (cf. Moulton-Milligan). Likewise, the Oxyrhynchus Papyri (Fourth Century A.D.) speak of “two pigs making a rush into our piece of land” (ibid.).

Wiersbe - "Both the bit and the rudder must overcome contrary forces. The bit must overcome the wild nature of the horse, and the rudder must fight the winds and currents that would drive the ship off its course. The human tongue also must overcome contrary forces. We have an old nature that wants to control us and make us sin."

Pilot(2116)(euthuno from euthus= straight) means literally to cause something to be (or to make) straight and was used here by James 3:4+ in his metaphorical description of the tongue to speak of a ship that was kept on a straight course, something done by the pilot. In the only other NT use in John 1:23+euthuno speaks of a "road" (THE WAY) that is to be made straight. In context John was using euthuno figuratively and in fact commanded (aorist imperative) his Jewish listeners to remove any and all obstacles that would impede or prevent the Lord from entering into a personal relationship with them! 

ILLUSTRATION - On May 21, 1941, the “unsinkable” German battleship, the Bismarck, was sighted in the North Atlantic. Immediately planes and ships from the Royal British Navy sped to the scene. As the Bismarck headed toward the German-controlled French coast where it would be safe from attack, to the astonishment of all the massive battleship suddenly swung around and reentered the area where the British ships were massed in greatest strength. At the same time, she began to steer an erratic zigzag course, which made it much easier for the British to overtake her. You see, a torpedo had damaged her rudder and without its control the “unsinkable” Bismarck was sunk. As the rudder controls a ship, so the tongue controls a person.

Let's Apply this Illustration of a rudder and a ship

  • We all need to ask ourselves - Who is the pilot?
  • Are we? Or is the Lord, the Holy Spirit? 

James 3:5  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!

Amplified  Even so the tongue is a little member, and it can boast of great things. See how much wood or how great a forest a tiny spark can set ablaze! 

Phillips   The human tongue is physically small, but what tremendous effects it can boast of! A whole forest can be set ablaze by a tiny spark of fire

Wuest  Even so the tongue also is a small member [of the human body] and boasts great things. Behold, how great a forest a little fire sets ablaze. 

NET  James 3:5 So too the tongue is a small part of the body, yet it has great pretensions. Think how small a flame sets a huge forest ablaze.

GNT  James 3:5 οὕτως καὶ ἡ γλῶσσα μικρὸν μέλος ἐστὶν καὶ μεγάλα αὐχεῖ. Ἰδοὺ ἡλίκον πῦρ ἡλίκην ὕλην ἀνάπτει·

NLT  James 3:5 In the same way, the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches.But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire.

KJV  James 3:5 Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth!

ESV  James 3:5 So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire!

ASV  James 3:5 So the tongue also is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how much wood is kindled by how small a fire!

CSB  James 3:5 So too, though the tongue is a small part of the body, it boasts great things. Consider how large a forest a small fire ignites.

NIV  James 3:5 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.

NKJ  James 3:5 Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles!

NRS  James 3:5 So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great exploits. How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire!

YLT  James 3:5 so also the tongue is a little member, and doth boast greatly; lo, a little fire how much wood it doth kindle!

NAB  James 3:5 In the same way the tongue is a small member and yet has great pretensions. Consider how small a fire can set a huge forest ablaze.

NJB  James 3:5 So the tongue is only a tiny part of the body, but its boasts are great. Think how small a flame can set fire to a huge forest;

GWN  James 3:5 In the same way the tongue is a small part of the body, but it can brag about doing important things. A large forest can be set on fire by a little flame.

BBE  James 3:5 Even so the tongue is a small part of the body, but it takes credit for great things. How much wood may be lighted by a very little fire!

  • So also the tongue is a small part of the body: Ex 5:2 15:9 2Ki 19:22-24 Job 21:14,15 22:17 Ps 10:3 12:2-4 Ps 17:10 52:1,2 73:8,9 Pr 12:18 15:2 18:21 Jer 9:3-8 18:18 Eze 28:2 29:3 Da 3:15 4:30 2Pe 2:18 Jude 1:16 Rev 13:5,6 
  • James 3 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries 


For explanation of "plumes itself" see note below.

So also - In the same manner (as a small bridle, as a small rudder). 

The tongue is a small part of the body - The tongue is physically small, a "small member." "The tongue is petite but powerful!" (Blue)

I lost a very little word,
only the other day.
It was a very naughty word,
I had not meant to say.

But then, it was not really lost,
when from my lips it flew.
My little brother picked it up
and now he says it too.

Tongue (100) (glossa)means literal tongue, the organ of the body (Rev 16:10). 

Part (member)(3196)(melos) is literally any part of the human body. In this passage melos is singular (most of us have only one tongue, although some of us to often speak with a "forked tongue!") In the plural melos was used to describe the members of the body as the seat of the desires and passions (Ro 6:13, 19; Ro 7:5, 23; 1 Cor. 6:15; Col. 3:5; James 4:1). Figuratively melos of one who belongs to the Christian community as the body of Christ (Ro 12:5; 1 Cor 6:15; 1 Cor 12:27; Eph 5:30). In classical Greek the primary meaning of melos is “limb” or “part” of the body.

And yet it boasts of great things - Some (John Butler - Analytical Bible Expositor) interpret "great things" in a positive sense, stating that the "tongue has the capability of being a great and wonderful influence for good." That may be true (especially if it is a Spirit-controlled tongue!), but that is not what James is saying here. Notice his choice of words ("boasts" a negative word) and secondly the contextual description of the destructive effect of the tongue (great forest fire). The NET Bible renders it "yet it has great pretensions" which emphasizes the evil or negative sense. Similarly the NLT says it "makes grand speeches." So clearly this refers to the naturally self-centered tongue which, energized by the fallen flesh, ultimately results in a wake of destruction (like a fire destroying a great forest). 

Puritan Thomas Manton agrees this is a negative statement by James, paraphrasing it as "The tongue witnesses for itself; for by it people trumpet their presumptions and boast that they can do great things.” He gives the example of boasting because: (1) It is the usual sin of the tongue. This is the part of the body that most serves pride (INTERESTING THOUGHT!). (2) It is usually the sin of those who have no control over their spirits and actions. Hypocrites and vain men are proud boasters. “Flattering lips” and “every boastful tongue” are linked together (Psalm 12:3). And in Proverbs 14:3 we read, “A fool’s talk brings a rod to his back.” True grace humbles; false "grace" puffs up. 

Monty Mills on boasts of great things - We do well to remember that Jas 1:26+ indicates it is possible for a man’s tongue to be bridled, so the epistle has already indicated that the ‘implanted word’ (James 1:21+ [i.e., the power of regeneration]) has the ability to bridle the tongue (ED: BECAUSE EVERY REGENERATED PERSON HAS THE SPIRIT INDWELLING THEM TO ENABLE THEM).....The ‘boasts great things’ of James 3:5a indicates any kind of haughty speech which stirs up strife or provokes others....The passage thus talks not of the commitment which boasting establishes, but rather the malicious strife engendered by the tongue; and this harmonizes with James 3:5b. However, it is also true that when the tongue makes a boast it sets a goal for the person to fulfill (have not we all said something we wished we had not, and yet felt obliged to live up to our word?). So, the tongue exercises a bewildering control over the course of our lives, and demonstrates when a person’s life is not under the control of the Holy Spirit. Besides the marvel of the smallness of the controlling force and instrument, the two illustrations have in common the fact that both controlling media are under the control of the will of the rider, helmsman, or rider. The question thus is, “Who is in control of the tongue?  God or Satan (ED: I WOULD SAY "THE FALLEN FLESH" BECAUSE OF James 1:14-15+)?”  How the tongue is employed, then, is an indication of the person in control of the whole body of the individual. (James, A Study Guide)

THOUGHT - This is very convicting! How easy it is to "boast" and not think we are boasting. I do it with just a little exaggeration of the truth. Or with a statement of some spiritual success (that puts me in a good light). And the list goes on and on! 

Boasts (aucheo) occurs only here in the Bible and describes speaking with much confidence about great things, focusing on pride towards oneself. It means to "show off" verbally. The present tense indicates that the tongue continually declares boastfully. There is an old idiom which would be apropos - plume oneself (Liddell-Scott list "plume oneself" as a definition of aucheo) which means to congratulate oneself. This idiomatic picture comes from a bird's habit of dressing its feathers which in turn is seen as a picture of men expressing self-satisfaction over their "feathers!" In short to plume oneself is to pride oneself on something in a manner which is vain, boastful, or showy.

TECHNICAL NOTE: The Textus Receptus has the verb megalaucheo which is actually a combination of megas = big and aucheo = to boast and means to brag exceedingly, to be a braggart. In the Nestle-Aland the words are separate "megala auchei." 

Great Chicago Fire, 1871

See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire - James gives a third picture of the tongue comparing it to how a small fire produces a big flame!

Guzik - The fire of the tongue has been used to burn many. Children are told sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me. But that child’s rhyme isn’t really true; the bitter pain of a word spoken against us can hurt us for a lifetime, long after a broken bone has healed. What others say to us and what we say to others can last a long time, for good or for evil. The casual sarcastic or critical remark can inflict a lasting injury on another person. The well-timed encouragement or compliment can inspire someone for the rest of their life.

Now imagine a horse running out of control; a ship out of control; a fire out of control; someone’s mouth out of control.

See (BEHOLD)(2400) see preceding discussion on idou. This is like James is issuing a command to "Behold," for he clearly does not want his readers to miss this next point about the destructive power of the tongue controlled by our fallen flesh. As we have repeatedly seen especially in the forests of the western United States, a small spark can initiate a huge, raging destructive fire that has the natural propensity to spread and expand. Small words spoken by a tongue are like this spark that spreads, for evil, harmful speech can spread like wildfire in churches, families, nations, etc. The sparks of evil words are like Mrs. O'Leary's cow who many think kicked over a lantern in the barn and ignited the great Chicago fire that killed 300 people and left 100,000 homeless. Similarly the tongue though only a small spark at first can produce a veritable "firestorm" of destruction, especially in people's lifes! 

Hiebert on set aflame (set on fire) - The verb "set on fire," rather than "consumed," points to the setting of the fire; it is so devastating because it is not controlled. An uncontrolled tongue can initiate forces and movements that are just as destructive. "The inflammable wood is always and everywhere, in natural humanity, prepared for the sparks of falsehood and sin."

You have a little prisoner.
He is nimble, sharp, and clever.
He's sure to get away from you,
unless you watch him ever.

And when he once gets out,
he makes more trouble in an hour
than you can stop in many a day
at work with all your power.

He gets your playmates by the ears.
He says what isn't so
and uses many ugly words,
no good for you to know.

Quick, fasten tight the ivory gates
and chain him while he's young.
For this same, dangerous prisoner
is just your little tongue.

Set aflame (381)(anapto from aná = an intensifier +  hapto = touch, fasten or bind to) means "to cause the process of burning to begin - 'to ignite, to kindle, to set ablaze, to start a fire, to light a lamp." (Louw-Nida). The meaning comes from the fact that it was through fastening and rubbing things together that fire was produced. Three uses in NT -  To produce fire or kindle in (Luke 12:49+; Acts 28:2+). Used figuratively in James 3:5

Fire (4442)(pur) refers to literal fire (Mt 13:40; 17:15; Mk 9:22, Lk 17:29; Acts 2:3; Acts 7:30; Acts 28:5; 1 Cor 3:15; Jas 5:3; Heb 12:18; 2 Pet 3:7; Rev 1:14; 4:5; 8:7; 17:16; 19:20. Pur is used figuratively of God inflicting punishment (Heb 12:29), of disunion (Lk 12:49), of the tongue that kindles strife and discord (James 3:5-6), of trials (1 Pe 1:7, Rev 3:18), at Pentecost (Acts 2:3 = " tongues as of fire "), of burning up useless works (1 Cor 3:10-15), as a description of doing something with great difficult in Jude 1:23 ("snatching them out of the fire"). Fire in the context of judgment, the eternal fire, the place of punishment (Mt. 13:42, 50; Mt. 5:22; 18:9; Mk 9:4 Mt. 18:8; 25:41; Jude 1:7 Rev. 14:10); the lake of fire (Rev. 19:20; Rev 20:10, 14, 15; Rev 21:8). 

Gilbrant - The Greeks used pur extensively in both literal and figurative ways. It can refer to fire, burning, or lightning, but it can also denote violence, anarchy, or the fury of battle. In Greek philosophy fire was one of the four or five basic elements of life; some regarded fire as the source of everything. Stoic thought contained the idea that the present world would one day perish in a giant conflagration. Almost 500 instances of pur can be found in the Septuagint (Lxx); of these about 350 translate the Hebrew term ’ēsh. The Old Testament understands fire to be both a cleansing, purifying agent and an agent of destruction. God demonstrated His pleasure with fire upon the altar (Genesis 15:17; Lev 9:23f.; Judges 6:21; 1 Kings 18:38; 1 Chr 21:26; 2 Chronicles 7:1). But fire also demonstrated God’s displeasure and was a sign of His wrath and judgment (Genesis 19:24; Exodus 9:24; Leviticus 10:2; Numbers 11:1; 16:35; 2 Kings 1:10; Amos 1:4,7). In addition, the Lord God is described as a “consuming fire, even a jealous God” (Dt 4:24; 9:3; Isa 33:14). The New Testament reads pur on almost 75 occasions. In addition to the literal sense of the term, there are many other usages. Positively, pur describes the fire of the Spirit that John the Baptist said Jesus would bring to the earth (Matthew 3:11; Luke 3:16; cf. Acts 2:3). Fire, furthermore, depicts trials and adversities that cleanse and purify the believer’s faith (1 Peter 1:7). Elsewhere, however, fire denotes the turmoil caused by an uncontrolled, evil tongue (James 3:5,6). Paul spoke of “burning” in the sense of passion’s force (1 Corinthians 7:9). God’s judgment is often symbolized by fire. Fire will be the standard of testing for everyone’s deeds in life (1 Corinthians 3:13-15). If his works stand the test he will receive a reward, but if they are consumed by the fire the reward is lost, although he is “saved, but only as through fire” (RSV). Fire, moreover, describes God’s judgment upon the ungodly at the end of the age. Christ will be “revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God” (2 Th 1:7-9). Jesus referred to hell as a place of fire, of unquenchable flame (Mt 5:22; 13:42,50; 18:8,9; 25:41; Mk 9:43,48; Lk 3:17). No less horrible is the idea of being eternally lost in the lake of fire (Rev 14:9-11; 19:20; 20:14,15; 21:8). God’s two witnesses in the last days call fire down to consume their opponents (Rev 11:5). The false prophet causes fire to fall from heaven (Rev 13:13), and fire consumes Babylon the Great (Rev 17:16; 18:8). God reveals His glory in fire. The glorified Son of Man is shown having eyes like the flame of a fire and feet like burnished brass (Rev 1:14,15). Seven lamps of fire burn in front of the heavenly throne (Rev 4:5), and the sea of glass is mingled with fire (Rev 15:2). (Complete Biblical Library Greek-English Dictionary)

Pur in NT - burning(2), fiery(2), fire(69).

Matt. 3:10; Matt. 3:11; Matt. 3:12; Matt. 5:22; Matt. 7:19; Matt. 13:40; Matt. 13:42; Matt. 13:50; Matt. 17:15; Matt. 18:8; Matt. 18:9; Matt. 25:41; Mk. 9:22; Mk. 9:43; Mk. 9:44; Mk. 9:46; Mk. 9:48; Mk. 9:49; Lk. 3:9; Lk. 3:16; Lk. 3:17; Lk. 9:54; Lk. 12:49; Lk. 17:29; Lk. 22:55; Jn. 15:6; Acts 2:3; Acts 2:19; Acts 7:30; Acts 28:5; Rom. 12:20; 1 Co. 3:13; 1 Co. 3:15; 2 Thess. 1:7; Heb. 1:7; Heb. 10:27; Heb. 11:34; Heb. 12:18; Heb. 12:29; Jas. 3:5; Jas. 3:6; Jas. 5:3; 1 Pet. 1:7; 2 Pet. 3:7; Jude 1:7; Jude 1:23; Rev. 1:14; Rev. 2:18; Rev. 3:18; Rev. 4:5; Rev. 8:5; Rev. 8:7; Rev. 8:8; Rev. 9:17; Rev. 9:18; Rev. 10:1; Rev. 11:5; Rev. 13:13; Rev. 14:10; Rev. 14:18; Rev. 15:2; Rev. 16:8; Rev. 17:16; Rev. 18:8; Rev. 19:12; Rev. 19:20; Rev. 20:9; Rev. 20:10; Rev. 20:14; Rev. 20:15; Rev. 21:8

Related Resources:

This figure of small fire causing a large fire was well known in ancient literature - Stobæus says: “A little torch can burn the summit of Ida.” Homer speaks of “a spark, scarce seen, which fires a boundless forest.” And Virgil draws an animated picture of the desolation resulting from fire dropped by a careless shepherd, which at length reaches the tree tops, “and wraps the forest in a robe of flame.” 

There are THREE THINGS / ou can never get back:

  1. A spent arrow
  2. A spoken word
  3. A lost opportunity (Eph 5:16+, Redeem the Time)

Life Application Study Bible. What you say and what you don't say are both important. To use proper speech you must not only say the right words at the right time but also not say what you shouldn't. Examples of an untamed tongue include gossiping, putting others down, bragging, manipulating, false teaching, exaggerating, complaining, flattering, and lying. Before you speak, ask, Is what I want to say true? Is it necessary? Is it kind?

HUMOROUS ILLUSTRATION - A pastor friend told me about a member of his church who was a notorious gossip. She would "hang on the phone" most of the day, sharing tidbits with any and all who would listen. She came to the pastor one day and said, "Pastor, the Lord has convicted me of my sin of gossip. My tongue is getting me and others into trouble." My friend knew she was not sincere because she had gone through that routine before. Guardedly he asked, "Well, what do you plan to do?" "I want to put my tongue on the altar," she replied with pious fervor. Calmly my friend replied, "There isn't an altar big enough," and he left her to think it over. - Warren Wiersbe - BEC

Robert Morgan - A Tiny Spark November 26
The power of simple words is immense, as James 3:5 indicates: “Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.” Never was this truer than on November 26, 1095, the date of the most effective sermon ever preached by pope, preacher, or prince. It was Pope Urban II’s sermon in Clermont, France, launching the Crusades.
For many years, the Christian world had fretted over the capture of Palestine by the Muslim Turks. Finally Pope Urban addressed the subject at the church council in Clermont. He spoke in an open field to both clerics and the general public, passionately describing how the Turks, an “accursed race,” had devastated the kingdom of God by fire, pillage, and sword. Jerusalem, the “navel of the world,” was laid waste. Antioch was ruined. The Holy Land was in the hands of barbarians. It must be liberated.
The crowd, whipped into a frenzy, began chanting, “God wills it! God wills it!” Urban II replied, “It is the will of God. Let these words be your war cry when you unsheathe the sword. You are soldiers of the cross. Wear on your breasts or shoulders the blood-red sign of the cross.”
Thousands immedately sewed the cross on their clothing or had it branded with flaming irons to bare skin. The fervor swept across the Continent. A new era in European history began as the crusading passion, inspired by its pope, took hold of its people. The era of the Crusades stretched from 1096 to 1291, and in the light of history is seen as a horrible mistake. The kingdom of God cannot be furthered militarily. The Crusades, only partially and temporarily successful in “liberating” Palestine, produced 200 years of abuses, excesses, deaths, diseases, violence, cruelty, and reproach.
It takes only a spark to start a forest fire! The tongue is like a spark. It is an evil power that dirties the rest of the body and sets a person’s entire life on fire with flames that come from hell itself. All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and sea creatures can be tamed and have been tamed. But our tongues get out of control. James 3:5b-8a (On This Day)


He who covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy. —Proverbs 28:13

Today's Scripture:James 3:1-13

A woman said to a preacher, “I have a habit that I know is hurting my testimony—the habit of exaggeration. I start to tell something and I go on and on enlarging the story. People suspect that it’s not true, and they lose confidence in me. I’m trying to get over it. Could you help me?”

He responded, “Let’s talk to the Lord about it.”

She prayed, “Lord, You know I have this habit of exaggeration . . .” At this point the preacher interrupted, “Call it lying and you may get over it!” The woman was deeply convicted and confessed her wrong.

We often excuse our pet sins by giving them more acceptable names. Our bad temper we call “nerves”; our untruthfulness, “exaggeration”; our dishonesty we call “good business.” In seeking to overcome these sins, we need to bring them out in the open, call them honestly by name, and sincerely repent (Proverbs 28:13).

A man entered a dentist’s office and sat down to have his teeth fixed. “I can feel a huge cavity with my tongue,” he said. The dentist examined the man’s teeth and said, “It’ll only be a small filling.” “But why does it feel so large?” asked the patient. “Just the natural tendency of the tongue to exaggerate,” replied the dentist with a twinkle in his eye. We may smile, but aren’t we all prone to blow things out of proportion? Indeed, “the tongue is a little member and boasts great things” (James 3:5).By:  Henry G. Bosch (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. — Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)

Lord, forgive us for misusing our tongues. - Henry Bosch

To stretch the truth is to tell a lie.

A Small Fire

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. James 3:5

Today's Scripture & Insight: James 3:3–12

It was a Sunday night in September and most people were sleeping when a small fire broke out in Thomas Farriner’s bakery on Pudding Lane. Soon the flames spread from house to house and London was engulfed in the Great Fire of 1666. Over 70,000 people were left homeless by the blaze that leveled four-fifths of the city. So much destruction from such a small fire!

The Bible warns us of another small but destructive fire. James was concerned about lives and relationships, not buildings, when he wrote, “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” (James 3:5).

But our words can also be constructive. Proverbs 16:24 reminds us, “Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” The apostle Paul says, “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone” (Col. 4:6). As salt flavors our food, grace flavors our words for building up others.

Through the help of the Holy Spirit our words can encourage people who are hurting, who want to grow in their faith, or who need to come to the Savior. Our words can put out fires instead of starting them. By:  Bill Crowder (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. — Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)

Reflect & Pray

Lord, I can always use help with the way I talk. For this day, help me to speak words of hope and encouragement to build up others.

What will our words be like today?

Small Thing, Big Impact

Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification. —Ephesians 4:29

Today's Scripture:James 3:1-12

Are most people truth-tellers? Can what they say be taken at face value? Or are they like the ancient Cretans, whose reputation was that they were “always liars”? (Titus 1:12).

Lies, of course, are communicated by the tongue. That small part of the human body can make a powerful impact. It can ruin a reputation. It can destroy a friendship. It can cause lasting heartache.

On the other hand, the tongue can give comfort and hope in time of bereavement. It can shine the light of saving truth into the mind of someone wandering in spiritual darkness. It can praise and glorify God.

We shouldn’t be surprised, then, that Scripture repeatedly urges us to exercise great wisdom and care in how we use this small part of the body. Proverbs 18:21 is not exaggerating when it warns us that “death and life are in the power of the tongue.” David was not indulging in pointless poetry when he denounced “men . . . whose teeth are spears and arrows, and their tongue a sharp sword” (Psalm 57:4). And the apostle James said that the tongue can be as destructive as a fire (James 3:1-12).

By the Holy Spirit’s power, may we use our tongues to bless our hearers, build up one another, and glorify our Creator in prayer and praise.   By:  Vernon Grounds (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. — Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)

Reflect & Pray

Lord, set a watch upon my lips,
My tongue control today;
Help me evaluate each thought
And guard each word I say. 

The tongue is a small organ that creates either discord or harmony.

Bubbagate - It seemed like a harmless statement. A city councilman in Ft. Worth, Texas, was making a public announcement that a world-famous pianist would perform at the opening of the $110 million Texas Motor Speedway. A group of auto-racing fans would have an opportunity to hear renowned pianist Van Cliburn at the NASCAR Winston Cup race April 6, 1997. So, the city councilman notified the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram about the proposed event by saying, "Van Cliburn is going to play for Bubba."

The general manager of the Texas Motor Speedway, Eddie Gossage, took umbrage at the councilman's words and fired off a letter to him, saying, "Please do not refer to race fans as 'bubbas' or 'rednecks.' Race fans are supposedly tourists valued by the city of Fort Worth. The use of the term 'bubba' or 'redneck' can be considered a racial epithet."

The city councilman apologized by saying, "I'm sorry I called all those race fans Bubbas. I certainly didn't mean to offend them. These are valued people. I represent the Bubbas and the rednecks. They're good folks. They're not elite at all."

People who expressed their opinions lined up for and against the verbal choices of the councilman. Fort Worth's mayor said, "I wish he'd used a different set of words." The lieutenant governor of Texas described Bubbas as decent, hard-working Americans. A representative of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture in Oxford, Mississippi, shared the opinion, "Bubba is a Southern diminutive of brother, sort of like mama, papa, and bubba and sista. Within the working-class white world, 'Bubba' is a term of affection." The owner of a convenience store in Crowley Texas, named "Bubba's No. 3" explained his choice of name for the store by saying, "We wanted them to know we were nice people. Bubba's nice, friendly, drives a pickup."

The councilman meant no harm, but the manager of a facility that will draw huge numbers of tourists to Fort Worth was irritated by his choice of words. What was humorous to the councilman was an insult to some of his constituency. People who talk need a warning. Our improperly chosen words can offend, wound, anger, and repel. Our tongues are powerful, potentially vicious, and woefully inconsistent.(Max Anders - Holman New Testament Commentary – Hebrews & James)

Careless Words

The tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. James 3:5

Today's Scripture & Insight: James 3:1-12

My daughter has had a lot of ill health recently, and her husband has been wonderfully caring and supportive. “You have a real treasure there!” I said.

“You didn’t think that when I first knew him,” she said with a grin.

She was quite right. When Icilda and Philip got engaged, I was concerned. They were such different personalities. We have a large and noisy family, and Philip is more reserved. And I had shared my misgivings with my daughter quite bluntly.

I was horrified to realize that the critical things I said so casually 15 years ago had stayed in her memory and could possibly have destroyed a relationship that has proved to be so right and happy. It reminded me how much we need to guard what we say to others. So many of us are quick to point out what we consider to be weaknesses in family, friends, or work colleagues, or to focus on their mistakes rather than their successes. “The tongue is a small part of the body,” says James (3:5), yet the words it shapes can either destroy relationships or bring peace and harmony to a situation in the workplace, the church, or the family.

Perhaps we should make David’s prayer our own as we start each day: “Set a guard over my mouth, Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips” (Ps. 141:3). By:  Marion Stroud (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. — Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)

Reflect & Pray

Father, please curb my careless speech and put a guard on my tongue today and every day.

A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver. Proverbs 25:11 nkjv

The Dangerous Tongue

Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth!     James 3:5
John Wesley was known to be a colorful dresser in his day. On one Sunday, an elderly lady in his church took exception to the length of his bow tie. After the service, she approached the preacher and said with a degree of indignation, "Brother Wesley, would you admit a word of criticism?" Wesley readily agreed.
The bold saint continued, "Your bow tie is much too long and it is an evidence of worldliness to me."
Rather than being offended, Wesley responded, "Does anybody have a pair of scissors around here?" Minutes later the tools were supplied. "Why don't you cut the tie to suit yourself?" he said.
The lady eagerly trimmed the preacher's neckpiece to her liking and then cheerfully added, "There! That is much better."
But, Wesley wasn't finished. "Thank you, ma'am." he said, "Now may I use those on you?"
"For what?" replied the critical saint.
"To trim your tongue. It's much too long."
Most of us would agree that if we had the option, we would gladly "trim" our tongue. Not to avoid inhaling that second helping of chocolate pie, but for a far more serious reason. Plainly put, this tiny member of our anatomy frequently gets us into more trouble than we've bargained for.
Walking close to the Lord will help us to "trim" our tongues. It will give us a greater consciousness of the words we say and the effect they have on people.  A fool's tongue is always long enough to cut his throat (James Scudder - Living Water)

A War Of Words
Read: Proverbs 15:1-23

A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. — Proverbs 15:1

On July 28, 1914, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia in response to the assassination of Archduke Francis Ferdinand and his wife, Sophie. Within 90 days, other European countries had taken sides to honor their military alliances and pursue their own ambitions. A single event escalated into World War I, one of the most destructive military conflicts of modern time. The tragedy of war is staggering, yet our relationships and families can begin to fracture with only a few hateful words. James wrote, “See how great a forest a little fire kindles!” (James 3:5). A key to avoiding verbal conflict is found in Proverbs: “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (15:1). A small comment can start a large fight. When we, by God’s grace, choose not to retaliate with our words, we honor Jesus our Savior. When He was abused and insulted, He fulfilled the prophetic words of Isaiah, “He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth” (Isa. 53:7). Proverbs urges us to speak the truth and seek peace through our words. “A wholesome tongue is a tree of life, . . . and a word spoken in due season, how good it is!” (15:4,23). — David McCasland (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. — Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)

A careless word may kindle strife,
A cruel word may wreck a life;
A timely word may lessen stress,
A loving word may heal and bless. — Anon.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love.



James tells us that our tongue “is a fire,” small but able to set a whole forest ablaze! To make his point clear, he concludes that the tongue is “set on fire by hell” (3:6). If Satan has a scorched-earth policy in his warfare against the Christians, then the tongue is the front line of attack. James rings a clear warning. A transformed tongue must be a top priority for those on the growing edge of discipleship.
James’s warning takes on added weight when we realize that many of us are desensitized to the problems of destructive speech. Sins of the tongue are like stealth sins that fly under the radar of our consciences. Just listen to us excuse one another with rationalizations like “Well, it’s the truth, isn’t it?” or, “If they didn’t want people to talk, they never should have done it.” The most subtle excuse among Christians is “Let me share this with you that we might pray more intelligently.” This desensitization has opened the floodgates to verbal destruction of reputations and trusted relationships.
Sins like deceit, lying, and false witness need to be understood from God’s point of view. Social sins of the tongue, such as gossip and slander, must be checked. Verbal ego trips, such as boasting, flattery, and exaggeration, are clearly out of bounds. The cancer of a murmuring, contentious tongue needs to be removed.
By making careless speech an acceptable part of our lives, we assume that a carnal tongue is par for the spiritual course. When that happens, our churches, schools, homes, friendships, and relationships with God are all victimized. We should remind each other that Satan is “the father of lies” (John 8:44) and “the accuser of our brethren” (Revelation 12:10 KJV). Jesus is not only truth, but also our advocate, and defender. Whose work will you do? (Joseph Stowell - Strength for the Journey)

Put your tongue in check. Don’t say it until the Spirit approves it!

James 3:6  And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell.

Amplified  And the tongue is a fire. [The tongue is a] world of wickedness set among our members, contaminating and depraving the whole body and setting on fire the wheel of birth (the cycle of man’s nature), being itself ignited by hell (Gehenna). 

Phillips  and the tongue is as dangerous as any fire, with vast potentialities for evil. It can poison the whole body, it can make the whole of life a blazing hell.

Wuest  And the tongue is a fire, the sum total of iniquity. The tongue is so constituted in our members that it defiles the entire body and sets on fire the round of existence and is constantly being set on fire by Gehenna [hell]. 

NET  James 3:6 And the tongue is a fire! The tongue represents the world of wrongdoing among the parts of our bodies. It pollutes the entire body and sets fire to the course of human existence– and is set on fire by hell.

GNT  James 3:6 καὶ ἡ γλῶσσα πῦρ· ὁ κόσμος τῆς ἀδικίας ἡ γλῶσσα καθίσταται ἐν τοῖς μέλεσιν ἡμῶν, ἡ σπιλοῦσα ὅλον τὸ σῶμα καὶ φλογίζουσα τὸν τροχὸν τῆς γενέσεως καὶ φλογιζομένη ὑπὸ τῆς γεέννης.

NLT  James 3:6 And the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself.

KJV  James 3:6 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.

ESV  James 3:6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell.

ASV  James 3:6 And the tongue is a fire: the world of iniquity among our members is the tongue, which defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the wheel of nature, and is set on fire by hell.

CSB  James 3:6 And the tongue is a fire. The tongue, a world of unrighteousness, is placed among the parts of our bodies. It pollutes the whole body, sets the course of life on fire, and is set on fire by hell.

NIV  James 3:6 The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

NKJ  James 3:6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell.

NRS  James 3:6 And the tongue is a fire. The tongue is placed among our members as a world of iniquity; it stains the whole body, sets on fire the cycle of nature, and is itself set on fire by hell.

YLT  James 3:6 and the tongue is a fire, the world of the unrighteousness, so the tongue is set in our members, which is spotting our whole body, and is setting on fire the course of nature, and is set on fire by the gehenna.

NAB  James 3:6 The tongue is also a fire. It exists among our members as a world of malice, defiling the whole body and setting the entire course of our lives on fire, itself set on fire by Gehenna.

NJB  James 3:6 The tongue is a flame too. Among all the parts of the body, the tongue is a whole wicked world: it infects the whole body; catching fire itself from hell, it sets fire to the whole wheel of creation.

GWN  James 3:6 The tongue is that kind of flame. It is a world of evil among the parts of our bodies, and it completely contaminates our bodies. The tongue sets our lives on fire, and is itself set on fire from hell.

BBE  James 3:6 And the tongue is a fire; it is the power of evil placed in our bodies, making all the body unclean, putting the wheel of life on fire, and getting its fire from hell.

  • And the tongue is a fire: Judg 12:4-6 2Sa 19:43 20:1 2Ch 10:13-16 13:17 Ps 64:3 140:3 Pr 15:1 16:27 26:20,21 Isa 30:27 
  • the very world of iniquity: Jas 2:7 Ge 3:4-6 Lev 24:11 Nu 25:2 31:16 De 13:6 Jud 16:15-20 1Sa 22:9-17 2Sa 13:26-29 15:2-6 16:20-23 17:1,2 1Ki 21:5-15 Pr 1:10-14 6:19 7:5,21-23 Jer 20:10 28:16 Mt 12:24,32-36 Mt 15:11-20 Mk 7:15,20-22 14:55-57 Ac 6:13 20:30 Ro 3:13,14 Ro 16:17,18 Eph 5:3,4 Col 3:8,9 2Th 2:10-12 Tit 1:11 2Pe 2:1,2 2Pe 3:3 3Jn 1:10 Jude 1:8-10,15-18 Rev 2:14,15 13:1-5,14 18:23 Rev 19:20 
  • is set on fire by hell.: Lu 16:24 Ac 5:3 2Co 11:13-15 2Th 2:9 Rev 12:9 
  • James 3 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries 


Inspired by the Spirit, James is showing with strong words how much damage can be caused by an unbridled tongue, a "rudderless" tongue whipped around by strong winds of our fallen flesh. Lenski comments, "Nothing stronger was ever said about the tongue."

And the tongue is a fire - Phillips


James precept austin

James 2 Commentary

Click chart to enlarge
Chart from recommended resource Jensen's Survey of the NT - used by permission
See also Overview Chart by Charles Swindoll

Faith for Living

The Place of Works:
Outward Demonstration of Inner Faith
Jas 1:1-18Jas 1:19-2:13Jas 2:14-25Jas 3:1-12Jas 3:13-4:12Jas 4:13-5:12Jas 5:13-19
Trials &
Word &
Faith &







and the

and our


Faith tested by its reaction to partiality (James 2:1–13)
      A.      The rebuke for partiality (James 2:1–4)
         1.      The prohibition of partiality (James 2:1)
         2.      The illustration of partiality (James 2:2–3)
         3.      The question of condemnation (James 2:4)
      B.      The result of partiality (James 2:5–11)
         1.      The inconsistency in their conduct (James 2:5–7)
           a.      The divine choice of the poor (James 2:5b–6a)
           b.      The hostile actions of the rich (James 2:6b–7)
         2.      The breach of God’s law (James 2:8–11)
           a.      The relations to this law (James 2:8–9)
             (1)      The commendation upon its fulfillment (James 2:8)
             (2)      The sin in its violation (James 2:9)
           b.      The breaking of this law (James 2:10–11)
             (1)      The principle stated (James 2:10)
             (2)      The principle illustrated (James 2:11)
      C.      The appeal for consistent conduct (James 2:12–13)
         1.      The statement of the appeal (James 2:12)
         2.      The vindication of the appeal (James 2:13)

Faith tested by its production of works (2:14–26)
      A.      The character of a useless faith (James 2:14–20)
         1.      The uselessness of an inoperative faith (James 2:14–17)
           a.      The question concerning inoperative faith (James 2:14)
           b.      The illustration of inoperative faith (James 2:15–16)
           c.      The application made to inoperative faith (James 2:17)
         2.      The barrenness of orthodox faith without works (James 2:18–20)
           a.      The assertion of an objector (James 2:18a)
           b.      The challenge to the objector (James 2:18b–19)
             (1)      The demonstration of faith by works (James 2:18b)
             (2)      The character of faith without works (James 2:19)
           c.      The appeal to the objector (James 2:20)
      B.      The manifestation of saving faith through works (James 2:21–25)
         1.      The working of Abraham’s faith (James 2:21–24)
           a.      The evidence of Abraham’s faith (James 2:21)
           b.      The results of Abraham’s working faith (James 2:22–23)
             (1)      The perfecting of his faith (James 2:22)
             (2)      The fulfillment of the Scripture (James 2:23a)
             (3)      The friendship with God (James 2:23b)
           c.      The conclusion from Abraham’s example (James 2:24)
      C.      The union of faith and works (James 2:26) (From Hiebert - James Commentary)

James 2:1  My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism.

Amplified  MY BRETHREN, pay no servile regard to people [show no prejudice, no partiality]. Do not [attempt to] hold and practice the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ [the Lord] of glory [together with snobbery]!

Phillips Don't ever attempt, my brothers, to combine snobbery with faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ! 

Wuest My brethren, stop holding your faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of the glory, in connection with an act showing partiality [to anyone].

NET  James 2:1 My brothers and sisters, do not show prejudice if you possess faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ.

GNT  James 2:1 Ἀδελφοί μου, μὴ ἐν προσωπολημψίαις ἔχετε τὴν πίστιν τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ τῆς δόξης.

NLT  James 2:1 My dear brothers and sisters, how can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people over others?

KJV  James 2:1 My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons.

ESV  James 2:1 My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory.

ASV  James 2:1 My brethren, hold not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons.

CSB  James 2:1 My brothers, do not show favoritism as you hold on to the faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ.

NIV  James 2:1 My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don't show favoritism.

NKJ  James 2:1 My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality.

NRS  James 2:1 My brothers and sisters, do you with your acts of favoritism really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ?

YLT  James 2:1 My brethren, hold not, in respect of persons, the faith of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ,

NAB  James 2:1 My brothers, show no partiality as you adhere to the faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ.

NJB  James 2:1 My brothers, do not let class distinction enter into your faith in Jesus Christ, our glorified Lord.

GWN  James 2:1 My brothers and sisters, practice your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ by not favoring one person over another.

BBE  James 2:1 My brothers, if you have the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ of glory, do not take a man's position into account.

  • do not hold your faith: Ac 20:21 24:24 Col 1:4 1Ti 1:19 Tit 1:1 2Pe 1:1 Rev 14:12 
  • in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ : Ps 24:7-10 1Co 2:8 Tit 2:13 Heb 1:3 
  • with an attitude of personal favoritism: Jas 2:3,9 3:17 Lev 19:15 De 1:17 16:19 2Ch 19:7 Pr 24:23 28:21 Mt 22:16 Ro 1:11 1Ti 5:21 Jude 1:16 
  • James 2 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries


What James is calling for in this passage is our Christian BEHAVIOR to match our Christian BELIEF. 

J Vernon McGee entitles James 2:1-13 as "God Tests Faith by Attitude and Action in Respect of Persons." That's a good summary of this section.

My brethren - It is surprising that the phrase "my brethren" appears on 22x in the all of the Bible and 8 of those uses are in the epistle of James. (Jas. 1:2; Jas. 2:1; Jas. 2:14; Jas. 3:1; Jas. 3:10; Jas. 3:12; Jas. 5:12; Jas. 5:19). Similarly, the related phrase "my beloved brethren" occurs only 5 times in Scripture and 3 of the uses are by James (Jas. 1:16; Jas. 1:19; Jas. 2:5). James is addressing his readers as a fellow believer and in using "beloved" emphasizes that what he is saying is motivated by love for them. 

Jamieson - The equality of all Christians as "brethren," forms the groundwork of the admonition.

Brethren (80)(adelphos from a = denotes unity + delphus = a womb) ) in classic Greek described the son of the same mother but in the spiritual sense is actually one born by the Spirit and in the the family of the same Father.  And what James addresses now is a "family issue."

Do not hold- James is issuing a present imperative with a negative which means "do not be holding" meaning stop practicing partiality, "don't make it a practice!" of showing favoritism. James is calling for a halt to a practice that was already in progress in some assemblies. What James is commanding is better seen by rephrasing and paraphrasing the passage "As believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don't show favoritism." So if any of his readers are demonstrating favoritism, they must cease from this forthwith! Paul uses the related verb (prosopolempteo) in James 2:9 and clearly calls this favoritism a sin! 

Paul of course is not saying that we should never show honor to members of the body. As MacArthur says "Paul wrote the Thessalonians to "appreciate" and "esteem... very highly" their pastors (1 Thess. 5:12-13). "The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor," Paul told Timothy, "especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching" (1 Tim. 5:17)." (MacArthur New Testament Commentary – James) Similarly Peter says "Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king." (1 Pe 2:17+)

Your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ - The NET Bible = "if you possess faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ." The NLT paraphrases it in the form of a question "how can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ" if you are demonstrating as attitude of favoritism?  Goodspeed also phrases it as a question -- "Do you try to combine faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with acts of partiality?" While it is possible this was in the forth of a question, reading it as a command is favored by most commentators and is a bit more forceful than a question. 

Our glorious Lord Jesus (Iesous) Christ (Christos) - More literally "our Lord Jesus Christ of the glory."Some commentators think this is a reference to the Shekinah glory of God (cf Ex 40:34,  Nu 14:10, 1 Ki 8:11, 2 Chr 7:2 - see resource below). In either event James is appealing to those who "are actively adhering to the One in Whom "the faith" centers." (Hiebert).

Lord Jesus (Iesous) Christ (Christos)- His full Name is found only here and James 1:1 in this letter and in that passage on a par with God! There are of course other allusions to Jesus Christ (See James 2:7, James 5:7, 9, 14-15) John associates glory with Jesus in John 1:14+ "And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth." (See also Heb 1:3+). 

Lord (Master, Owner)(2962)(kurios from kuros = might or power, related to kuroo = to give authority) primarily means the possessor, owner, master, the supreme one, one who is sovereign (used this way of Roman emperors - Act 25:26+) and possesses absolute authority, absolute ownership and uncontested power. Kurios is used of the one to whom a person or thing belonged, over which he has the power of deciding, the one who is the master or disposer of a thing (Mk 7:28)

Paul Apple makes an excellent point that a "Proper View of Christ Leads to a Proper View of Others. Once we truly see how "glorious" Christ is, there will be no room for distinctions on the human plane because we all pale in comparison to the glory of Christ. Look at how our Lord (in all of His Majesty) treated others and we will see that there is no room for "personal favoritism" on our part. Surely the disciples are not above the Master when it comes to showing compassion to all men without distinction." (Commentary)

Bruce Barton - Early Christians developed descriptions for Jesus that expressed the depth of their trust in him. They could be called reflective names, since they resulted from reflections on Jesus. Paul gives us a number of his reflective names for Jesus:

  • his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord (1 Corinthians 1:9)
  • Christ, the power of God and the wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:24)
  • the image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15)
  • the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead (Colossians 1:18)
  • our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ (Titus 2:13) (Life Application Bible Commentary – James)

J Vernon McGee observes that "Here is a strong assertion of the deity of Christ. I know of no one who was in a better position to determine the deity of Christ than a younger brother of the Lord Jesus who was brought up in the same home with Him. Frankly, I think James (HALF BROTHER OF JESUS, UNBELIEVER AT ONE POINT in Jn 7:5 BUT BELIEVER AFTER 1 Cor 15:7) is in a better position to speak on the deity of Christ than some theologian sitting in a swivel chair in a musty library in New York City, removed from the reality of even his own day. Such a man is really far removed from the reality of the first century and the home in which Jesus was raised. Therefore, I go along with James, if you don't mind. He is the "Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory." (Thru The Bible)

Glorious (1391)(doxa from dokeo = to think) in simple terms means to give a proper opinion or estimate of something. Glory is something that is a source of honor, fame, or admiration. It describes renown, a thing that is beautiful, impressive, or worthy of praise. It follows that the glory of God expresses all that He is in His Being and in His nature, character, power and acts. Doxa is the word used by the Septuagint (Lxx) translation of Ex 24:16 - "The glory (Septuagint = doxa) of the LORD rested on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it for six days; and on the seventh day He called to Moses from the midst of the cloud." It is worth noting that God's glory is past (Ex 24:16), present (Jn 1:14+, fulfilling the prophecy of Isa 40:5), and future (Titus 2:13+ at His Second Coming, also fulfilling the prophecy of Isa 40:5) and in the New Heaven and New Earth (Rev 21:23+). 

Paul writes about  "the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory." (1 Cor 2:8)

Jamieson has an interesting thought on glory in James 2:1 - The glory of Christ resting on the poor believer should make him be regarded as highly by "brethren" as his richer brother; nay, more so, if the poor believer has more of Christ's spirit than the rich brother.

Related Resources:

Faith (pistis) is more literally "the faith" (ten pistin) so points to objective aspect of faith, that is, what is believed or what one place their faith in. In this passage "the faith" speaks of fatih in the objective sense rather than the subjective sense. In other words, Subjectively faith is the personal persuasion, conviction, belief in the truth, veracity, reality of something. "Clearly objective genitive, not subjective (faith of), but "faith in our Lord Jesus Christ." (A T Robertson) Objectively faith is that which is believed (usually designated as "the faith"),that is the doctrine believed which ultimately is embodied in the Gospel. Are you confused? The main point is these are believers and James underscores this by identifying himself with the readers when he says Jesus is "OUR" glorious Lord Jesus Christ. They did not just say "Jesus Christ is Lord," but "Jesus is MY Lord." 

Jamieson on faith (the faith) - that is, the Christian faith. James grounds Christian practice on Christian faith

Matthew Henry adds that "The character of Christians fully implied: they are such as have the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ; they embrace it; they receive it; they govern themselves by it; they entertain the doctrine, and submit to the law and government, of Christ; they have it as a trust; they have it as a treasure."

Related Resource:

If we would seek to imitate Jesus (which we are in fact commanded to do - 1 Cor 11:1+ recalling that Jesus ministered to a wealthy Jewish leader as well as to poor beggars, to virtuous women as well as prostitutes, etc) we would avoid all hints of demonstrating partiality or favoritism. Our Lord did not look at the outward appearance; He looked at the heart (cf 1 Sa 16:7) In fact perfect impartiality is one of God's great attributes (Ro 2:11, Eph 6:9, Col 3:25) and if you are a Gentile, you should be especially thankful He did not demonstrate partiality toward you. Peter learned this great truth as the door of salvation was flung open to the Gentiles in Acts 10-11, Peter "Opening his mouth, Peter said: “I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality (prosopolemptes) but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him.." (Acts 10:34-35+). I love what John MacArthur said writing that "The Gospel is a great leveler, available with absolute equality to everyone who believes in the Savior it proclaims."

THOUGHT - Indeed, we are all on the same level at the foot of Jesus' Cross, which is a good place to continue to remain even after we are saved, for grace flows down (James 4:6+)! 

Bruce Barton comments that "In general, social distinctions did not exist in the early church. Masters sat beside their slaves during worship; sometimes a slave was the leader of the assembly. But from its beginnings, the church had many poor, outcasts, and those of little class or influence. So when a rich person was converted, the church members needed to guard against making more of a fuss over him or her than they would at the conversion of another poor person." (Ibid)

Wiersbe - We have this same problem with us today. Pyramid climbers are among us, not only in politics, industry, and society, but also in the church. Almost every church has its cliques, and often, new Christians find it difficult to get in. Some church members use their offices to enhance their own images of importance. Many of the believers James wrote to were trying to seize spiritual offices, and James had to warn them (James 3:1). (Bible Exposition Commentary)

With an attitude of personal favoritism - The Greek word for personal favoritism (prosopolepsia) is near the beginning of the sentence for emphasis. Note also that the noun is in the plural indicating that practically speaking there is more than one way to show partiality (just a look, withhold one's hand of fellowship, don't invite them to dinner, etc, etc). What James is saying that if one says he has faith in Jesus, then the action of showing personal favoritism is not compatible with one who has saving faith, which is reasonable considering that most of his readers have a Jewish background and would be very familiar with this Old Testament description of God. 

MacArthur applies James 2:1  - Tragically, many otherwise biblical and faithful churches today do not treat all their members the same. Frequently, those who are of a different ethnic background, race, or financial standing are not fully welcomed into fellowship. That ought not to be. It not only is a transgression of God's divine law but is a mockery of His divine character. (Ibid)

McGee adds "What James is telling us here is not to profess faith in Christ and at the same time be a spiritual snob. Don't join some little clique in the church. All believers are brethren in the body of Christ, whatever their denomination. There is a fellowship of believers; friendship should be over them as a banner. James is addressing the total community of believers -- the rich, the poor, the common people, the high, the low, the bond and free, the Jew and the Gentile, the Greek and the barbarian, male and female. They are all one when they are in the body of Christ. There is a brotherhood within the body of believers, and the Lord Jesus Christ is the common denominator. Friendship and fellowship are the legal tender among believers." (Ibid)

Guzik points out that "We do well to remember that James wrote to a very partial age, filled with prejudice and hatred based on class, ethnicity, nationality, and religious background. In the ancient world people were routinely and permanently categorized because they were Jew or Gentile, slave or free, rich or poor, Greek or barbarian, or whatever.i. A significant aspect of the work of Jesus was to break down these walls that divided humanity, and to bring forth one new race of mankind in Him (Ephesians 2:14-15)." (Enduring Word Bible Commentary – James)

Wierse is so right when he says "We are prone to judge people by their past, not their future....We do not enjoy sitting with certain people in church because they "are not our kind of people." Jesus was the Friend of sinners, though He disapproved of their sins. It was not compromise, but compassion, that caused Him to welcome them, and when they trusted Him, forgive them." (Ibid) (Bold added)

Personal favoritism (4382)(prosopolepsia from prósopon = face + lambáno = receive) literally means "face taking", “receive face” (e.g., judging the book by its cover, judging the person by externals, not internals), the accepting of one's person. The idea is looking to see who someone is before deciding how to treat him. The idea is judging by appearance and on that basis giving or not giving special favor and respect. It pertains to judging purely on a superficial level, without consideration of a person’s true merits, abilities, or character. The Oriental custom of greeting was to bow one's face to the ground. If the one being greeting accepted the person, the one doing the greeting was allowed to lift his head again. The accepting of the appearance of a person was a Hebraic term for "partiality". In summary, the idea behind prosopolepsia is that one judges on the basis of externals or pre-conceived notions, and shows partiality or favoritism. In practice it as here in James it meant to make unjust distinctions between people by treating one person better than another.

Robertson adds that prosopolepsia is "made from prosōpon lambanein (Luke 20:21+; Galatians 2:6+), which is a Hebrew idiom for panim nasa, "to lift up the face on a person," to be favorable and so partial to him."

Hiebert adds a helpful note on prosopolepsia - This compound noun that literally means "a receiving of face" is based on the Septuagint (Lxx) rendering of a Hebrew phrase meaning "to lift up the face" (Lev 19:15; Ps. 82:2). The compound noun does not occur in secular Greek or the Septuagint and is apparently a term developed early in the Christian church. It came to be a well-known term to denote the partiality of a judge raising the face of someone to his unjust advantage. It denotes "a biased judgment based on external circumstances such as rank, wealth, or race, disregarding the intrinsic merit of the person involved." This was a common failing of Oriental judges, and the Old Testament strictly prohibited it (Lev 19:15; Deut. 1:17; 2 Chr 19:6-7; Pr 24:23). The early church, with its strong sense of justice and personal worth, was keenly aware of this evil practice. (Hiebert's Commentary – James).

Brian Bell - What does “respect of persons” actually look like?

1. Discrimination - the act, practice, or an instance of discriminating categorically rather than individually.

2. To be bias, bent, to have a tendency - an inclination of temperament or outlook, especially a personal and sometimes unreasoned judgment.

3. Prejudice, from the words pre + judge: preconceived judgment or opinion; an adverse opinion or leaning formed without just grounds or before sufficient knowledge.

4. Judgments based on evil motives. (Sermon)

Related Resource: 

John Phillips on the impartiality of God/Jesus - God is neither partial nor prejudiced in His dealings with the human race. The color of a person's skin, the size of his bank balance, the number of degrees he has after his name, or the place he holds in the social hierarchy leaves God completely unimpressed. The Lord Jesus was as polite to the woman at the well (John 4) as He was to Nicodemus (John 5). He was as gracious to the woman who touched the hem of His garment as He was to Jairus, the ruler of the synagogue. He was as open to poor, blind Bartimaeus as He was to the rich young ruler. He had no "respect of persons." He was as honest and forthright with the Syro-Phoenician woman as He was with Pilate. He treated everyone with the same love, the same interest, and the same care and concern. He was not condescending when He was dealing with the publicans and sinners, and He was not cowed or compromising when He was dealing with those who occupied the seat of power. He gave the outcasts and the untouchables the same gentle, loving compassion that He extended to the scribes and the Pharisees. Sometimes the Lord did not approve of peoples' behavior, but He looked beyond that to the individuals and their deepest needs and treated them with dignity no matter what. (Exploring the Epistle of James: An Expository Commentary)


  • How closely does our congregation reflect the socioeconomic and racial neighborhood in which we gather?
  • In our church, people may not be ushered to good or bad seats, but in what other ways might we be favoring the rich or discriminating against the poor?
  • Would a poor person feel welcome in our church? Would a rich person feel welcome in our church?
  • In what ways do we consciously or unconsciously favor some people over others in our church? Why do we do this?
  • How can our ministry reach out to all people without any hint of discrimination?
  • What can we do to be completely free from being impressed by the wealth or power of others?  (Life Application Bible Commentary – James)

  • The wealth of an individual is no measure of the worth of that individual.
  • The real measure of a person’s wealth is how much he would be worth if he lost all his money.

King Oscar - I remember reading a story about a plainly dressed man who entered a church in the Netherlands and took a seat near the front. A few minutes later a woman walked down the aisle, saw the stranger in the place she always sat, and curtly asked him to leave. He quietly got up and moved to a section reserved for the poor.

When the meeting was over, a friend of the woman asked her if she knew the man she had ordered out of her seat. “No,” she replied. Her friend then informed her, “The man you ordered out of your seat was King Oscar of Sweden! He is here visiting the Queen.” - Our Daily Bread, December 3, 1993

Sin Of The Skin

Do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality. —James 2:1

Most people hate to be accused of racism. But racial bias is all too prevalent. Even Christians have had a long history of ethnic prejudice. In the first century, Jewish believers were reluctant to accept their Gentile brothers. In recent years, racial discrimination has been a dominant issue.

Prejudice can run so deep that it sometimes takes a tragedy to make a person see how wrong it is to discriminate on the basis of physical differences. Several years ago I read about a bigoted truckdriver who had no use for African-Americans. But one early morning, his tanker truck flipped over and burst into flames. A week later, he was lying in a hospital bed and looking into the face of a black man who had saved his life. He learned that the man had used his own coat and bare hands to smother the flames that had turned the trucker into a human torch. He wept as he thanked the man for his act of unselfish heroism.

We shouldn’t need a tragedy to open our eyes. We need only look to Calvary. There our Lord gave His life for people of every language, race, and nation. The universal scope of His sacrifice shows His love for every human being.

Have mercy on us, Lord, if we have fanned the fire of prejudice that You died to put out.By Mart DeHaan (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. — Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)

Join hands, then, brothers of the faith,
Whate'er your race may be;
Who serves my Father as a son
Is surely kin to me. —Oxenham

Prejudice is a lazy man's substitute for thinking.

No Partiality

Do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality. —James 2:1

A man attended a church regularly for several months, but he was always ignored. Because no one knew who he was, and he looked out-of-place with his old and worn-out clothes, no one ever took the time to speak to him.

One Sunday as he took a seat in church, he intentionally left his hat on. As the pastor stood on the platform and looked out over the audience, he noticed the man with the hat right away. So he summoned one of the deacons and asked him to tell the man that he forgot to remove his hat. When the deacon spoke to the man, he responded with a big smile and said, “I thought that would do it. I have attended this church for 6 months, and you are the first person who has ever talked to me.”

There is no place for prejudice or favoritism in the family of God. We who have been born again through faith in Jesus are equals in God’s sight. And that equality should be evident in the way we treat other believers.

We must be hospitable and courteous to all, regardless of their race, social status, or appearance. When we show favoritism, we sin against people whom God loves and for whom Christ died. Let’s be gracious to everyone and be careful to avoid showing partiality. By:  Richard DeHaan (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. — Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)

All those who know and love the Lord
Must show by word and deed
That they will not discriminate
But welcome those in need.
—D. De Haan

Prejudice builds walls; love breaks them down.

A Misleading Impression

God shows personal favoritism to no man. —Galatians 2:6

Today's Scripture: James 2:1-13

He wasn’t wearing a shirt, and his car looked like it was a refugee from a junkyard. Yet the unkempt man who stopped to help them on the Chicago expressway was, to my friends, angelic.

While traveling the busy highways of Chicago, Ken and Sue’s van blew a tire. As they edged toward the shoulder of the expressway, with cars flying past, they quickly prayed for help. That’s when the man in the rusty car waved and yelled to them that he would help.

Most of us are reluctant to trust complete strangers, so my friends were understandably wary of this scraggly man. Yet they soon found out that he was a mechanic who himself had been stranded just days earlier. He grabbed his tools, got to work on their car, and quickly had them back on the road.

We often judge people by the way they look or dress, or by what kind of car they drive. Sure, we must be careful whom we trust, but that doesn’t mean we should dismiss everyone who doesn’t dress like a television news anchor.

People come in all sizes, colors, and conditions. Before we set aside those who don’t match our personal standards, we need to remind ourselves that our Creator doesn’t play favorites (Gal. 2:6). Neither should we. By:  Dave Branon (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. — Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)

First impressions are misleading 
For we do not know the heart; 
We can often be mistaken
Since we only know in part.

Always look at others through the eyes of Christ.


READ: James 2:1–13 

Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom. James 2:12

When my children were squabbling and came to me to tattle on one another, I took each child aside separately to hear their account of the problem. Since both were guilty, at the end of our chat I asked them each what they felt would be an appropriate, fair consequence for their sibling’s actions. Both suggested swift punishment for the other. To their surprise, I instead gave them each the consequence they had intended for their sibling. Suddenly, each child lamented how “unfair” the sentence seemed now that it was visited upon them—despite having deemed it appropriate when it was intended for the other.

My kids had shown the kind of “judgment without mercy” that God warns against (James 2:13). James reminds us that instead of showing favoritism to the wealthy, or even to one’s self, God desires that we love others as we love ourselves (v. 8). Instead of using others for selfish gain, or disregarding anyone whose position doesn’t benefit us, James instructs us to act as people who know how much we’ve been given and forgiven—and to extend that mercy to others.

God has given generously of His mercy. In all our dealings with others, let’s remember the mercy He’s shown us and extend it to others.— Kirsten Holmberg (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. — Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)

Lord, I’m grateful for the great mercy You’ve shown me. Help me to offer similar mercy to others as a measure of my gratitude to You.

God’s mercy prompts us to be merciful.


James 2:1-13

If you show partiality, you commit sin. James 2:9

In his autobiography, Mahatma Gandhi wrote that during his student days he read the Gospels seriously and considered converting to Christianity. He believed that in the teachings of Jesus he could find the solution to the caste system that was dividing the people of India.

So one Sunday he decided to attend services at a nearby church and talk to the minister about becoming a Christian. When he entered the sanctuary, however, the usher refused to give him a seat and suggested that he go worship with his own people. Gandhi left the church and never returned. “If Christians have caste differences also,” he said, “I might as well remain a Hindu.” That usher’s prejudice not only betrayed Jesus but also turned a person away from trusting Him as Savior.

The “prejudiced usher” described in today’s Bible passage welcomed a wealthy visitor but insulted a poor one. Perhaps he felt he was doing his job and only carrying out the wishes of the members in the church. But he displayed bad manners, and he was guilty of a sin as serious as murder and adultery (James 2:9-11).

When people visit your church, do you warmly welcome them regardless of their race or social status? —Haddon W Robinson (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. — Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)

God’s love that drew salvation’s plan
embraces every class of man;
it breaks the toughest racial wall
because it offers Christ to all. —D De Haan

Prejudice distorts what it sees, deceives when it talks, and destroys when it acts.

"The Underbird"

You are of more value than many sparrows. —Luke 12:7

Today's Scripture: James 2:1-9

Charlie Brown, the comic strip character, identified with the underdog, probably because he always felt like one. In one scene he was building a birdhouse when the cynical Lucy came by. “I’m building it for sparrows,” Charlie told her. Lucy said, “For sparrows? Nobody builds birdhouses for sparrows.” “I do,” replied Charlie Brown. “I always stick up for the underbird.”

At times Christians may overlook the “sparrows,” the little people in their worlds. They may ignore those they view as less valuable.

James said it’s wrong for a Christian to practice partiality (James 2:1). It’s a sin to show personal favoritism (v.9). The reasons may be social, economic, educational, or ethnic, but there’s no excuse for disrespecting people with our attitudes and words.

Jesus didn’t do this. He crossed all kinds of traditional barriers to talk with tax-collectors, sinners, non-Jews, people of mixed races, the poor, as well as the rich. He came to identify with each of us, and to pay the price on the cross for all our sins.

When a sparrow falls, the Father takes note of it. But He cares much more for people, including the “underbird.” Perhaps we need a little more Charlie Brown in us. By:  David C. Egner (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. — Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)

Lord, help me to love the way that You love
The humble, the lowly, the meek;
And help me to care the way that You care
For sinners, the outcasts, the weak.

Nobody wins when we play favorites.

Cemetery Walk

My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality. —James 2:1

Today's Scripture: James 2:1-13

On my way home from high school I often walked by one cemetery and cut through another. I was intrigued by the grave markers, for they revealed the social status of each person who had died. Near the cemetery entrances were crypts, gray stone buildings with ornate iron scrollwork and the family name prominently displayed. Pillars and large ornamental markers were nearby, then rows and rows of headstones. Small, flat, stone markers marked the graves of the poor.

As I recall those days, I’m reminded of a cemetery in Germany called God’s Acre. A young nobleman named Zinzendorf (1700-1760) opened his estate to religious refugees from Moravia. He gave them the freedom to worship God as they wished. In time, that little enclave became a worldwide missionary movement.

Each person buried in that cemetery, prince or pauper, count or coal miner, had an identical plain white headstone. This underscored their conviction that all believers in Christ are spiritually equal in their standing before God. They took seriously the teaching of James 2:1, that we are not to treat one another with “partiality.”

Lord, help us to treat our brothers and sisters in Christ as equals, giving honor to all.   By:  David C. Egner (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. — Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)

In Jesus Christ we all are equal,
For God's Spirit makes us one;
As we give each other honor,
We give glory to His Son. —Fitzhugh

The ground is level at the foot of the cross.

Looks And Life

Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. —1 Samuel 16:7

During the first few hours of their 30th college reunion, Mary Schmich and her friends talked mostly about how old their classmates looked. But as the event progressed, their focus began to change. Later, in her Chicago Tribune column, Mary wrote: “Once you get used to the fact that time has robbed every single one of you of something—or added it in the wrong places . . . you stop thinking about looks [and] start talking about life.”

So much of our time and attention are devoted to physical appearance that it’s easy to consider it the most important aspect of our lives. But the Bible reminds us that God wants us to see ourselves and others differently.

When the Lord sent Samuel to anoint a new king over Israel (1 Samuel 16:1), God reminded him to look deeper than physical characteristics: “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature . . . . For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (v.7).

God’s Word has some harsh condemnation for those who show favoritism based on appearances (James 2:1-2). When we begin to see people through God’s eyes, our focus will change from looks to life.By:  David C. McCasland (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. — Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)

God looks not at the outward form
But what is in the heart;
The beauty He is pleased to see,
His Spirit can impart. 

Our mirrors reflect the outward appearance; God’s mirror reveals the inward condition.

No More Prejudice

My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality. —James 2:1

Today's Scripture & Insight: James 2:1-10

A 2010 survey by Newsweek contained some startling statistics: 57 percent of hiring managers believe an unattractive (but qualified) job candidate would have a harder time getting hired; 84 percent of managers said their bosses would hesitate before hiring a qualified older candidate; 64 percent of hiring managers said they believe companies should be allowed to hire people based on appearance. All are clear examples of unacceptable prejudice.

Prejudice is not new. It had crept into the early church, and James confronted it head-on. With prophetic grit and a pastor’s heart, he wrote: “My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality” (James 2:1). James gave an example of this type of prejudice—favoring the rich and ignoring the poor (vv.2-4). This was inconsistent with holding faith in Jesus without partiality (v.1), betrayed the grace of God (vv.5-7), violated the law of love (v.8), and was sinful (v.9). The answer to partiality is following the example of Jesus: loving your neighbor as yourself.

We fight the sin of prejudice when we let God’s love for us find full expression in the way we love and treat each other.By:  Marvin Williams (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. — Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)

Thinking It Over
Who helped you determine what is the right way to
treat people? Was it based on external things?
What are some ways you can love people as Jesus did?

Looking up to Jesus prevents us from looking down on others.


Do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ,  The Lord of glory, with partiality.  --James 2:1    

In  his  Prison Fellowship newsletter, Chuck Colson  tells  of  a  pastor who was putting the final touches on his sermon early  one  Sunday  morning when he heard a knock on his  study  door.  There  stood  three  ragged  boys who had  received  gifts  from  church  members.  Their home was ravaged by drugs and prostitution.  They  had never been in a church before and wanted to look  around.  So  the pastor gave them a quick "tour."    Fifteen  minutes  later  they were back,  asking  what  time  the  service started.  "Can people come to your church if their  socks  don't  match?"  asked the oldest.  The pastor assured  them  they  could.  "What  if they don't have any socks?"  Again, the  pastor  reassured  them.  "That's good," said the boy, "because my  socks  don't  match,  and my little brother hasn't  any."  That  morning  those  boys came to church and were warmly welcomed.  Since  then  the church has helped the entire family.    Just  as  the gospel is open to everyone,  everyone  should  feel  welcome  in  our  churches.  Wealthy and poor,  child  and  aged,  police  officer  and  ex-con, handicapped  and  athlete  are  all  objects of Christ's love.  They are all potential members of  His  body.  May there be no barriers in our churches nor in our hearts  toward anyone!    Author:  David C. Egner    Lord, may some weary souls find rest  Because Your people took them in  And helped them see the love of Christ  That frees us from our guilt and sin.  --David C. Egner (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. — Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)

                  Lord, may some weary souls find rest
                    Because Your people took them in
                 And helped them see the love of Christ
                  That frees us from our guilt and sin.

        Poor is the church that values programs more than people.


"Do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality." -- James 2:1  

Many years ago, when my father, Dr. M. R. De Haan, was president of Radio Bible Class, a well-known minister came to our office. Initially I was awed by the presence of this distinguished visitor.  My impression soon began to change, however, as I listened to him talk about himself. He seemed to exemplify what the apostle Paul said a Christian should NOT do, that is, "to think of himself more highly than he ought to think" (Ro 12:3).  When my father asked the noted pulpiteer about another preacher in the same town, he ridiculed the man's ministry to those who lived "on the other side of the tracks." I've never forgotten that incident.  What about our attitudes? Is there favoritism in our churches? Are we as interested in the "down and outer" as much as the "up and outer"? Do we greet those on the bottom rung of the social ladder with the same enthusiasm we show to those who have riches and enjoy worldly prestige?  Christians should never neglect a needy soul. The Lord is not pleased when we show undue favoritism to some and snub others.  Is the word "welcome" printed on your church bulletin? Does it apply to everyone?   -- Richard W. De Haan  

 No one is excluded from the circle of God's grace,
      We cannot get beyond His love and care;
 Why then do we close our minds and turn away our face
      From all who in the gospel have a share?
 -- Hess

 A heart that is open to Christ will be open to those He loves.

James 2:2  For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes,

Wuest  For if there comes into your synagogue [the meeting-place of Christian Jews] a man whose hand is conspicuously loaded with gold rings [and] in brightly shining clothing, and there comes in also a poor man in dirty clothing who is dependent upon others for support, 

Phillips Suppose one man comes into your meeting well-dressed and with a gold ring on his finger, and another man, obviously poor, arrives in shabby clothes.

NET  James 2:2 For if someone comes into your assembly wearing a gold ring and fine clothing, and a poor person enters in filthy clothes,

GNT  James 2:2 ἐὰν γὰρ εἰσέλθῃ εἰς συναγωγὴν ὑμῶν ἀνὴρ χρυσοδακτύλιος ἐν ἐσθῆτι λαμπρᾷ, εἰσέλθῃ δὲ καὶ πτωχὸς ἐν ῥυπαρᾷ ἐσθῆτι,

NLT  James 2:2 For example, suppose someone comes into your meeting dressed in fancy clothes and expensive jewelry, and another comes in who is poor and dressed in dirty clothes.

KJV  James 2:2 For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment;

ESV  James 2:2 For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in,

ASV  James 2:2 For if there come into your synagogue a man with a gold ring, in fine clothing, and there come in also a poor man in vile clothing;

CSB  James 2:2 For example, a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and a poor man dressed in dirty clothes also comes in.

NIV  James 2:2 Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in.

NKJ  James 2:2 For if there should come into your assembly a man with gold rings, in fine apparel, and there should also come in a poor man in filthy clothes,

NRS  James 2:2 For if a person with gold rings and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and if a poor person in dirty clothes also comes in,

YLT  James 2:2 for if there may come into your synagogue a man with gold ring, in gay raiment, and there may come in also a poor man in vile raiment,

NAB  James 2:2 For if a man with gold rings on his fingers and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and a poor person in shabby clothes also comes in,

NJB  James 2:2 Now suppose a man comes into your synagogue, well-dressed and with a gold ring on, and at the same time a poor man comes in, in shabby clothes,

GWN  James 2:2 For example, two men come to your worship service. One man is wearing gold rings and fine clothes; the other man, who is poor, is wearing shabby clothes.

BBE  James 2:2 For if a man comes into your Synagogue in fair clothing and with a gold ring, and a poor man comes in with dirty clothing,

  • if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring: Es 3:10 8:2 Lu 15:22 
  • nd dressed in fine clothes: Ge 27:15 Mt 11:8,9 
  • there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes: Isa 64:6 Zec 3:3,4 
  • James 2 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries


For (gar) is a term of explanation. This supports the interpretation above that this is a direct command and not a question, for if it were the latter, the "for" would be more difficult to explain. What is James explaining? He has just issued a rebuke (in the form of a command) and is now explaining what this might look like. 

If - This introduces a third class conditional statement, indicating that the illustration is hypothetical but possible and one in fact the readers may have seen or themselves carried out. James is shooting straight at the conscience of his readers! 

A man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes - "A gold-fingered man" like the James Bond movie! And "In bright (lampros = shining brilliant) clothing," probably referring to the glittering color of his clothes. In short he would be hard to miss! The phrase "a gold fingered man" clearly does not mean a single ring on a man's finger but to a man whose fingers were loaded down with gold rings or multiple rings on one finger. The point it that this man was clearly a man of wealth and his expensive attire added to that impression.

THOUGHT - How do you react when you shake a man's hand in church and notice he is wearing an expensive Rolex watch?

MacArthur adds this note on lampros - It is used of the "gorgeous robe" that Herod and his soldiers mockingly placed on Jesus before they sent Him to Pilate (Luke 23:11) and of the "shining garments" of the angel who appeared to Cornelius as he was praying (Acts 10:30).(Ibid)

Hiebert on fine clothes - The reference is probably to the shining white garments often worn by wealthy Jews.

Hughes quips "The man almost glows! (Cf. Acts 10:30.) How great he looks with his Caribbean tan and the white linen Gatsbyesque suit and the panama. We are impressed! (Preaching the Word – James: Faith That Works)

Robertson on gold ring - The word occurs nowhere else, but Lucian has chrusocheir (gold-handed) and Epictetus has chrusous daktulious (golden seal-rings). "Hannibal, after the battle of Cannae, sent as a great trophy to Carthage, three bushels of gold-rings from the fingers of Roman knights slain in battle" (Vincent).

Hiebert has an interesting note on rings in the ancient world - The wearing of a ring was customary among the Jews (Luke 15:22), but in Roman society, the wealthy wore rings on their left hand in profusion. A sign of wealth, rings were worn with great ostentation. There were even shops in Rome where rings could be rented for a special occasion. No doubt this ostentatious practice also spread to the provinces and would be known to James's readers. The practice of wearing rings as a manifestation of luxury and display invaded the churches. Clement of Alexandria (c. 155-c. 220) in his Paidagogos felt it necessary to urge Christians to wear only one ring because it was needed for purposes of sealing. The Apostolic Constitutions (c. 381) warned Christians against fine clothing and rings, since these were all signs of lasciviousness. (Ibid)

Barclay adds - "We adorn our fingers with rings,' said Seneca, 'and we distribute gems over every joint.' The early Christian theologian Clement of Alexandria recommends that Christians should wear only one ring, and that it should be worn on the little finger. It ought to have on it a religious emblem, such as a dove, a fish or an anchor, and the justification for wearing it is that it might be used as a seal. (New Daily Study Bible – The Letters of James and Peter)

Your assembly (4864)(sunagoge from sunago = lead together, assemble or bring together) refers to a group of people “going with one another” (sunago) literally describes a bringing together or congregating in one place. Eventually, sunagoge came to mean the place where they congregated together. The word was used to designate the buildings other than the central Jewish temple where the Jews congregated for worship. Historically, the Synagogues originated in the Babylonian captivity after the 586 BC destruction of the temple by Nebuchadnezzar and served as places of worship and instruction. In the present context while this could mean a synagogue, the main idea is that it was the place where believers were assembled. 

Hiebert - Here the reference (sunagoge) is to the place of assembly, as is evident from the mention of assigned seats. The readers are Christians (James 1:1; 2:1), and the pronoun "your" makes clear that it is not a non-Christian Jewish synagogue, since the readers are viewed as being in control of arrangements....At the time when James wrote, the Jewish Christians apparently continued to speak of their place of assembly as their "synagogue," so James used the term that would be most familiar to them.(Ibid)

Robertson - It may seem a bit odd for a Christian church (ekklēsia) to be termed sunagōgē, but James is writing to Jewish Christians and this is another incidental argument for the early date....In the fourth century an inscription has sunagōgē for the meeting-house of certain Christians.

McGee - He was ostentatious, if you please. His clothing is contrasted with that of the poor man. Someone has said, "Some go to church to close their eyes, and others go to eye the clothes." We have made Sunday a time when we Christians put on our Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes. A great many people come to church overdressed. There is a dash and a splash and a flash about them. There is a pomp and pomposity. It's glitter and gaudy, and vulgar and vain, also. This rich man makes his entrance into church with flags flying and a fanfare of trumpets. There is parade and pageant. It is as if he drives up in his gold Cadillac, getting out as his chauffer opens the door for him. He walks in, strutting like a peacock. He is like the rich man the Lord Jesus spoke of in the true story of the rich man and Lazarus: "There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day" (Luke 16:19+). He "fared sumptuously" means that life was one continual party for him. (Ibid)

And there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes - James repeats the verb "comes" which would indicate he is presenting these as two separate events. This man is poor (see ptochos below) to the point of being a beggar. 

Poor ( (4434)(ptochos from ptosso = crouch, cringe, cower down or hide oneself for fear, a picture of one crouching and cowering like a beggar with a tin cup to receive the pennies dropped in!) is an adjective which describes one who crouches and cowers and is used as a noun to mean beggar. These poor were unable to meet their basic needs and so were forced to depend on others or on society. Classical Greek used the ptochos to refer to a person reduced to total destitution, who crouched in a corner begging. As he held out one hand for alms he often hid his face with the other hand, because he was ashamed of being recognized. Used 4x by James in this section to emphasize how desperately poor this man was. Jas. 2:2; Jas. 2:3; Jas. 2:5; Jas. 2:6

Dirty (4508)(rhuparos from rhupos = filth) means literally dirty, filthy, foul. In the only other NT use in Rev 22:11+rhuparos is used figuratively of "dirty behavior", morally impure, degenerate, a morally filthy person. "“Let the one who does wrong, still do wrong; and the one who is filthy, still be filthy; and let the one who is righteous, still practice righteousness; and the one who is holy, still keep himself holy.” 

Showing Favoritism - Why it is wrong to show favoritism to the wealthy:

  1. It is inconsistent with Christ's teachings.
  2. It results from evil thoughts.
  3. It insults people made in God's image.
  4. It is a by-product of selfish motives.
  5. It goes against the biblical definition of love.
  6. It shows a lack of mercy to those less fortunate.
  7. It is hypocritical.
  8. It is a sin.

Life Application Study Bible.

James 2:3  and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, "You sit here in a good place," and you say to the poor man, "You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool,"

Amplified  And you pay special attention to the one who wears the splendid clothes and say to him, Sit here in this preferable seat! while you tell the poor [man], Stand there! or, Sit there on the floor at my feet! 

Phillips  If you pay special attention to the well-dressed man by saying, "Please sit here - it's an excellent seat", and say to the poor man, "You stand over there, please, or if you must sit, sit on the floor", 

Wuest  and you look upon the one wearing the clothing which is brightly shining with respectful consideration, and say, As for you, be sitting down here in this place of honor, and say to the poor man, As for you, stand in that place or be sitting down beside my footstool

NET  James 2:3 do you pay attention to the one who is finely dressed and say, "You sit here in a good place," and to the poor person, "You stand over there," or "Sit on the floor"?

GNT  James 2:3 ἐπιβλέψητε δὲ ἐπὶ τὸν φοροῦντα τὴν ἐσθῆτα τὴν λαμπρὰν καὶ εἴπητε, Σὺ κάθου ὧδε καλῶς, καὶ τῷ πτωχῷ εἴπητε, Σὺ στῆθι ἐκεῖ ἢ κάθου ὑπὸ τὸ ὑποπόδιόν μου,

NLT  James 2:3 If you give special attention and a good seat to the rich person, but you say to the poor one, "You can stand over there, or else sit on the floor"-- well,

KJV  James 2:3 And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool:

ESV  James 2:3 and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, "You sit here in a good place," while you say to the poor man, "You stand over there," or, "Sit down at my feet,"

ASV  James 2:3 and ye have regard to him that weareth the fine clothing, and say, Sit thou here in a good place; and ye say to the poor man, Stand thou there, or sit under my footstool;

CSB  James 2:3 If you look with favor on the man wearing the fine clothes and say, "Sit here in a good place," and yet you say to the poor man, "Stand over there," or, "Sit here on the floor by my footstool,"

NIV  James 2:3 If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, "Here's a good seat for you," but say to the poor man, "You stand there" or "Sit on the floor by my feet,"

NKJ  James 2:3 and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say to him, "You sit here in a good place," and say to the poor man, "You stand there," or, "Sit here at my footstool,"

NRS  James 2:3 and if you take notice of the one wearing the fine clothes and say, "Have a seat here, please," while to the one who is poor you say, "Stand there," or, "Sit at my feet,"

YLT  James 2:3 and ye may look upon him bearing the gay raiment, and may say to him, 'Thou -- sit thou here well,' and to the poor man may say, 'Thou -- stand thou there, or, Sit thou here under my footstool,' --

NAB  James 2:3 and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say, "Sit here, please," while you say to the poor one, "Stand there," or "Sit at my feet,"

NJB  James 2:3 and you take notice of the well-dressed man, and say, 'Come this way to the best seats'; then you tell the poor man, 'Stand over there' or 'You can sit on the floor by my foot-rest.'

GWN  James 2:3 Suppose you give special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say to him, "Please have a seat." But you say to the poor man, "Stand over there," or "Sit on the floor at my feet."

BBE  James 2:3 And you do honour to the man in fair clothing and say, Come here and take this good place; and you say to the poor man, Take up your position there, or be seated at my feet;

  • and you pay special attention Jude 1:16 
  • you say to the poor man: Jas 2:6 Isa 65:5 Lu 7:44-46 2Co 8:9 
  • James 2 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries


And you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes - So now James has both the rich man and the poor man standing in the assembly. The verb pay special attention is epiblepo means to look upon intently, play close attention, with the implication of showing special respect for the rich man. James uses this verb in the second person plural which pictures the eyes of the entire assembly are gazing on this rich man! Hiebert comments that "The repeated reference to his clothes underlines that their favorable response was prompted solely by his external appearance, "only the outward and the perishing attracting attention."

And say, "You sit here in a good place," - Here's a good seat for you! Note he is not cordially offered just any place but a good place, the Greek word kalos which pertains to meeting a relatively high standard of excellence and/or expectation. Perhaps it was the seat with a cushion! 

This illustration recalls the sin of the scribes and Pharisees who loved the "chief seats in the synagogues" (Matthew 23:1-6).

Hiebert on seating - The fourth-century Apostolic Constitutions ordered that the bishop should place the deacons in charge of seating the people and directed that if the service already was in progress, the bishop would not interrupt the service to direct a rich visitor to "an upper place."

Craig Keener has an interesting historical note - Jewish legal texts condemn judges who make one litigant stand while another is permitted to sit; these hearings normally took place in synagogues (James 2:2). To avoid partiality on the basis of clothing, some second-century rabbis required both litigants to dress in the same kind of clothes. (IVP Bible Background Commentary)

And you say to the poor man, "You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool" - Notice the order. The rich man is attended to before the poor man and brusquely told to stand and specifically "over there" (so you won't be conspicuous!) Or he could set literally "under my footstool." So stand out of the way or sit on the floor in a somewhat degrading position.

See Jesus' instructions when He observed the behavior of people arriving for an important social event - Read Luke 14:7-11+, cf His words in Mt 25:35. 

Robertson on down by - For this use of hupo "down against" or "down beside" see Exodus 19:17 hupo to oros ("at the foot of the mountain") and hupo se ("at thy feet") (Deut. 33:3). Conquerors often placed their feet on the necks of the victims (Luke 20:43+).

MacArthur - To ask another person, especially a visitor or guest, to sit down by my footstool was therefore a double show of disrespect. The person on a bench or in a chair not only would not give that seat to the visitor but would not even allow him to sit on his footstool.

Bruce Barton - The Jews had a practice of seating the most important people nearest the sacred scrolls. Other people would be seated in the back. This unhealthy practice was still carried on by some Christians. Those with the most important jobs or roles would get preferred seating. James speaks out against this. It is our relationship with Christ that gives us dignity, not our profession or possessions.The Christian answer is not reverse discrimination—treating the poor like royalty and the rich like scum. Our goal is to treat people without consideration for their status. No one is unworthy to be seated. (Ibid)

Jon Courson - If you knew that in ten minutes you would have a half-hour meeting with Donald Trump, would you comb your hair, brush your teeth, think about what you would say? What if you knew that in ten minutes you would meet with a homeless man? Would you expend the same kind of energy? This is what James is getting at. We're all vulnerable; we're all guilty of treating people differently, depending on how we view them outwardly. But almost without exception, the irony is that the people we try to impress the most are those who care about us the least—while the people who really would be open to receiving from us are those for whom we think we don't have time. On the high-school campus, so often the goal is to see the quarterback or the head cheerleader saved. The real key, however, is to go for the kid who sits in the back of the cafeteria all alone, for he's the one who is most often the one ready to listen. The same holds true where you work. We tend to get all excited about the people we highly esteem financially or professionally, economically or intellectually. But it's the poor people who will be most responsive to the gospel and most welcoming of us. Because we so often waste our time trying to impress people who are impressed with themselves, we need to change our perspective. That is what James is championing. "Why is it," he asks, "that when someone comes into your congregation who is dressed in fine clothes, who has a name, or who is esteemed highly, you give him the best seat in the house?" Oh, how we need to be aware of our own fleshly tendencies. (Jon Courson's Application Commentary New Testament)

Kent Hughes on James' hypothetical event - But even if the event were hypothetical, subsequent church history has documented that this sin repeats itself in the church. We do not even have to look back to the so-called Dark Ages to find it. Because the eighteenth-century Church of England had become so elitist and inhospitable to the common man, in 1739 John Wesley had to take to graveyards and fields to preach the gospel. And thus we have poignant accounts of his preaching to 30,000 coal miners at dawn in the fields, and the resulting saving power of the gospel evidenced by tears streaming white trails down their coal-darkened faces. Wesley was no schismatic, but because there was no room in the established church for common people, he reluctantly founded the Methodist-Episcopal Church. (Preaching the Word – James: Faith That Works)

Read a story about William Booth (of Salvation Army fame) written by Richard Collier and which relates to favoritism of James 2...

But time and again, in the vast cold barracks of Broad Street Chapel, Booth noted one thing lacking. Their sermons done, revivalists like Caughey and Marsden, following time-honoured Methodist procedure, would urge people to the communion rail--called also the mourner's bench, a kind of Protestant confessional--in public acceptance of Christ. Yet the poorest and most degraded never came forward. Nor were they present even at Booth's own street sermons.

Booth, of course, knew where they congregated--down in "The Bottoms," one of Nottingham's cruellest slums, where men shunned church as they shunned prison. These lost sheep he now set out to find.

Those who made part of Broad Street congregation never forgot that electric Sunday in 1846: the gas jets, dancing on whitewashed walls, the Minister, the Rev. Samuel Dunn, seated comfortably on his red plush throne, a concord of voices swelling into the evening's fourth hymn:

Foul I to the fountain fly,
Wash me, Saviour, or I die

(from Rock of Ages)

(ED: YOU HAVE TO LOVE BOOTH'S TIMING - AS THESE WORDS ARE BEING SUNG, BOOTH IS BRINGING INTO THE CHAPEL A HOST OF FOUL MEN AND WOMEN!) The chapel's outer door suddenly shattered open, engulfing a white scarf of fog. In its wake came a shuffling shabby contingent of men and women, wilting nervously under the stony stares of mill-managers, shop-keepers and their well-dressed wives. In their rear, afire with zeal, marched "Wilful Will" Booth, cannily blocking the efforts of the more reluctant to turn back. To his dismay the Rev. Dunn saw that young Booth was actually ushering his charges, none of whose clothes would have raised five shillings in his own pawnshop, into the very best seats; pewholders' seats, facing the pulpit, whose occupants piled the collection-plate with glinting silver.

This was unprecedented, for the poor, if they came to chapel, entered by another door, to be segregated on benches without backs or cushions, behind a partition which screened off the pulpit. Here, though the service was audible, they could not see--nor could they be seen.

Oblivious of the mounting atmosphere, Booth joined full-throatedly in the service--even, he later admitted, hoping this devotion to duty might rate special commendation. All too soon he learned the unpalatable truth: since Wesley's day, Methodism had become "respectable."

The service done, Booth found himself facing a drumhead meeting of deacons under the Rev. Dunn and their instructions left no room for doubt. In future, if Booth brought such a flock to chapel they would enter by the side door--and sit in their appointed seats.

Head bowed, Booth accepted the rebuke--but in many ways, it would seem, this first gesture came to symbolise the entire credo of the army of men and women who would one day hail him as its founder. (Read the full account of The General Next to God online)

James 2:4  have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives?

Amplified  Are you not discriminating among your own and becoming critics and judges with wrong motives? 

Phillips  doesn't that prove that you are making class-distinctions in your mind, and setting yourselves up to assess a man's quality? - a very bad thing.

Wuest  are you not divided in your own mind [expressing a doubt as to the requirements of the faith you have in the Lord

NET  James 2:4 If so, have you not made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil motives?

GNT  James 2:4 οὐ διεκρίθητε ἐν ἑαυτοῖς καὶ ἐγένεσθε κριταὶ διαλογισμῶν πονηρῶν;

NLT  James 2:4 doesn't this discrimination show that your judgments are guided by evil motives?

KJV  James 2:4 Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts?

ESV  James 2:4 have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?

ASV  James 2:4 Do ye not make distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?

CSB  James 2:4 haven't you discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?

NIV  James 2:4 have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?

NKJ  James 2:4 have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?

NRS  James 2:4 have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?

YLT  James 2:4 ye did not judge fully in yourselves, and did become ill-reasoning judges.

NAB  James 2:4 have you not made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil designs?

NJB  James 2:4 In making this distinction among yourselves have you not used a corrupt standard?

GWN  James 2:4 Aren't you discriminating against people and using a corrupt standard to make judgments?

BBE  James 2:4 Is there not a division in your minds? have you not become judges with evil thoughts?

  • have you not made distinctions among yourselves: Jas 1:1-27 Job 34:19 Mal 2:9 
  • become judges with evil motives: Jas 4:11 Job 21:27 Ps 58:1 82:2 109:31 Mt 7:1-5 Joh 7:24 
  • James 2 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries


The question in this passage is based on the hypothetical example James had just presented in James 2:2-3. James is pithy and likes to prick the conscience so he zeroes in on the evil attitude of favoritism. Like a judge he announces his verdict in the form of a question - guilty of discrimination. Favoritism is always bad but it is especially bad in God's Church because it gives a wrong impression of the character of our Father Who is perfectly Impartial.

THOUGHT - As a personal testimony I (as a successful physician) have definitely experienced this discrimination (I was on the "positive" side of it) and it was very apparent to me what the pastor (no names will be mentioned) was doing attempting to curry favor with me. Although this has been over 20 years ago, I can still recall the very uncomfortable feeling in the pit of my stomach. I did not want to be shown favoritism and it made me very uneasy. Unfortunately I did not yet understand the message of James 2 or I would have taken it to the pastor. The upshot is that discrimination can actually work adversely both ways - toward the rich and toward the poor! Pastors, elders, church leaders, assiduously avoid the temptation to show favoritism to the "rich and famous" in your flock. It is not even theologically logical for before God in Christ Jesus we are ALL in effect "rich and famous!" Amen? Amen! 

Have you not made distinctions among yourselves - This is rhetorical and expects an affirmative response as does the second part of the question if the reader is honest in his answer! Yourselves conveys the idea of "in your own minds" (and sadly in dependence on the fallen fleshly thinking of the old man).

These passages in James 2:1-13 raise the ugly issues of outward show versus inward spirituality, temporal versus eternal. Which do you prefer? Sadly too many in the church today prefer outward show and temporal values. 

Have you not made distinctions (1252)(diakrino from diá = separation, "thoroughly back and forth" + kríno = distinguish, decide, judge) basically means to separate wholly, to judge "back and forth" between two and thus divide between two. Positively it can refer to close-reasoning (discrimination) or negatively as here in James 2:4 to "over-judging" or going too far. The primary idea of diakrino is that they would be differentiating between rich and poor by separating. In other words they have discriminated and made unjustified divisions in their assemblies, in effect making social distinctions. Robertson says "They are guilty of partiality (a divided mind) as between the two strangers."

Gilbrant has an interesting thought on the use of diakrino in this passage - When these believers made prejudicial distinctions between classes of people they wavered between the thinking of the world which made class distinctions and the faith they claimed to possess which forbade showing partiality." (Complete Biblical Library – Hebrews-Jude)

James used this same verb in James 1:6+ writing that one "must ask (James 1:5) in faith without any doubting (diakrino), for the one who doubts (diakrino) is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind."

Brian Bell has an interesting comment on the closely related word diakrisis(derived from diakrino) writing that "This type of judging (James 2:4) is wrong because of the motive or attitude behind it. Right Discerning! = Hebrews. 5:14+ "Solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern (diakrisis) good and evil. a) diakrino(prefix added) meaning, “to separate, to distinguish, to select.” b) It’s the idea of distinguishing on the basis of comparison, coupled with careful thinking c) The mark of a mature Christian is the ability to discern good from evil, strengths from weaknesses, to be concerned for the welfare of those we correct. (Sermon)

Constable explains that "The usher made two errors. First, he showed favoritism because of what the rich man might do for the church if he received preferential treatment. He should have treated everyone graciously, as God does. This reflects a double-minded attitude, thinking like the world in this case while thinking as God thinks in other respects (James 1:8).Second, the usher, who represents all the believers, manifested evil motives in judging where to seat the two visitors. His motive was what the church could obtain from them rather than what it could impart to them. The Christian and the church should seek primarily to serve others rather than getting others to serve them (cf. Mark 10:45). (James 2 Expository Notes)

And become judges with evil motives - Some translate this as "Judges with vicious intentions." Again the affirmative is expected. If they demonstrated favoritism as in this illustration of a rich man and a poor man they would in effect have made themselves judges and bad ones at that because their motives were evil. 

James speaks against judging others again in chapter 4 - "Do not speak against one another, brethren. He who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks against the law and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge of it." (Jas 4:11+)

MacArthur Study Bible - James feared that his readers would behave just like the sinful world by catering to the rich and prominent while shunning the poor and common.

ESV Study Bible - Christians are not to “judge” each other (Matt. 7:1-5; Rom. 14:4; 1 Cor. 5:12), and to do so can only mean one’s mind is consumed with evil “thoughts” (Gk. dialogismos, which can mean “opinions,” “reasoning,” or “conclusions”).

Judges (2923)(kritesfrom krino = to judge) were those who decided making their decisions based on examination and evaluation, in this context, the way the person appeared! We never do that do we? (Compare Lev 19:15+).

Evil(wicked, bad) (4190)(poneros from poneo = toil) means evil including evil, malignant character, pernicious and denotes determined, aggressive, and fervent evil that actively opposes what is good. Poneros is not just bad in character (like kakos), but bad in effect (injurious)! That is a vivid description of what personal favoritism does! In short, partiality is vicious, injurious and destructive!

Motives (reasonings) (1261)(dialogismos from diá = through + logizomai = reckon) means literally they were reasoning through and doing so with relative thoroughness and completeness but sadly not with integrity.

Brian Bell - So why can’t I show partiality? Because it’s impossible to judge another person’s motives simply on the basis of outward appearance or any other external force. No one can determine the heart of another especially in a 1st-time encounter. That is why James says it’s wrong! Judges with evil thoughts (motives) - It might be in hopes of selfish gain; or to maintain class distinctions; or simply out of pride & contempt. In his autobiography, Mahatma Gandhi wrote that during his student days he read the Gospels seriously and considered converting to Christianity. He believed that in the teachings of Jesus he could find the solution to the caste system that was dividing the people of India. So one Sunday he decided to attend services at a nearby church and talk to the minister about becoming a Christian. When he entered the sanctuary, however, the usher refused to give him a seat and suggested that he go worship with his own people. Gandhi left the church and never returned. “If Christians have caste differences also,” he said, “I might as well remain a Hindu.” WOE! (Sermon)

As Charles Swindoll says "James couldn’t be clearer. This kind of prejudice is sin. If there’s one place where class distinctions should be broken down, it’s in our places of worship. Discrimination over color, political persuasion, financial status, fashion, or appearance doesn’t belong in the church, either inside or outside its doors, in private or in public." (Swindoll's Living Insights New Testament Commentary – James)

Life Application Study Bible - Sometimes we do this (MAKE DISTINCTIONS) because: (1) poverty makes us uncomfortable; we don't want to face our responsibilities to those who have less than we do; (2) we want to be wealthy, too, and hope to use the rich person as a means to that end; (3) we want the rich person to join our church and help support it financially. All these motives are selfish, stemming from the view that we are superior to the poor person. If we say that Christ is our Lord, then we must live as he requires, showing no favoritism and loving all people regardless of whether they are rich or poor.

William MacDonald - Probably the most glaring example of it in the church today is the discrimination shown against people of other races and colors. Black believers have been ostracized in many instances or at least made to feel unwelcome. Converted Jews have not always been accepted cordially. Oriental Christians have tasted discrimination in varying degrees. It is admitted that there are enormous social problems in the whole area of racial relations. But the Christian must be true to divine principles. His obligation is to give practical expression to the truth that all believers are one in Christ Jesus. (Believer's Bible Commentary)

Craig Keener historical note - Roman laws explicitly favored the rich. Persons of lower class, who were thought to act from economic self-interest, could not bring accusations against persons of higher class, and the laws prescribed harsher penalties for lower-class persons convicted of offenses than for offenders from the higher class. Biblical law, most Jewish law and traditional Greek philosophers had always rejected such distinctions as immoral. (Ibid)

John Phillips - After C. S. Lewis became a Christian, he decided that it would be appropriate for him to join a local church. There he found himself in the company of that very collection of his neighbors he had formerly sought diligently to avoid. The local grocer came sidling up to him to unctuously present him with a hymnbook. He looked around him and noticed that the man over there had boots that squeaked, the woman in front of him was wearing a ridiculous hat, and the man behind him sang off-key. He found himself drawing the unwarranted conclusion that these peoples' faith must somehow be ridiculous. Only later did he learn that some of these people were, in fact, devout, well-taught, and valiant Christians—believers whom Satan himself had reason to fear. It is a great mistake to judge people by their appearance. (Exploring the Epistle of James: An Expository Commentary)

ILLUSTRATION - Treating rich visitors with great respect and Treating poor visitors with no respect (at least one's he thought were poor!). -- In 1884 a young man died, and after the funeral his grieving parents decided to establish a memorial to him. With that in mind they met with Charles Eliot, president of Harvard University. Eliot received the unpretentious couple into his office and asked what he could do. After they expressed their desire to fund a memorial, Eliot impatiently said, “Perhaps you have in mind a scholarship.” “We were thinking of something more substantial than that...perhaps a building,” the woman replied. In a patronizing tone, Eliot brushed aside the idea as being too expensive and the couple departed. The next year, Eliot learned that this plain pair had gone elsewhere and established a $26 million memorial named Leland Stanford Junior University, better known today as Stanford! (Today in the Word)

Charles Swindoll has a great illustration of not showing favoritism entitled "General Seating No Longer Available"

When I was stationed on the island of Okinawa, our general liked to sit down front during chapel services. There was always a place reserved for him and his entourage of aides—all those guys that waited on him hand and foot. He would usually arrive about five minutes after the worship started, and you could just hear all of them marching in step to go sit down in that one spot that everybody knew belonged to them.

Well, we had a fine Christian chaplain who was a real maverick, a strong preacher, and a courageous fellow. He was one of the only chaplains I knew who was genuinely born-again. One Easter Sunday morning the chapel was packed. There were guys outside who couldn’t get a seat. The chaplain wanted to make as much room as possible for all the troops, so he packed them in wherever there was space. He told the ushers, “Bring ’em down.” And guess who sat in the general’s seat? A private. Now in the Marine Corps, trust me, no one else sits where generals are supposed to sit—especially buck privates! But this Easter Sunday he did. Then in came the general. He surveyed the chapel and saw there was no place available. The general obviously didn’t like that, because our fine chaplain was sent off that island in less than three months’ time. The chaplain paid a big price for a valuable virtue. He refused to show partiality, even if it meant seating an on-time private over a tardy general. But God works in mysterious ways. I found out months later that our chaplain who got booted off Okinawa wound up being stationed in Hawaii. How good is that! (Swindoll's Living Insights New Testament Commentary – James, 1 & 2 Peter)

Illustration of Partiality - Pastor Stuart Silvester told me of a conversation he had with an acquaintance who frequently flew his small private plane in and out of Toronto International Airport. He asked the pilot if he ever encountered problems taking of and landing a small craft at an airport that was dominated by so many large jets. His friend responded, “My plane may be small, but I have the same rights, the same privileges, and the same access to that airport as anyone else—even the jumbo jets!” Beloved you can see the application - the small planes can fly at the same level as the jumbo jets around here. The poor man should be as welcome as the rich man in the church of Jesus.

Talk About Prejudice! - An African-American minister Raleigh Washington said the following "When I was born, I was black. When I grew up, I was still black. When I go out in the cold, I'm still black. When I go out in the sun, I get more black. When I'm sick, I'm black, and when I die, I'm sure I'll still be black. But I found out that when white people are born, you're pink. When you grow up, you become white. When you go out in the cold, 'lOU turn blue. And when you stay out in the sun, you turn reg. When you're sick, they say, "You look green," and when you die, you turn purple. Now what I want to know is why do they call blacks "colored people?"

Sad Illustration of Favoritism - The late Max Cadenhead, when he was pastor of First Baptist Church in Naples, Florida, riveted his congregation one day with a bold confession. "My message today is on the parable of the Good Samaritan," Max announced. "Let me start with an illustration. "Remember last year when the Browns came forward to join the church?" he asked. Everyone nodded ; the Browns were a very influential family. "Well, the same day a young man came forward and gave his life to Christ. I could tell he needed help and we counseled him." No one nodded; no one remembered. "We worked with the Browns, got them onto committees. They've been wonderful folks," ' Cadenhead said to muffled amens. "The young manOwell, we lost track. "Until yesterday, that is, as I was preparing today's message on the Good Samaritan. I picked up the paper, and there was that young man's picture. He had shot and killed an elderly woman." Chins dropped throughout the congregation, mine included, as the pastor continued. "I never followed up on that young man, so I'm the priest who saw the man in trouble and crossed to the other side of the road . I am a hypocrite." More of that kind of sober honesty in the church would be very healthy. For God's kingdom is just the opposite of ours. We go after the rich or the influential, thinking if we can just bag t his one or that one, we'll have a real catch for the kingdom . Like the folks profiled by the apostle James, we offer our head tables to the wealthy and well-dressed and reserve the back seats for those we consider unimportant.

BIBLE ILLUSTRATION - The Lord even had to remind Samuel in 1 Samuel 16:7  “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”

James 2:5  Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world [to be] rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?

Amplified 5 Listen, my beloved brethren: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and in their position as believers and to inherit the kingdom which He has promised to those who love Him? 

Phillips  For do notice, my brothers, that God chose poor men, whose only wealth was their faith, and made them heirs to the kingdom promised to those who love him. 

Wuest Listen, my brethren, beloved ones. Did not God select out for himself those who are poor in the world’s estimation to be wealthy in the sphere of faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? 

NET  James 2:5 Listen, my dear brothers and sisters! Did not God choose the poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom that he promised to those who love him?

GNT  James 2:5 Ἀκούσατε, ἀδελφοί μου ἀγαπητοί· οὐχ ὁ θεὸς ἐξελέξατο τοὺς πτωχοὺς τῷ κόσμῳ πλουσίους ἐν πίστει καὶ κληρονόμους τῆς βασιλείας ἧς ἐπηγγείλατο τοῖς ἀγαπῶσιν αὐτόν;

NLT  James 2:5 Listen to me, dear brothers and sisters. Hasn't God chosen the poor in this world to be rich in faith? Aren't they the ones who will inherit the Kingdom he promised to those who love him?

KJV  James 2:5 Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him?

ESV  James 2:5 Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him?

ASV  James 2:5 Hearken, my beloved brethren; did not God choose them that are poor as to the world to be rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he promised to them that love him?

CSB  James 2:5 Listen, my dear brothers: Didn't God choose the poor in this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom that He has promised to those who love Him?

NIV  James 2:5 Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?

NKJ  James 2:5 Listen, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?

NRS  James 2:5 Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters. Has not God chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him?

YLT  James 2:5 Hearken, my brethren beloved, did not God choose the poor of this world, rich in faith, and heirs of the reign that He promised to those loving Him?

NAB  James 2:5 Listen, my beloved brothers. Did not God choose those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom that he promised to those who love him?

NJB  James 2:5 Listen, my dear brothers: it was those who were poor according to the world that God chose, to be rich in faith and to be the heirs to the kingdom which he promised to those who love him.

GWN  James 2:5 Listen, my dear brothers and sisters! Didn't God choose poor people in the world to become rich in faith and to receive the kingdom that he promised to those who love him?

BBE  James 2:5 Give ear, my dear brothers; are not those who are poor in the things of this world marked out by God to have faith as their wealth, and for their heritage the kingdom which he has said he will give to those who have love for him?

  • Listen, my beloved brethren: Jud 9:7 1Ki 22:28 Job 34:10 38:14 Pr 7:24 8:32 Mk 7:14 Ac 7:2 
  • did not God choose the poor of this world: Jas 1:9 Isa 14:32 29:19 Zep 3:12 Zec 11:7,11 Mt 11:5 Lu 6:20 Lu 9:57,58 16:22,25 Joh 7:48 1Co 1:26-28 2Co 8:9 
  • to be rich in faith: Pr 8:17-21 Lu 12:21 1Co 3:21-23 2Co 4:15 6:10 Eph 1:18 3:8 1Ti 6:18 Heb 11:26 Rev 2:9 3:18 21:7 
  • heirs of the kingdom: Mt 5:3 25:34 Lu 12:32 22:29 Ro 8:17 1Th 2:12 2Th 1:5 2Ti 4:8,18 1Pe 1:4 2Pe 1:11 
  • which He promised to those who love Him, Jas 1:12 Ex 20:6 1Sa 2:30 Pr 8:17 Mt 5:3 Lu 6:20 12:32 1Co 2:9 2Ti 4:8 
  • James 2 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries


In this next section (James 2:5-11) James will advance three arguments against the practice of favoritism and each argument is in the form of a question which expects an affirmative answer. James really knows how to draw his reader into the text but forcing them to answer! This is a good practice when teaching the Bible - rather than lecturing (often in one ear and out the other), interacting (including interrogating), which tends to engage the hearers. 

Listen, my beloved (agapetos) brethren (same address in James 1:16+, James 1:19+) - James is kind (motivated by love) but firm and once again addresses them as his fellow believers adding that they are beloved, the very adjective God used of His own Son (Mt 3:17). They are dear to him. Beloved is used (other than of Jesus) only of Christians who are united with God and with each other in this divine love. Agapetos speaks of love called out of one’s heart by preciousness of the object loved. Believers are greatly loved (held dear) by God Himself! James is saying that he is motivated by this quality of love and desires the best for them. Beloved, is that how you are loving your brothers and sisters in Christ? 

THOUGHT - There may be another reason James began this sentence with the attention grabbing verb Listen. The same Greek verb akouois found in the Septuagint (Lxx) of the famous Shema of Deuteronomy 6:4 “Hear (Septuagint - akouo) O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! And so this verb would have been very familiar to the Jewish believers who very likely had heard and/or recited the Shema every morning and evening as was the typical practice in orthodox Jewish homes. 

Listen is akouo in the aorist imperative a command in essence saying "Give me your full attention! This is important!" It is interesting that only James uses Listen as an attention grabber in all of the epistles. The other uses are in the Gospels and Acts. One of the uses in Acts 15:13+ is in the context of the Jerusalem Council where Luke records that "After they had stopped speaking, James answered, saying, “Brethren, listen to me.  (Mt. 13:18; Mt. 21:33; Mk. 7:14; Lk. 18:6; Acts 2:22; Acts 7:2; Acts 13:16; Acts 15:13; Acts 22:1; Jas. 2:5)

Did not God choose the poor of this world (kosmos)[to be] rich in faith - Answer? Yes! Note the paradox - the poor will be rich (of course not every poor person will be saved and there is no merit with God because of their poverty). The very ones they treat with contempt God treats with amazing (unmerited) grace! God's order is frequently to invert the world's order - the weak will be strong, more blessed to give than receive, the low (humble) will be lifted up (exalted), etc, etc. Little wonder that the unbelieving world often considers Christians as crazy!

James' point is that when they show partially to the rich and thus sin against the poor they are go against the very ones whom the Lord had specially chosen

THOUGHT - As a successful physician, I was relatively well off by the world's standards when I was born again at age 39. So I am especially sensitive to passages like James 2:5ff and eternally grateful that the Spirit birthed me into God's Kingdom. The words of Jesus are a continual, precious reminder to me of the my having been made rich in faith at age 39...

And Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” (Lk 18:24-25+)

Choose(1586)(eklegofrom ek = out, out of, out from + légo = select, choose, cf eklektos) literally means to select out, single out or choose out of. The idea in eklego speaks of the sizable number from which the selection is made. It implies the taking of a smaller number out of a larger. We will not here address the too often contentious topic of election except to say the verb eklego means to choose out for oneself, but does not imply rejection of those not chosen.

Hiebert comments that "When men become Christians, it is not due to their own unaided decision to accept the gospel but to the fact that God has chosen and drawn them unto Himself (John 15:16; 1 John 4:10; Rom. 9:11)." (Ibid)

Guzik - When we choose people by what we can see on the surface, we miss the mind of God. Remember that Judas appeared to be much better leadership material than Peter.

Related Resources:

Poor ( (4434) see preceding note on ptochos. Note that this is the same noun Jesus used in the Beatitudes but the meaning there was poor in spirit, while here the reference is to the economically poor. The world considers the financially poor to be "inferior," but clearly that is not God's view, even as this passage teaches. While there are clearly exceptions, the general rule is that those persons who enter the Kingdom of God by grace through faith are more often poor than rich. Paul clearly states the same general idea writing

For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; 27 but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, 28 and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, 29 so that (HERE IS THE PURPOSE OF GOD'S CHOOSING THE FOOLISH, WEAK, BASE, THINGS THAT ARE NOT) no man may boast before God. (1 Cor 1:26-29)

Meyer has an interesting analysis - “The rich man may trust Him; but the poor man must. . . . the poor man has no fortress in which to hide, except the two strong arms of God.” 

Abraham Lincoln said "God must love the common people because He made so many of them."

So here the promise to the poor is that they will be rich in faith, they would receive the divine gift of faith to believe in the Gospel and then faith to persevere to the end of their life when they step off into eternal life. 

Paul described some of the present riches of "poor" believers including the fact that He has been blessed "with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ" (Eph. 1:3+). Peter adds that "His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him Who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust." (2 Peter 1:3-4+)

Rich(4145)(plousios from ploutos = wealth, abundance, riches) is an adjective which defines that which exists in a large amount with implication of its being valuable. Literally plousios generally refers to having an abundance of earthly possessions that exceeds normal experience. Here is James clearly it refers to a poor believer who has an abundance of heavenly blessings because they are rich in faith. Compare a similar use of plousios in Jesus' description of the believers in Smyrna declaring "‘I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich)" (Rev 2:9+). Plousios is a "key word" in the epistle of James with 5 of the 28 NT uses - Jas. 1:10+; Jas. 1:11+; Jas. 2:5+; Jas. 2:6+; Jas. 5:1+.  

Faith(4102)(pistis) means trust, the "state of believing on the basis of the reliability of the one trusted."  It has well been said that faith is not believing in spite of evidence—that’s superstition—but obeying in spite of circumstances and consequences. Swindoll makes the important distinction about Christian faith - The term implies both knowledge and action. One may receive knowledge of a certain truth and may even offer verbal agreement, but “trust” or “confidence” is not said to be present until one’s behavior reflects that truth. 

Puritan Thomas Manton wrote that faith "is the open hand of the soul, to receive all the bounteous supplies of God." I would add that it is even God's Spirit Who "prys" our hand open, so to speak! Indeed, salvation is "from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen" (Ro 11:33+)

And heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him - Answer? Yes! Who are those who love Him? Those who have been born again and received His Spirit, "because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit Who was given to us."  (Ro 5:5+) Now the Holy Spirit bears as part of His spiritual fruit this supernatural love (Gal 5:22+) in believers who are filled with the Spirit (Eph 5:18+), walk by the Spirit (Gal 5:16+) and are led by the Spirit (Gal 5:18+). 

Heirs(2818)(Kleronomos from kleros = a lot - lots were cast to divide property or select an heir + nemomai = to possess, to distribute among), literally refers to one who obtains a lot or portion. It is one who receives something as a possession or a beneficiary (the person named as in an insurance policy to receive proceeds or benefits). An heir does not attain that status through meritorious effect but through a personal relationship with God through faith in His Son's fully atoning sacrifice. Of course here (as in most NT uses) applies primarily to the realm of spiritual inheritance. The emphasis is on the heir's right to possess. And so kleronomos signifies more than simply one who inherits something but also includes the idea of taking into one's possession. In this context the poor become possessors of God's glorious kingdom.

Paul alludes to the believer's status now as an heir writing " if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him." (Ro 8:17+). 

Gilbrant - God chose those whom the world classified as poor in order that He might make them rich—not as the world considers riches, but rich in faith. See Luke 12:21; 16:11; 2 Corinthians 8:9. The richness included future blessing as "heirs of the kingdom." There are present (Romans 14:17) and future (Matthew 26:29) blessings of the Kingdom. (Ibid)

Kingdom (932)(basileia from basileus = a sovereign, king, monarch) denotes sovereignty, royal power, dominion. Basileia is the realm in which a king sovereignly rules, in this context King Jesus. Kingdom is one of those concepts which has "how but not yet" ("here but still future") aspects. For every believer in Christ, the "now" aspect is the rule of Christ in our hearts. The "then" (future) aspect most likely refers to the rule of Christ in the Millennial Kingdom, when Christ reigns as King of the earth, preceding the coming Kingdom in the New Heaven and New Earth. Recall James is writing to Jewish readers and they would be especially attuned to the prophetic promises of Messiah's future earthly reign which is the answer to the disciples' question just prior to His ascension when they asked Him "“Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6). Clearly these Jewish disciples were looking for a Kingdom and Jesus did not refute their belief. See commentary on the nature of the Kingdom they were anticipating in their question in Acts 1:6. 

It has been well said that the only kingdom that will prevail and persist in this world is the kingdom which is not of this world! Amen!

Promised(1861)(epaggello from epi = intensifies + aggello = to tell, declare) means to proclaim, promise, declare, announce. BDAG says it means "to declare to do something with implication of obligation to carry out what is stated."

Love(25)(agapao related study agape) means to love unconditionally and sacrificially as God Himself loves sinful men (John 3:16), the way He loves the Son (John 3:35, 15:9, 17:23, 24). Note that agapao is a verb and by its verbal nature calls for action. This quality of love is not an emotion but is an action initiated by a volitional choice. Here in James 2:5 apagao is in the present tense (calling for habitual practice only possible as one continually relies on the Holy Spirit) and active voice (conscious choice of one's will). James used agapao in James 1:12+ declaring a promise - "Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him." Hiebert in fact feels "the crown of life and the coming kingdom are practically synonymous expressions, both relating to the eschatological future."

MacArthur adds that agapao "expresses the purest, noblest form of love, which is volitionally driven, not motivated by superficial appearance, emotional attraction, or sentimental relationship." (1 & 2 Thessalonians. Moody Press)

Phillips writes that "It is the height of folly to despise poor people, especially in the church. We ought, rather, to sing with Hattie E. Buell the song of the Christian poor, "A Child of the King":

I once was an outcast stranger on earth,
A sinner by choice, and an alien by birth!
But I've been adopted, my name's written down,
An heir to a mansion, a robe and a crown.

Charles Swindoll observes that James gives 3 reasons to show that favoritism should not be practiced by believers -  "a theological reason, a logical reason, and a biblical reason. A Theological Reason (James 2:5). God shows no partiality, so neither should His children. The apostle Paul develops this theological principle in 1 Corinthians 1:26-29....A Logical Reason (James 2:6-7)...indiscriminately showing favoritism toward the rich and mistreating the poor made no sense at all!....A Biblical Reason (James 2:8-11). Finally, James points his readers to Scripture, which excludes all partiality." (Ibid)

F B Meyer -   Hath not God chosen the poor of this world?
There is nothing that men dread more than poverty. They will break every commandment in the Decalogue rather than be poor. But it is God’s chosen lot. He had one opportunity only of living our life, and He chose to be born of parents too poor to present more than two doves at his presentation in the temple. All his life was spent among the poor. His chosen apostles and friends were, with few exceptions, poor. He lived on charity, rode in triumph on a borrowed steed, ate his last meal in a borrowed room, and lay in a borrowed grave. “Hath not God chosen the poor of this world?” Why is poverty so dear to God?
It is in harmony with the spirit of the Gospel. — The world-spirit aggrandises itself with the abundance of its possessions. Its children vie with each other in luxury and display. The spirit of Christ, on the other hand, chooses obscurity, lowliness, humility; and with these poverty is close akin.
It compels to simpler faith in God. — The rich man may trust Him; but the poor man must. There is so much temptation to the well-to-do classes to interpose their wealth between themselves and the pressure of daily need; but the poor man has no fortress in which to hide, except the two strong arms of God. He waits on Him for his daily bread, and gathers the manna falling straight from the sky.
It gives more opportunities of service. — The rich are waited on, and pay for servants to wait on those they love. The poor, on the contrary, are called to minister to one another, at every meal, and in all the daily round of life. Herein they become like Him who was, and is, as one that serveth, and who became poor, that through his poverty we might be rich. 


Hath not God chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom?   James 2: 5

At prayer meeting last night during "testimony time," one of the ladies related an experience she had in a supermarket. She noticed that the woman at the cash register seemed excited and elated. When she arrived at her station, this clerk blurted out, "Wouldn't you like to touch me? I just shook hands with a movie star!" Mentioning his name she continued, "He passed through this very line a few minutes ago. Wouldn't you like to touch my hand?" "No, thank you," the other replied, "but wouldn't you like to touch me? I'm better than a movie star. I'm a child of the King!" She went on to explain that she was one of the "heirs of the kingdom of God" through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

The world doesn't pay much attention to Christians. In fact, those who really believe the Bible and talk about being "born-again" are often snubbed. Yet, our relationship with God through Christ sets us apart from all others. By faith in Him, we have been born into the family of God. We are "heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ" (Rom. 8:17). Heaven is our real home. We are just passing through this world while our mansions are being prepared for our eternal habitation. "The cattle upon a thousand hills" belong to our Father. United to Him, the Ruler of the universe, we become true royalty.

When things look dark and the world mistreats you, take heart, believer. The day is coming when your true identity will be revealed at the ". . . manifestation of the sons of God" (Rom. 8:19). We may not amount to much in the eyes of men, but God views us as His dear children and "heirs of the Kingdom"! (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. — Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)

    A tent or a cottage, why should I care?
They're building a palace for me over There;
    Though exiled from Home, yet still I may sing:
     All glory to God, I'm a child of the King.
—H. E. Buell

No man is poor who is heir to all the riches of God!

James 2:6  But you have dishonored the poor man. Is it not the rich who oppress you and personally drag you into court?

Amplified  But you [in contrast] have insulted (humiliated, dishonored, and shown your contempt for) the poor. Is it not the rich who domineer over you? Is it not they who drag you into the law courts? 

Phillips And if you behave as I have suggested, it is the poor man that you are insulting. Look around you. Isn't it the rich who are always trying to "boss" you, isn't it the rich who drag you into litigation?

Wuest  But as for you, you dishonored the poor man. Do not those who are wealthy exploit, oppress, and dominate you, and they themselves drag you into law-courts? 

NET  James 2:6 But you have dishonored the poor! Are not the rich oppressing you and dragging you into the courts?

GNT  James 2:6 ὑμεῖς δὲ ἠτιμάσατε τὸν πτωχόν. οὐχ οἱ πλούσιοι καταδυναστεύουσιν ὑμῶν καὶ αὐτοὶ ἕλκουσιν ὑμᾶς εἰς κριτήρια;

NLT  James 2:6 But you dishonor the poor! Isn't it the rich who oppress you and drag you into court?

KJV  James 2:6 But ye have despised the poor. Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats?

ESV  James 2:6 But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court?

ASV  James 2:6 But ye have dishonored the poor man. Do not the rich oppress you, and themselves drag you before the judgment-seats?

CSB  James 2:6 Yet you dishonored that poor man. Don't the rich oppress you and drag you into the courts?

NIV  James 2:6 But you have insulted the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court?

NKJ  James 2:6 But you have dishonored the poor man. Do not the rich oppress you and drag you into the courts?

NRS  James 2:6 But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who oppress you? Is it not they who drag you into court?

YLT  James 2:6 and ye did dishonour the poor one; do not the rich oppress you and themselves draw you to judgment-seats;

NAB  James 2:6 But you dishonored the poor person. Are not the rich oppressing you? And do they themselves not haul you off to court?

NJB  James 2:6 You, on the other hand, have dishonoured the poor. Is it not the rich who lord it over you?

GWN  James 2:6 Yet, you show no respect to poor people. Don't rich people oppress you and drag you into court?

BBE  James 2:6 But you have put the poor man to shame. Are not the men of wealth rulers over you? do they not take you by force before their judges?

  • But you have dishonored the poor man: Jas 2:3 Ps 14:6 Pr 14:31 17:5 Ec 9:15,16 Isa 53:3  Joh 8:49 1Co 11:22 
  • Is it not the rich who oppress you: Jas 5:4 Job 20:19 Ps 10:2,8,10,14 12:5 Pr 22:16 Ec 5:8 Isa 3:14,15 Am 2:6,7 4:1 5:11 8:4-6 Mic 6:11,12 Hab 3:14 Zec 7:10 
  • personally drag you into court: Jas 5:6 1Ki 21:11-13 Ac 4:1-3,26-28 5:17,18,26,27 13:50 16:19,20 Ac 17:6 18:12 
  • James 2 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries


But you - In contrast (term of contrast) to the way God treats the poor! You is emphatic which sharpens the contrast. So the contrast is God chose the poor BUT you dishonored the poor! The point is clear that when a believer dishonors the poor, he is treating them essentially exactly the opposite of the way God treats them! 

Have dishonored the poor man - But telling the poor man to stand out of the way or to sit on the floor, either of which would signify their degrading, contemptuous treatment of the poor man. In this section the fascinating irony which they should have grasped (if their spiritual eyes had been opened and they were not relying on their fleshly logic) is that the rich man was much less likely to become a believer in Jesus Christ than the poor man.

John Calvin - To dishonor the poor is to dishonor those whom God honors, and so to invert the order of God.

Dishonored(treat shamefully) (818)(atimazofrom a = without + time = honor) means to be treated with indignity, cause to be disgraced or degraded, to be treated shamefully, to suffer shame or to be dishonored (treated in a degrading manner). To dishonor is to bring reproach or shame on; to stain the character of; to lessen the reputation. To treat with disrespect. This is the very word that Peter and the other apostles used after being beaten by the Jewish council "So they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame (atimazo) for His name." (Acts 5:41+)

Poor ( (4434) see preceding note on ptochos


James now proceeds to evaluate the absurdity of their favoritism of the rich man by asking three questions, all of which expect an affirmative reply. 

Is it not the rich who oppress you? Answer? Yes! The NIV renders it "Is it not the rich who are exploiting you?" Amplified has "Is it not the rich who domineer over you?" Wuest has "Do not those who are wealthy exploit, oppress, and dominate you." Phillips has "Isn't it the rich who are always trying to "boss" you." Oppress is in the present tense picturing this as the continual practice of the rich to whom they are showing favoritism! The Greek word (katadunasteuo) gives us the picture of a potentate exercising his sovereign power over those under his control in a way that is hurtful, exploitative and oppressive! The only other use of this verb describes those "who were oppressed by the devil" (Acts 10:38+) giving us some idea of the nature of the oppression James attributes to the rich man!

Barton - The rich exploiting the poor was not a new development; there are references to this throughout the Old Testament (Jeremiah 7:6; 22:3; Ezekiel 18:7; Amos 4:1; 8:4; Malachi 3:5)...In first-century Palestine, landowners and merchants often accumulated wealth and power, forcing the poor people from the land and causing them to become even poorer.  (Ibid)

William Barclay - "in the society which James inhabited the rich oppressed the poor. They dragged them to the law courts. No doubt this was for debt. At the bottom end of the social scale men were so poor that they could hardly live, and moneylenders were plentiful and extortionate. In the ancient world there was a custom of summary arrest. If a creditor met a debtor on the street, he could seize him by the neck of his robe, nearly throttling him and literally drag him to the law courts. That is what the rich did to the poor! They had no sympathy; all they wanted was the uttermost farthing. It is not riches that James is condemning. It is the conduct of riches without sympathy."

And personally drag you into court? Answer? Yes! Here James speaks of the legal harassments of the believers by the rich who they favored! Of course, James is not indicting every rich person, but stating this as a general (and well known) rule. 

Rich(4145)see note above on plousios

Oppress (2616)(katadunasteuofrom katá = down, against + dunasteúo = to rule or dunastes = a ruler or potentate) means to exercise inordinate power or dominion over others, to tyrannize. In two NT uses (here and Acts 10:38+) it conveys the sense of tyrannize, oppress harshly. Hiebert adds that "The term, frequently used in the Septuagint (Lxx) of the exploitation of the poor and needy (Jer. 7:6; Ezek. 22:29; Amos 4:1; Zech. 7:10), does not denote religious persecution but social and economic exploitation by the unprincipled rich who were "lording it over" them...It is an inveterate social evil that has plagued human relations in all ages." 

Dragged(1670)(helko) means to drag or draw toward without necessarily the notion of force as in suro. In Acts 16:19+ and Acts 21:30+helko is used of physically dragging the victims, but here in James 2:6 it is used in a more figurative sense (although some writers see a physical component) in that the rich are forcing them to come into court. Drag here is in the present tense picturing this as the continual practice of the rich. 

MacArthur - Aren't the rich the ones who take advantage of you financially and drag you into civil court to sue you and take all you have? Aren't they the ones who belittle you and depreciate your human value? (Ibid)

As Constable says "How inconsistent it is to despise one's friends and honor one's foes!"

Hiebert - The rich were using the courts to exploit the poor, either through appeal to unjust legal enactments or by their power with the judges to deprive the poor of their just rights. (Ibid)

Craig Keener notes that "Roman courts always favored the rich, who could initiate lawsuits against social inferiors, although social inferiors could not initiate lawsuits against them. In theory, Jewish courts sought to avoid this discrimination, but as in most cultures people of means naturally had legal advantages: they were able to argue their cases more articulately or to hire others to do so for them." (Ibid)

Wiersbe: "The religious experts in Christ's day judged Him by their human standards, and they rejected Him. He came from the wrong city, Nazareth of Galilee. He was not a graduate of their accepted schools. He did not have the official approval of the people in power. He had no wealth. His followers were a nondescript mob and included publicans and sinners. Yet He was the very glory of God! No wonder Jesus warned the religious leaders, 'Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment' (John 7:24, NIV)."

James 2:7  Do they not blaspheme the fair name by which you have been called?

Amplified  Is it not they who slander and blaspheme that precious name by which you are distinguished and called [the name of Christ invoked in baptism]? 

Phillips  Isn't it usually the rich who blaspheme the glorious name by which you are known?

Wuest   Is it not they themselves who revile and defame the honorable name [Christian] which was given you?

NET  James 2:7 Do they not blaspheme the good name of the one you belong to?

GNT  James 2:7 οὐκ αὐτοὶ βλασφημοῦσιν τὸ καλὸν ὄνομα τὸ ἐπικληθὲν ἐφ᾽ ὑμᾶς;

NLT  James 2:7 Aren't they the ones who slander Jesus Christ, whose noble name you bear?

KJV  James 2:7 Do not they blaspheme that worthy name by the which ye are called?

ESV  James 2:7 Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called?

ASV  James 2:7 Do not they blaspheme the honorable name by which ye are called?

CSB  James 2:7 Don't they blaspheme the noble name that was pronounced over you at your baptism?

NIV  James 2:7 Are they not the ones who are slandering the noble name of him to whom you belong?

NKJ  James 2:7 Do they not blaspheme that noble name by which you are called?

NRS  James 2:7 Is it not they who blaspheme the excellent name that was invoked over you?

YLT  James 2:7 do they not themselves speak evil of the good name that was called upon you?

NAB  James 2:7 Is it not they who blaspheme the noble name that was invoked over you?

NJB  James 2:7 Are not they the ones who drag you into court, who insult the honourable name which has been pronounced over you?

GWN  James 2:7 Don't they curse the good name of Jesus, the name that was used to bless you?

BBE  James 2:7 Do they not say evil of the holy name which was given to you?

  • Do they not blaspheme: Ps 73:7-9 Mt 12:24 27:63 Lu 22:64,65 Ac 26:11 1Ti 1:13 Rev 13:5,6 
  • the fair name: Ps 111:9 Song 1:3 Isa 7:14 9:6,7 Jer 23:6 Mt 1:23 Ac 4:12 Php 2:9-11 Rev 19:13,16 
  • by which you have been called: Isa 65:15 Ac 11:26 Eph 3:15 
  • James 2 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries


Do they not blaspheme the fair Name by which you have been called? - Answer? Yes! The fair name would be Christ (or Jesus), for they are called Christians (Acts 11:26+). Literally it reads the Name "which has been called upon you" which would mark their personal relationship to the Name.

Hiebert explains that "The expression is a Hebraism (Name by which you have been called) denoting that they belong to the one whose name they wear (Deut. 28:10; 2 Chron. 7:14; Isa. 4:1; Jer. 14:9; Amos 9:12). So Christians belong to Christ. The New English Bible renders it "the honoured name by which God has claimed you....The expression is a gentle reminder that they belong to Christ Jesus and are not at liberty to practice partiality, for it dishonors that honorable name."

Hiebert on this question which is the third and final question says "This question concerning "the rich" establishes that they were not Christians. The passage best suits the view that they were wealthy Christ-rejecting Jews. Their blasphemous utterances against Jesus Christ may be viewed as expressed in the court in order to intensify the hostility of the judge toward the Christians, but it need not be confined to the courts. It may well be their reaction to the testimony of believers to Christ in daily life.

Blaspheme (987)(blasphemeo) means literally to speak to harm and therefore to bring into ill repute, to slander, to defame. "Blasphemy involves much more than taking God’s name in vain, though that is at the heart of it. A person blasphemes God when he takes His Word lightly and even jests about it or when he deliberately defies God to judge Him." (Wiersbe)

Fair (2570)(kalos) is good with emphasis on that which is beautiful, handsome, excellent, surpassing, precious, commendable, admirable. In classical Greek kalos was originally used to describe that which outwardly beautiful. Play this great old classic "Beautiful Isn't He."

NET Note on by which you were called - "that was invoked over you," referring to their baptism in which they confessed their faith in Christ and were pronounced to be his own. To have the Lord's name "named over them" is OT imagery for the Lord's ownership of his people (cf. 2 Chr 7:14; Amos 9:12; Isa 63:19; Jer 14:9; 15:16; Dan 9:19; Acts 15:17 ). 

Kistemaker - Christians revere the name of Jesus—a name that James describes as noble. They are the ones who have to listen to rich people blaspheme the name of Jesus. If they keep silent while the rich slander that noble name, they themselves sin against the command not to take the name of God in vain (Exod. 20:7; Deut. 5:11). By keeping silent these people who belong to Jesus give assent to slandering the name of Jesus. They have turned against him by showing deference to the rich. (Baker New Testament Commentary – Exposition of James, Epistles of John, Peter, and Jude)

James 2:8  If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law according to the Scripture, "YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF," you are doing well.

Amplified If indeed you [really] fulfill the royal Law in accordance with the Scripture, You shall love your neighbor as [you love] yourself, you do well. 

Phillips  If you obey the royal law, expressed by the scripture, 'You shall love your neighbour as yourself', all is well.

Wuest If indeed you fulfill the royal law of the scripture, namely, You shall love with a divine and self-sacrificial love your neighbor as you love yourself, you are doing splendidly.

NET  James 2:8 But if you fulfill the royal law as expressed in this scripture, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself," you are doing well.

GNT  James 2:8 εἰ μέντοι νόμον τελεῖτε βασιλικὸν κατὰ τὴν γραφήν, Ἀγαπήσεις τὸν πλησίον σου ὡς σεαυτόν, καλῶς ποιεῖτε·

NLT  James 2:8 Yes indeed, it is good when you obey the royal law as found in the Scriptures: "Love your neighbor as yourself."

KJV  James 2:8 If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well:

ESV  James 2:8 If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself," you are doing well.

ASV  James 2:8 Howbeit if ye fulfil the royal law, according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself, ye do well:

CSB  James 2:8 Indeed, if you keep the royal law prescribed in the Scripture, Love your neighbor as yourself, you are doing well.

NIV  James 2:8 If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, "Love your neighbor as yourself," you are doing right.

NKJ  James 2:8 If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself," you do well;

NRS  James 2:8 You do well if you really fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."

YLT  James 2:8 If, indeed, royal law ye complete, according to the Writing, 'Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself,' -- ye do well;

NAB  James 2:8 However, if you fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself," you are doing well.

NJB  James 2:8 Well, the right thing to do is to keep the supreme Law of scripture: you will love your neighbour as yourself;

GWN  James 2:8 You are doing right if you obey this law from the highest authority: "Love your neighbor as you love yourself."

BBE  James 2:8 But if you keep the greatest law of all, as it is given in the holy Writings, Have love for your neighbour as for yourself, you do well:

  • If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law according to the Scripture,: Jas 2:12 1:25 1Pe 2:9 
  • YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF,: Lev 19:18,34 Mt 22:39 Mk 12:31-33 Lu 10:27-37 Ro 13:8,9 Ga 5:14 Ga 6:2 1Th 4:9 
  • you are doing well.: Jas 2:19 1Ki 8:18 2Ki 7:9 Jon 4:4,9 Mt 25:21,23 Php 4:14 
  • James 2 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries


James quotes from Leviticus 19:18+ which says " ‘You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the LORD." This is the supreme or highest law governing all human relationships.

If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law according to the Scripture - The "IF" is a first class conditional statement assuming that it is true. The idea is "since" or "because" you are fulfilling the royal law. Notice the source of this Law is not from the machinations of fallen men, but from the Word of God, according to the Scripture, for Who else would decree such a high and holy law! The phrase according to the Scripture would also in effect serve to validate or authenticate that the book of Leviticus from which this quote came is Holy Scripture. And once again we see how tho Old is the New "concealed" (at least relatively speaking) and the New is the Old revealed. 

Hiebert on royal law - The expression "a royal law" occurs only here in the New Testament. Varied reasons for the designation have been suggested: "(a) as describing the law of love as sovereign over all others (cf. Mt. 22:36-40; Ro 13:8-9; Gal. 5:14); (b) as fitted for kings and not slaves (cf. vv 5, 12); (c) as given by the King." Huther dismissed the last suggestion as "far-fetched." The first is the most common suggestion. (Ibid)

MacArthur explains it this way - "The meaning therefore is: If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law according to the Scripture—and you are—then, as the law requires, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." Royal carries the ideas of supreme and sovereign, indicating the absolute and binding authority of the law. When a sovereign king gives an edict, it is incontestably binding on all his subjects. There is no court of appeal or arbitration. According to the Scripture indicates that God's sovereign, royal law and His biblical commands are synonymous. What James calls the royal law is, in essence, the sum and substance of the complete Word of God, summarized in Matthew 22:37-40 as perfectly loving God and loving one's neighbor. Paul says, "Love is the fulfillment of the law"(Rom. 13:10; cf. vv. 8-9). When one loves God with perfect devotion, he does not break any of His commands. When one loves his neighbor perfectly, he never violates another person. Thus perfect love keeps all the commands, thereby fulfilling the whole law. (Ibid)

Henry Morris on the royal law - This law was first set forth in Scripture in Lv 19:18. It was cited by Christ as a parallel law to that of loving God (Mt22:39 Mk12:31 Lu10:27). It is also quoted in Mt 5:43; 19:19 Ga5:14 (where Paul says it sums up the whole body of the Mosaic laws as they deal with human behavior and relationships). Thus, the Bible cites it specifically eight times. No wonder it is called the royal law.

Are fulfilling (carrying out, accomplishing) (5055)(teleo) is an interesting verb to use here because it means to complete something, not merely to end it, but to bring it to perfection or its destined goal. The present tense would picture this as a process, because we will never carry it out perfectly in this short life. It is no accident that this same verb is used of the perfect fulfillment of God's love for sinful men because teleo was one of the last words uttered by Jesus on the Cross when He declared "Tetelestai" which is the perfect tense (speaks of its lasting effect!) of teleo and means "It is Finished!" And all God's people shout "Thank You God. Thank You Jesus. Hallelujah! Amen!"

J Vernon McGee writes that "If you want to please God, to obey Him, and to discharge your responsibility, James makes it very clear what you are to do: "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." That is the summation of the whole manward aspect of the Mosaic Law." (Thru The Bible)

Wiersbe asks Why is "love thy neighbor" called "the royal law"?

(1) For one thing, it was given by the King. God the Father gave it in the Law, and God the Son reaffirmed it to His disciples (John 13:34). God the Spirit fills our hearts with God's love and expects us to share it with others (Ro 5:5). True believers are "taught of God to love one another" (1 Th 4:9).

(2) But "love thy neighbor" is the royal law for a second reason: it rules all the other laws. "Love is the fulfilling of the Law" (Ro 13:10). There would be no need for the thousands of complex laws if each citizen truly loved his neighbors.

(3) But the main reason why this is the royal law is that obeying it makes you a king. Hatred makes a person a slave, but love sets us free from selfishness and enables us to reign like kings. Love enables us to obey the Word of God and treat people as God commands us to do. We obey His Law, not out of fear, but out of love. (BEC)

Royal (937)(basilikos from basileus = king) means royal, kingly, of a king. Zodhiates - belonging to a king (Acts 12:20, a territory; Jn 4:46, 49, a nobleman, a person attached to a court; Sept.: Nu 20:17; 21:22; 2 Sa 14:26; Esther 8:15). Befitting a king, of kingly dignity (Acts 12:21, a robe; James 2:8, noble, excellent, preeminent, referring to law)." (Ibid)

Basilikos - 5x -  king's (1), royal (2), royal official (2)

Jn 4:46; Jn 4:49; Acts 12:20; Acts 12:21; Jas 2:8

Basilikos in  the Septuagint (Lxx) - 

Nu 20:17; Nu 21:22; 2 Sa 14:26; Est. 1:19; Est. 2:9; Est. 2:23; Est. 8:12; Est. 8:15; Est. 9:3; Job 18:14; Da 1:3; Da 1:5; Da 1:13; Da 1:15; Da 2:5; Da 2:49; Da 6:7; Da 8:27

YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF - Note that this commandment is to love your neighbor is the antithesis of our fallen natural tendency to show partiality or prejudice (the root of prejudice means "pre-judge!). Of course the only way to keep this (second) great commandment is by being continually filled with and controlled by the Spirit Who Alone can bring forth this quality of selfless, supernatural love from a human heart (Gal 5:22, Ro 5:5). Note what this verse clearly teaches -- men do NOT need to learn to love themselves. It is a basic trait of every human to love themselves for as Paul clearly states "no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it." (Eph 5:29+). So what this OT quote teaches us is that we know how to love ourselves and are to show that same quality of love to others. When we do that, we are in effect fulfilling the royal law and clearly will have no problem with the sin of favoritism or impartiality! Paul gives a similar teaching in Philippians 

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests (WHICH COMES NATURALLY TO ALL MEN), but also for the interests of others. (Php 2:3-4+)

Neighbor is anyone whose need you can meet. So this command for love includes Christians and non-Christians. Compare Paul's exhortation in Galatians 6:10+ "So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people (INCLUDING NON-CHRISTIANS), and especially to those who are of the household of the faith (CHRISTIANS)."

Hiebert adds that "In the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37+), Jesus revealed that the term is not to be limited by considerations of race but incorporates every human being, including foreigners (Luke 10:25-37+) and enemies (Matt. 5:44+), whom our circumstances enable us to benefit." (Ibid)

Neighbor(Near) (4139)(plesion from pélas = near, near to or from plesios = close by) literally means near (literal use only in Jn 4:5), quite near, nearby = position quite close to another position. Figuratively, plesion means to be near someone and thus be a neighbor. Generally, plesion refers to a fellow man, any other member of the human family. TDNT explains that "Ho plesion" is the "neighbor," the person next to one" then more generally the “fellow human being.”

NET Note on "You Shall Love..." -  A quotation from Lev 19:18 (also quoted in Matt 19:19; Mt 22:39; Mark 12:31; Luke 10:27; Rom 13:9; Gal 5:14). 

Love(25) see note above on agapao. The verb is singular which indicates this is the duty of each individual Christian. No love by proxy, so to speak. Compare this love to Christ's instructions in John 13:34-35.

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35“By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” 

Comment - "Consistent obedience to this precept throughout the church," Johnstone observes, "would be of itself an evangelistic power immeasurably surpassing anything else she could bring into action." Christianity's adoption of, and demand for, such a love has transformed social and domestic relations wherever it has been carried into practice. (Hiebert)

Wiersbe on you shall love your neighbor - Christian love does not mean that I must like a person and agree with him on everything. I may not like his vocabulary or his habits, and I may not want him for an intimate friend. Christian love means treating others the way God has treated me. It is an act of the will, not an emotion that I try to manufacture. The motive is to glorify God. The means is the power of the Spirit within ("for the fruit of the Spirit is love"). As I act in love toward another, I may find myself drawn more and more to him, and I may see in him (through Christ) qualities that before were hidden to me. Also, Christian love does not leave the person where it finds him. Love should help the poor man do better; love should help the rich man make better use of his God-given resources. Love always builds up (1 Cor. 8:1); hatred always tears down. We only believe as much of the Bible as we practice. If we fail to obey the most important word—"love thy neighbor as thyself"—then we will not do any good with the lesser matters of the Word. (BEC)

Grant Osborne on the phrase as yourself - They must be loved as yourself, meaning that you must have as deep and sacrificial a love for others as you have for yourself. However, this does not mean a "self-disregard" that involves denial of self, nor does "as yourself" reflect a narcissistic centering on self. Rather, it concerns a consideration and care for others as being part of yourself. (Cornerstone Biblical Commentary – James)

You are doing well - "You are doing excellently." Why excellent? For this is loving others like God loves them! It is being an imitator of God and of Jesus as Paul commands in Eph 5:1-2+ = "Therefore be imitators (present imperative = as your habitual practice only possible as we continually rely on the Holy Spirit to obey this command) of God, as beloved children; and walk (present imperative = habitual practice in reliance on the Holy Spirit to obey this command) in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma. "

Such a life can surely expect to hear Jesus declare...

“His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’  (Mt 25:21, cf Lk 19:17+)

Doing well is the conclusion of the conditional statement beginning with "IF." James' point is that believers are doing well when they "Love your neighbor as yourself." It would be implicit if they are keeping this second great commandment, they by default would be keeping the first great commandment - "And He said to him, " 'YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.' This is the great and foremost commandment." (Mt 22:37-38). How can one love his neighbor if he does not first love God Who created his neighbor? 

John Phillips gives a hypothetical illustration of keeping the royal law - The spirit of this "royal law" runs very deep. Here you are, coming home from work one day when, on alighting from the bus, you notice that the sky ahead is black with smoke. "Hello!" you say. "It looks as though there is a house on fire." Just then, with sirens blaring, the fire truck roars by. You hurry your steps and turn a corner. Now you can see a crowd of people up ahead, and the fire truck is unloading its men and equipment. "It's on my block!" you say, as you break into a run. Then you notice that it is your house that's on fire. "Praise the Lord!" you exclaim. "I'm so glad it's not my neighbor's house." So a person would react if he were motivated by the royal law. That is a rare person indeed. (Exploring the Epistle of James: An Expository Commentary)

Two apples up in a tree were looking down on the world. The first apple said, “Look at all those people fighting, robbing, rioting - no one seems willing to get along with his fellow man. Someday we apples will be the only ones left. Then we’ll rule the world.” Replied the second apple, “Which of us - the reds or the greens?”

Doing Well

If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you do well. —James 2:8

Today's Scripture:James 1:1-13

In the book Flags of Our Fathers, James Bradley recounts the World War II battle of Iwo Jima and its famous flag-raising on Mount Suribachi. Bradley’s father, John, was one of the flag-raisers. But more important, he was a Navy corpsman—a medic.

In the heat of battle, facing a barrage of bullets from both sides, Bradley exposed himself to danger so he could care for the wounded and dying. This self-sacrifice showed his willingness and determination to care for others, even though it meant placing himself at great personal risk.

Doc Bradley won the Navy Cross for his heroism and valor, but he never spoke of it to his family. In fact, it was only after his death that they learned of his military decorations. To Doc, it wasn’t about winning medals; it was about caring for his buddies.

In James 2:8 we read: “If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ you do well.” By intentionally seeking to care for others in the way that we would hope to be treated, James says we “do well.” The word well means “rightly, nobly, so there is no room for blame.”

Selflessly “doing well” expresses the heart of God, and fulfills His law of love. By:  Bill Crowder (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. — Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)

Let the road be rough and dreary,
And its end far out of sight;
Foot it bravely, strong or weary;
Trust in God and do the right.  —Macleod

Love is at the heart of obedience.

James 2:9  But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.

Amplified  But if you show servile regard (prejudice, favoritism) for people, you commit sin and are rebuked and convicted by the Law as violators and offenders. 

Phillips   But once you allow any invidious distinctions to creep in, you are sinning, you have broken God's Law. 

Wuest But if, as is the case, you are showing partiality [to certain individuals], you are committing a sin, being effectually convicted by the law as transgressors

NET  James 2:9 But if you show prejudice, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as violators.

GNT  James 2:9 εἰ δὲ προσωπολημπτεῖτε, ἁμαρτίαν ἐργάζεσθε ἐλεγχόμενοι ὑπὸ τοῦ νόμου ὡς παραβάται.

NLT  James 2:9 But if you favor some people over others, you are committing a sin. You are guilty of breaking the law.

KJV  James 2:9 But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors.

ESV  James 2:9 But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.

ASV  James 2:9 but if ye have respect of persons, ye commit sin, being convicted by the law as transgressors.

CSB  James 2:9 But if you show favoritism, you commit sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.

NIV  James 2:9 But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers.

NKJ  James 2:9 but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors.

NRS  James 2:9 But if you show partiality, you commit sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.

YLT  James 2:9 and if ye accept persons, sin ye do work, being convicted by the law as transgressors;

NAB  James 2:9 But if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors.

NJB  James 2:9 but as soon as you make class distinctions, you are committing sin and under condemnation for breaking the Law.

GWN  James 2:9 If you favor one person over another, you're sinning, and this law convicts you of being disobedient.

BBE  James 2:9 But if you take a man's position into account, you do evil, and are judged as evil-doers by the law.

  • But if you show partiality: Jas 2:1-4 Lev 19:15 
  • you are committing sin: Joh 8:9,46 16:8 1Co 14:24 Jude 1:15 
  • are convicted by the law as transgressors Ro 3:20 7:7-13 Ga 2:19 1Jn 3:4 
  • James 2 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries


Some of the readers might have thought showing favoritism was not that big of a deal and at best was only a minor transgression. James refutes the soft-peddling of the showing of favoritism and brings it out into the light of God's holy word -- to discriminate against anyone is sin! 

Barton writes "The believers had not made the connection between God's command to love their neighbor (ED: "THE ROYAL LAW") and their discrimination against the poor." (Ibid)

Constable writes that "The type of preferential treatment James dealt with in this pericope (James 2:1-13) violates the royal law because it treats some as inferior and others as sources of special favor (cf. Acts 10:34+). It also violates specific commands found in God's Word that reveal God's will in interpersonal dealings (Matt. 7:12+; cf. Lev. 19:15+). (Ibid)

But (term of contrast) if you show partiality - Just as the "IF" in James 2:8 is a first class conditional, so too is this "IF" which assumes the follow as a true statement. That is, you are showing favoritism (present tense). It would seem that James gives the readers the two extremes - obeying or disobeying the royal law, and respectively, doing well or committing sin. The choice is theirs!

But habitual, blatant partiality (present tense) is a serious sin. MacArthur comments that "just as loving one's neighbor as one's self fulfills God's "royal law according to Scripture" and gives sure evidence of being God's child, so does habitual (present tense) partiality transgress that divinely revealed law and give sure evidence to the contrary." (See related comment below)

Showing partially is in the active voice indicating conscious, volitional choice. Similarly committing ("committing sin") is in the reflexive middle voice indicating even more the personal involvement in committing the sin - the idea is "you yourself are committing" and committing is also in the present tense.

Hiebert adds that "The evil (SHOWING PARTIALITY) was not some unfortunate action into which they had accidentally fallen but was a deliberate practice (SEE NOTE ABOVE ON VOICE OF THE VERBS SHOWING PARTIALITY AND COMMITTING SIN). As Roberts pungently remarks, "Partiality is not a trifling fault, it is a foul travesty of the law of God fully exposed in the Scriptures!" (Ibid)

Show partiality(only here in Bible)(4380)(prosopolempteo from prosopon = face + lambano = receive) means to accept or respect persons and in this context means to show partiality or favoritism by treating one person better than another. Zodhiates adds that it is "Equivalent to the Hebraism prósōpon lambánō (prosopon = face, presence, person; lambano = to receive, take into account), to show favor or partiality (Lk 20:21+ "You [JESUS] are not partial" ~ "You do not receive face"). See Septuagint (Lxx): Lev. 19:15+ = "you shall not be partial to the poor"; Mal. 2:9+ = "you are not keeping My ways but are showing partiality in the instruction." (Complete Word Study Dictionary)

James now presents two conclusions of showing partiality - (1) you are committing a sin and (2) you are guilty of breaking the law. 

You are committing sin - NET has "if you show prejudice, you are committing sin." So showing partiality, favoritism or prejudice(Ouch! You've never been guilty of this have you?) is a sin! The verb for commiting is ergazomai which is picturesque for it means to engage in an activity involving considerable expenditure of effort, as when one toils energetically and diligently in a field! (Mt 21:28). It is as if one is working hard to show partiality and as noted above doing so continually (present tense)! Did you ever consider that committing sin is hard work? Interesting thought. It is so much easier to rest in God's commandments which brings peaceful fruit of righteousness (Heb 12:11+) instead of guilt and angst! 

Sin(266)(hamartia) literally conveys the idea of missing the mark as when hunting with a bow and arrow (in Homer some hundred times of a warrior hurling his spear but missing his foe). Later hamartia came to mean missing or falling short of any goal, standard, or purpose. Hamartia in the Bible signifies a departure from God's holy, perfect standard of what is right in word or deed (righteous). It pictures the idea of missing His appointed goal (His good and acceptable and perfect will - Ro 12:2+) which results in a deviation from what is pleasing to Him. In short, sin is conceived as a missing the true end and scope of our lives, which is the Triune God Himself. As Martin Luther put it "Sin is essentially a departure from God."

John would add that those showing partiality are lawbreakers -  

Everyone who practices (recall showing favoritism was present tense = habitual practice) sin also practices (present tense) lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness. (1 Jn 3:4+).

ESV Study note adds that "Favoritism toward the rich breaks the OT commands to treat the poor equitably (Lev. 19:15; Deut. 16:19; Job 34:19) and is a serious transgression of God’s law."

And are convicted by the law as transgressors (lawbreakers) - James says the law convicts and so personifies the law. In this case the phrase the law looks back to the royal law in James 2:8. But the law is impersonal and it is actually the Holy Spirit Who uses the transgressed law to convict (cf Jn 16:8). The Spirit like a prosecuting attorney finds those showing favoritism as guilty of deliberately breaking the the royal law. 

Grant Osborne observes that James' "point is that any act of bias whatsoever—whether on the basis of race, gender, looks, social status, or economics—breaks the laws of God and is a sin. Before God all people stand equally as his creation. As Paul says, "For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus...There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus." (Gal 3:26, 28+)." (Cornerstone Biblical Commentary –  James)

Convicted(exposed)(present tense) (1651)(elegcho a primary verb but related to elegchos = bringing to light) means to bring to the light (to reveal hidden things) with the implication that there is adequate proof of wrongdoing. To expose, to reprove, to shame or disgrace and thus to rebuke in such a way that one is compelled to see and to admit the error of their ways, in this case that they are demonstrating favoritism. The idea also has implicit the summons to the transgressor to repent. This verb is preeminently used of the Holy Spirit producing conviction in the heart, that inner conviction which convinces us that we have missed God's mark and have missed His approval. We constantly need the Holy Spirit to convict us about what is right as well as what is wrong so we don't hate what is wrong more than love what is right!

This same verb elegcho is used in Hebrews 12 to describe the chastening or discipline of sons and daughters by our Father, the writer of Hebrews declaring that "you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons, “MY SON, DO NOT REGARD LIGHTLY THE DISCIPLINE OF THE LORD, NOR FAINT WHEN YOU ARE REPROVED BY HIM." (Heb 12:5+)

Elegcho is used in John 3 which helps illustrate the meaning of this verb. Jesus explains that "everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will beexposed (elegcho)." (John 3:20)

Kent Hughes comments that "James views such an action (SHOWING FAVORITISM) as deliberate and ugly. It is not merely an excusable lack of courtesy, but a scandalous breach of God's love." (Ibid)

John Phillips on transgressors - The word here for "transgressors" means literally "one who oversteps." A transgressor breaks through a boundary. He goes too far. He breaks God's law. God does not want cliques in His church. Those who belong to cliques go too far. (Ibid)

Transgressors(3848)(parabates from pará = beyond or contrary to + baíno = to go; cf parabasis) describes one who steps on one side and thus goes beyond or steps across a line. A transgressor is a violator of the God's law, one who goes beyond the law. It refers to the the person who steps beyond a fixed limit into forbidden territory. The point is that the royal law draws the line that should not be crossed or "stepped over" and discrimination against anyone, whether on the basis of dress, race, social class, wealth, sex, etc., is a clear violation of the royal law

MacArthur comments on the difference between sin and transgressors Hamartia, translated simply sin, pertains to missing the mark of God's standard of righteousness, whereas parabates(transgressors) refers to someone who willfully goes beyond God's prescribed limits. In the one case, a person comes short; in the other, he goes too far. Both are sinful, just as adding to or subtracting from God's revealed Word are both sinful (Rev. 22:19+). (Ibid)

Hiebert has a interesting if somewhat technical note on law and transgressors - Since the Mosaic law prohibits partiality (Lev 19:15; Deut. 1:17; 16:19), and the law of love is violated when anyone is treated with discourtesy and snobbery, they cannot escape the verdict that they are "lawbreakers" (parabatai), people who are guilty of having passed over a forbidden boundary. Their partiality is not a trivial fault to be dismissed lightly as of no consequence, but a clear case of disobedience to a known demand of the Law. Adamson notes that "to the rabbis such transgression was 'rebellion,' and broke 'the fence of the Torah.'" Behind the noun "lawbreakers" lies the picture of the law laying out the way of righteousness in which a man should walk. But they have not stayed on the marked road; they have stepped defiantly over the boundary to engage in a forbidden practice. If the word "sin" conveys the negative truth that they have not measured up to the requirements of the Law but have fallen short, "lawbreakers" (AS RENDERED IN THE NIV = James 2:9NIV) marks the "positive side" (ED: MAYBE BETTER PHRASED THE "ANTITHETICAL" SIDE) of sin in that they have deliberately violated the restrictions of the law. (Ibid)

Phillips gives an illustration - In his book The Source, James Michener tells of a Jewish boy who grew up ostracized by society because he was an illegitimate child. The Law of Moses was explicit: "A bastard shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord; even to his tenth generation shall he not enter into the congregation of the Lord" (Deut. 23:2). It was a law that was intended to secure the sanctity of sex and the strength of family life. The rabbis went to work on this prohibition, expounded it, amplified it, and probed all of its nuances and ramifications. They came up with a thousand ways to make life intolerable for the victim and invented extraordinary measures for getting around them. As long as the young man in Michener's story was small, it was not so bad, although the stigma of his birth clung to him. But as he grew older, he was forced to shoulder an increasingly intolerable burden. The full horror of his situation dawned upon him when he faced the fact that, as a bastard and a social outlaw, he could not marry a respectable Jewish girl. The parents of the girl, the rabbis, and the community as a whole militated against any such unthinkable arrangement. Then, in the midst of his grief and bitterness, he found the church! Here was a group of people, emancipated from the law, both able and willing to receive even a person such as him heartily and without reservation into its fellowship. It opened up a new life. James is at pains, through thirteen verses of his epistle, to see that the church remained that way—free from prejudice, discrimination, and partiality. Such attitudes are sinful in the sight of God. (Exploring the Epistle of James: An Expository Commentary)

James 2:9  If you show partiality, you commit sin. 

Clothing companies try to offer garments that match the public's perception of what a successful person wears. To determine this, a clothing analyst performed an experiment with raincoats. An actor wearing a tan raincoat approached people at a subway station. He explained that he had left his wallet home and asked to borrow train fare. People were surprisingly generous with this supposedly unfortunate executive. Then the actor wore a dark raincoat and approached people in the same way with the same story. This time he was treated differently Not only would no one give him money, but he was physically threatened. The opposite reaction was linked to the color of the coat. People saw the dark garment as threatening and judged the man with suspicion.

Aren't we also guilty of judging by appearances? Don't we let externals determine how we respond to people? Whenever we discriminate according to race, age, gender, or income level, we are sinning (James 2:9). God is impartial, and when we accept all people equally we are reflecting His character.—D. C. Egner (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. — Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)


Garlic And Sapphires

If you show partiality, you commit sin. —James 2:9

Today's Scripture: James 2:1-9

In her fascinating book Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise, Ruth Reichl reflects on her 6 years as a New York Times restaurant critic. Because she was the most influential critic in the country, top restaurants posted her photograph so their employees could recognize her. Hoping to earn a high rating in the New York Times, the staff intended to provide her with their top service and best cuisine.

In response, Reichl developed a clever strategy. Hoping to be treated as a regular patron, she disguised herself. On one occasion, she dressed up as an old woman. The restaurant made her wait a long time to be seated and then was unresponsive to her requests.

AUSTIN JAMES - Backseat XE3 (Kendrick Lamar X Whethan)

James Commentaries & Sermons

Click chart to enlarge
Chart from recommended resource Jensen's Survey of the NT - used by permission
See also Overview Chart by Charles Swindoll

Faith for Living

The Place of Works:
Outward Demonstration of Inner Faith
Jas 1:1-18Jas 1:19-2:13Jas 2:14-25Jas 3:1-12Jas 3:13-4:12Jas 4:13-5:12Jas 5:13-19
Trials &
Word &
Faith &







and the

and our


Key Words -- See importance of key words - learn how to mark key words and the associated discipline of how to interrogate them with 5W/H questions.Practice "interrogating" key words as well as term of conclusion (therefore), term of explanation (for), terms of purpose or result (so that, in order that, that, as a result), terms of contrast (but, yet), expressions of time (including then; until, after) and terms of comparison (like, as). You will be amazed at how your Teacher, the Holy Spirit, will illuminate your understanding, a spiritual blessing that will grow the more you practice! Be diligent! Consider the "5P's" - Pause to Ponder the Passage then Practice it in the Power of the Spirit. See also inductive Bible study  - observation (Observe With a Purpose), Interpretation (Keep Context King, Read Literally, Compare Scripture with Scripture, Consult Conservative Commentaries), and then be a doer of the Word with Application. Do not overlook "doing the word" for if you do you are deluding yourself, and are just a "smarter sinner," but not more like the Savior! As Jesus said "blessed are those who hear the word of God, and observe it." (Lk 11:28+, cf James 1:22+), 

See discussion ofmarking key wordsObservation Worksheet on James with double spaced text for marking Key Words, Making lists, taking notes that you can later transfer to your Bible

  • Perfect - James 1:4 James 1:17 James 1:25 James 3:2
  • Sin - James 1:15 James 2:9 James 4:8 James 4:17 James 5:13 James 5:15 James 5:16 James 5:20
  • Riches - James 1:10 James 1:11 James 2:5 James 2:6 James 5:1 James 5:2
  • Faith (faith 16x/12v) - James 1:3 James 1:6 James 2:1 James 2:5 James 2:14 James 2:17 James 2:18 James 2:19 James 2:20 James 2:22 James 2:23 James 2:24 James 2:26 James 5:15
  • Believe - James 2:19, James 2:23
  • Works - James 2:14 James 2:17 James 2:18 James 2:20 James 2:21 James 2:22 James 2:24 James 2:25 James 2:26
  • Do -  James 1:16; James 2:1; James 2:7; James 2:11; James 2:16; James 2:19; James 3:14; James 4:2; James 4:3; James 4:4; James 4:5; James 4:11; James 4:14; James 4:15; James 4:17; James 5:9; James 5:12
  • Judge - James 2:4 James 2:12 James 2:13 James 3:1 James 4:11 James 4:12 James 5:9 James 5:12
  • Law (12x/8v) - James 1:25 James 2:8 James 2:9 James 2:10 James 2:11 James 2:12 James 4:11 James 4:12
  • Say - James 1:13 James 2:3 James 2:14 James 2:16 James 2:18 James 2:23 James 3:2 James 4:6 James 4:13 James 4:15
  • Bless/Blessed/Blessing - James 1:12 James 1:25 James 3:9 James 3:10 James 5:11
  • Fruit - James 1:18 James 3:17 James 3:18 James 5:18

Introduction to James by Dr John MacArthur: Title, Author, Date, Background, Setting, Historical, Theological Themes, Interpretive Challenges, Outline by Chapter/Verse. Excellent overview.

James, with its devotion to direct, pungent statements on wise living, is reminiscent of the book of Proverbs. It has a practical emphasis, stressing not theoretical knowledge, but godly behavior. James wrote with a passionate desire for his readers to be uncompromisingly obedient to the Word of God. He used at least 30 references to nature (e.g., “wave of the sea” [1:6]; “reptile” [3:7]; and “heaven gave rain” [5:18]), as befits one who spent a great deal of time outdoors. He complements Paul’s emphasis on justification by faith with his own emphasis on spiritual fruitfulness demonstrating true faith.

There are a number of ways to outline the book to grasp the arrangement of its content. One way is to arrange it around a series of tests by which the genuineness of a person’s faith may be measured.

  • Introduction (James 1:1)
  • I. The Test of Perseverance in Suffering (James 1:2–12)
  • II. The Test of Blame in Temptation (James 1:13–18)
  • III. The Test of Response to the Word (James 1:19–27)
  • IV. The Test of Impartial Love (James 2:1–13)
  • V. The Test of Righteous Works (James 2:14–26)
  • VI. The Test of the Tongue (James 3:1–12)
  • VII. The Test of Humble Wisdom (James 3:13–18)
  • VIII. The Test of Worldly Indulgence (James 4:1–12)
  • IX. The Test of Dependence (James 4:13–17)
  • X. The Test of Patient Endurance (James 5:1–11)
  • XI. The Test of Truthfulness (James 5:12)
  • XII. The Test of Prayerfulness (James 5:13–18)
  • XIII. The Test of True Faith (James 5:19, 20)

The International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia states: “The Epistle of James is the most Jewish writing in the New Testament. The Gospel according to Matthew was written for the Jews. The Epistle to the Hebrews is addressed explicitly to them. The Apocalypse is full of the spirit of the Old Testament. The Epistle of Jude is Jewish too. Yet all of these books have more of the distinctively Christian element in them than we can find in the Epistle of James. If we eliminate two or three passages containing references to Christ, the whole epistle might find its place just as properly in the Canon of the Old Testament as in that of the New Testament, as far as its substance of doctrine and contents is concerned. That could not be said of any other book in the New Testament. There is no mention of the incarnation or of the resurrection, the two fundamental facts of the Christian faith. The word ‘gospel’ does not occur in the epistle. There is no suggestion that the Messiah has appeared and no presentation of the possibility of redemption through Him.”

Douglas J. Moo, in his commentary on James, writes about the background of the epistle: “The epistle of James has had a controversial history. Along with 1 and 2 Peter, 1, 2 and 3 John, and Jude, it belongs to that category of New Testament epistles called ‘general’ or ‘catholic’ (in the sense of ‘universal’) (See catholic epistles). This designation was given to these seven letters early in the history of the church because each appears to be addressed to the church at large rather than to a single congregation. These letters also shared an uncertain status in many areas of the early church. Along with Hebrew and Revelation, several of them were the last to achieve generally recognized canonical status. In the case of James, it was not until the end of the fourth century that both eastern and western Christendom acknowledged it as Scripture...James, said Luther, ‘mangles the Scriptures and thereby opposes Paul and all Scripture’ … and he characterized the letter as ‘an epistle of straw.’ Along with Jude, Hebrews and Revelation, therefore, Luther consigned James to the end of his German translation of the New Testament. But, while Luther obviously had difficulties with James and came close to giving the letter a secondary status, his criticism should not be overdrawn. He did not exclude James from the canon and, it has been estimated, cites of half the verses of James as authoritative in his writings. Even ‘the epistle of straw’ reference must be understood in its context: Luther is not dismissing James as worthless, but contrasting it unfavorably with the ‘chief books’ (John’s Gospel, 1 John, Paul’s epistles [especially Romans, Galatians and Ephesians] and 1 Peter), which show you Christ and teach you all that is necessary and salutary for you to know, even if you were never to see or hear any other book or doctrine.’ Therefore, Luther says of James elsewhere, ‘I cannot include him among the chief books, though I would not prevent anyone from including or extolling him as he pleases, for there are otherwise many good sayings in him.’ Few of the other reformers followed Luther in his criticism of James. Calvin, for instance, while admitting that James ‘seems more sparing in proclaiming the grace of Christ than it behooved an apostle to be,’ notes that ‘it is not surely required of all to handle the same arguments.’ He accepted the apostolic authority of James and Paul on the issue of justification. Calvin’s approach is surely the correct one. In hindsight, we can see that Luther’s excitement over his ‘discovery’ of the doctrine of justification by faith and is polemical context prevented him from taking a balanced approach to James and some other New Testament books. With greater knowledge of the Jewish background of James, and at a distance of several centuries from the battles Luther was fighting, we can appreciate the way James and Paul complement one another. Their opponents are different, and their arguments accordingly different, but each makes an important contribution to our understanding of faith.”

J Sidlow Baxter - We can scarcely agree with those who say that the epistle is "almost impossible to analyze." It is not simply a chain of one-after-another thoughts; there are easily distinguishable areas.

  • Chapter 1 is decidedly about temptation and considerations associated with it (see James 1:2,12,13,14; then James 1:17, which assures us that, other than temptation, only good comes from above). The first proof of true faith, says James, is endurance of temptation.
  • Chapter 2 is equally clearly devoted to impartial benevolence, as a further proof of true faith (see specially verses 1-4,14-18)
  • Chapter 3 follows with its unsparing, graphic deliverance on control of the tongue, as another proof of true Christian faith. It has been truly said that there is scarcely a more "burning and scorching" paragraph in the New Testament.
  • The remainder of the letter (James 4:1-5:6) exhorts us to godliness in all things-in a series of flashlights on successive aspects.

There is no need here for a closer analysis. Let us clearly see the central stem and its main outreachings:

THE EPISTLE OF JAMES  Theme: The Proofs of Faith 

  • Proof 1 - ENDURANCE OF TEMPTATION (James 1).
  • Proof 2 - IMPARTIAL BENEVOLENCE (James 2).
  • Proof 3 - CONTROL OF THE TONGUE (James 3).
  • Proof 4 - GODLINESS IN ALL THINGS (James 4:1-5:6).
  • Final encouragements,James 5:7-20. (Explore the Book-J. Sidlow Baxter-recommended)

Henrietta Mears- The book of James is the most practical of all the Epistles, and has been called “A Practical Guide to Christian Life and Conduct.” This book is the Proverbs of the New Testament. It is filled with moral precepts. It states the ethics of Christian faith. It is full of figures and metaphors. It is often quite dramatic in style. It compels the reader to think. Hebrews presents doctrine; James presents deeds. They go together in vital Christian faith.  Some people have suggested that there is a conflict between what Paul and James have to say, but only superficial reading of both would warrant that accusation. Paul says, “Take the gospel in.” James says, “Take it out.” Paul saw Christ in the heavens, establishing our righteousness. James saw Him on the earth, telling us to be as perfect as His Father in heaven is perfect. Paul dwells on the source of our faith. James tells about the fruit of our faith. One lays the foundations in Christ; the other builds the superstructure. Christ is both “the author and finisher” (Hebrews 12:2) of our faith. Not only believe that fact, but live it! Although Paul lays great stress upon justification by faith, we have noticed in his epistles, especially in Titus, that he emphasizes good works. It is an astounding fact that while Paul uses the expression “rich in good works” (1 Timothy 6:18), James uses “rich in faith” (James 2:5). It is good to notice, too, that when James seems to speak in a slighting way of faith, he means a faith that is mere intellectual belief that does not produce works, not a “saving faith” that is so essential. James exalts faith. He says that its trials produce patience in a person. James begins and ends with a strong encouragement to pray (see James 1:5–8; 5:13–18). Prayer is one of the easiest subjects to talk about but one of the hardest things to practice....

Spiritual arithmetic is of value, and the arithmetic of the Bible is important enough that none of us can afford to ignore it. James invites Christians to count: “Count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations” (James 1:2). We usually count it joy when we escape temptation and sorrow. In addition, we should count testing as a glorious opportunity to prove our faith, just as the car manufacturer knows that the best proof of the car’s worth is the road test. Why we must “count it all joy” is not because of the trial itself but because of what it will work out. In other words, use your trials. What is the purpose of testing? God uses our trials to give us blessings (see James 1:3). Too often our trials result in our impatience, but God will give us grace so that His real purpose will be accomplished. Patience is necessary more than anything else in our faith life. We forget that time is nothing to God, for with Him a thousand years is as one day; and one day, as a thousand years (see 1 Peter 3:8). Christ’s purpose for our lives is that we will be perfect and complete, wanting nothing....

JAMES 1:22–2: OUR ACTIONS REFLECT OUR FAITH - Don’t be merely listeners to God’s Word, but put the gospel into practice. What is the good of people saying they have faith if they do not prove it by their actions? We must not be satisfied with only listening. We must be doing (see James 1:22). People who are listeners and not doers are like those who look at themselves in a mirror and then go away and forget what they looked like (see James 1:24). James says we must keep looking into the mirror of God’s Word to remember how we look, to find out the sins in our lives. Those who look carefully into the Scriptures and practice them will be blessed in what they do. The religion of those who think they are religious but don’t control their tongues is vain. The religion that does not influence the tongue is not a true or vital one. An uncontrolled tongue in a Christian is a terrible thing—guard against it. And control your temper. It is dangerous. When you undergo a trial, be slow to speak. Close off the air to a fire and the flames will go out (see James 1:26).

What are we to do with the Word?

    •      Receive it—James 1:21
    •      Hear it—James 1:23
    •      Do it—James 1:22
    •      Examine it—James 1:25

James 3 - Our Words Reveal Our Faith - Our speech reveals what we are and who we belong to. It expresses our personality more than anything else....We should not with the same tongue praise God and curse people who are made in His likeness! Cruel words have wrecked homes, broken friendships, divided churches and sent untold millions to ruin and despair. Many people who call themselves Christians don’t seem to make the slightest effort to control their tongues, and this is wrong.

James 4 - The world consists of all the things around us and the spirit within us that are blind and deaf to the value of spiritual things and care nothing about doing the will of God. The devil has organized this world on principles opposed to God in every way. They are principles of force, greed, ambition, selfishness and pleasure. The believer should be crucified to this world (see Galatians 6:14)....

How easy it is for us to plan without God, yet how futile! Let us submit all our plans to the Lord and see what His will is in every matter—“if the Lord will” (James 4:15). One of the most amazing things in all of God’s Word is that though He holds the whole universe in His hands, He has a definite plan for each one of our lives. Our lives are a series of surprises for us. We live just one day at a time. We don’t know what tomorrow will bring, but God does (see 1 John 3:1–2). What a wonderful God we have! (What the Bible is All About - Recommended Resource)

Wiersbe: "The Epistle of James was written to help us understand and attain spiritual maturity (James 1:4b)… James used the word perfect several times, a word that means 'mature, complete' (see James 1:4, 17, 25; 2:22; 3:2). By 'a perfect man' (James 3:2) James did not mean a sinless man, but rather one who is mature, balanced, grown-up."

Talk Thru the Bible - Christ in James—James refers to the “Lord Jesus Christ” (1:1; 2:1), and he anticipates “the coming of the Lord” (5:7–8). Compared to other New Testament writers. James says little about Christ, and yet his speech is virtually saturated with allusions to the teaching of Christ. The Sermon on the Mount is especially prominent in James’s thinking (there are c. fifteen indirect references; e.g., James 1:2 and Matt. 5:10–12; James 1:4 and Matt. 5:48; James 2:13 and Matt. 6:14–15; James 4:11 and Matt. 7:1–2; James 5:2 and Matt. 6:19). This epistle portrays Christ in the context of early messianic Judaism. (Bruce Wilkinson)

Charles Swindoll - In the opening of his letter, James called himself a bond-servant of God, an appropriate name given the practical, servant-oriented emphasis of the book. Throughout the book, James contended that faith produces authentic deeds. In other words, if those who call themselves God’s people truly belong to Him, their lives will produce deeds or fruit. In language and themes that sound similar to Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount, James rails against the hypocritical believer who says one thing but does another. For James, faith was no abstract proposition but had effects in the real world. James offered numerous practical examples to illustrate his point: faith endures in the midst of trials, calls on God for wisdom, bridles the tongue, sets aside wickedness, visits orphans and widows, and does not play favorites. He stressed that the life of faith is comprehensive, impacting every area of our lives and driving us to truly engage in the lives of other people in the world. While James recognized that even believers stumble (James 3:2), he also knew that faith should not coexist with people who roll their eyes at the less fortunate, ignore the plight of others, or curse those in their paths.

More than any other book in the New Testament, James places the spotlight on the necessity for believers to act in accordance with our faith. How well do your actions mirror the faith that you proclaim? This is a question that we all struggle to answer well. We would like to point to all the ways our faith and works overlap but too often see only gaps and crevices. As you read the letter from James, focus on those areas that he mentioned: your actions during trials, your treatment of those less fortunate, the way you speak and relate to others, and the role that money plays in how you live your life. Allow James to encourage you to do good, according to the faith you proclaim. (Insight for Living)

DOUGLAS MOO - James, Theology of - Baker's Evangelical Dictionary

The Letter of James is a practical exhortation, assuming more theology than it teaches. Some claim that the letter has no theology. The validity of this assertion depends on what is meant by "theology." On the one hand, James has little to say about most Christian doctrines, nor does he consistently relate his exhortations to the person of Christ. In fact he mentions Jesus Christ only twice (1:1; 2:2), and only once as the object of belief (2:1). If, then, by theology we mean a system of belief that consistently refers to the person and work of Christ as a major focal point, then the Letter of James does indeed lack a theology.

This is, however, too narrow a definition of "theology." Understood as the set of beliefs that are explicitly stated and implicitly assumed as the basis for its exhortations, theology is very much present in the letter. James, after all, is writing to Christians who already know the basics of the Christian faith; his purpose is to bring their conduct in line with those beliefs. Moreover, we must not overlook the specific theological teaching that is found in James. His letter makes an important contribution to our understanding of issues such as the relationship of faith and works, prayer, the nature of God, and materialism. All these are set in a practical context, but it will be a sad day for the church when such "practical divinity" is not considered theology.

Therefore, while the occasional and homiletical nature of the letter prevents us from sketching a theology of James, we can survey his contribution to several important areas of theology. (Click for full article - Baker's Evangelical Dictionary)

H A Ironside notes a  comparison of James' epistle with the gospel by Matthew

  • James vs. Matthew
  • James 1:2 - Matthew 5:10-12
  • James 1:4 - Matthew 5:48
  • James 1:5 - Matthew 7:7
  • James 1:6 - Matthew 21:21
  • James 1:9 - Matthew 5:3
  • James 1:20 - Matthew 5:22
  • James 1:22 - Matthew 7:21; Matthew 7:24
  • James 2:8 - Matthew 22:39
  • James 2:10 - Matthew 5:19
  • James 2:13; James 5:7 - Matthew 6:14-15
  • James 2:14 - Matthew 7:21-23
  • James 3:17 - Matthew 18:5; Matthew 18:9
  • James 4:4 - Matthew 6:24
  • James 4:10 - Matthew 5:5
  • James 4:11 - Matthew 7:1-5
  • James 5:2-3 - Matthew 6:19
  • James 5:8 - Matthew 24:33
  • James 5:10 - Matthew 5:12
  • James 5:12 - Matthew 5:33-37



  • Whyte's Dictionary of Bible Characters James the Lord's Brother
  • Bridgeway Bible Dictionary James, letter of
  • Holman Bible Dictionary James, the Letter
  • Fausset Bible Dictionary James, the General Epistle of
  • Smith Bible Dictionary James, the General Epistle of
  • The Jewish Encyclopedia James, General Epistle of
  • American Tract Society James, the Epistle of
  • Easton's Bible Dictionary James, Epistle of
  • Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible James, Epistle of
  • International Standard Bible Encyclopedia James, Epistle of
  • McClintock and Strong's Bible Encyclopedia James, Epistle Of
  • The Nuttall Encyclopedia James, Epistle of


Click chart to enlarge
Chart from recommended resource Jensen's Survey of the NT - used by permission

James Commentary
In Depth On Site
Verse by Verse
Bruce Hurt, MD

The following are in depth verse by verse comments on the entire chapter 

The following are additional commentary pages

James: — Precept Ministries International — Inductive Bible Study
15 lessons - Lesson 1 can be downloaded as Pdf
(Click link)

James Commentary
The New Testament for English Readers

Read his fascinating brief biography - Henry Alford and Phil Johnson's related comments

James Rosscup writes that Alford's series on the New Testament "contains much that is valuable in the Greek New Testament...though all of the Greek New Testament words have been changed to English throughout." (Commentaries for Biblical Expositors: An Annotated Bibliography of Selected Works).

Charles Haddon Spurgeon (see his comments in following entry on Alford).

Editorial Note: If you are not proficient in Greek, you will find this work considerably more useful than the following work by Alford, because in this volume he translates the Greek and Latin into English. While the "The Greek New Testament" is longer (e.g., English version of 1John = 66 pages compared to Greek version = 94 pages in part because the latter includes comments of more technical nature), the substance of the commentary is otherwise similar to that found in the "NT for English Readers".

James Commentary
The Greek Testament

James Rosscup writes that "This was the great work in the life of the versatile Dean of Canterbury. An outcome of this production was the New Testament for English Readers (4 vols.). Alford was a Calvinist, conservative and premillennial, though not dispensational. He takes a literal interpretation of the thousand years in Rev. 20 and has a famous quote there, is strong on sovereign election as in Ro 8:29, 30 and 1Pe 1:2, but, unfortunately, holds to baptismal regeneration in such texts as Titus 3:5 and John 3:5. He shows a great knowledge of the Greek text and faces problems of both a doctrinal and textual nature." (Commentaries for Biblical Expositors: An Annotated Bibliography of Selected Works)

John Piper writes ""When I’m stumped with a...grammatical or syntactical or logical [question] in Paul, I go to Henry Alford. Henry Alford...comes closer more consistently than any other human commentator to asking my kinds of questions."

Charles Haddon Spurgeon writes that this text "is an invaluable aid to the critical study of the text of the New Testament. You will find in it the ripened results of a matured scholarship, the harvesting of a judgment, generally highly impartial, always worthy of respect, which has gleaned from the most important fields of Biblical research, both modern and ancient, at home and abroad. You will not look here for any spirituality of thought or tenderness of feeling; you will find the learned Dean does not forget to do full justice to his own views, and is quite able to express himself vigorously against his opponents; but for what it professes to be, it is an exceedingly able and successful work. The later issues are by far the most desirable, as the author has considerably revised the work in the fourth edition. What I have said of his Greek Testament applies equally to Alford’s New Testament for English Readers,* which is also a standard work." (Spurgeon, C. H. Lectures to my Students, Vol. 4: Commenting and Commentaries; Lectures Addressed to the students of the Pastors' College, Metropolitan Tabernacle)

Sermons and Studies
The Book of James

Bethany Bible Church


AUDIO - Click here for the audios of the 12 lessons on James listed below averaging about 41 minutes each...

  • 1 James 1:1-12 – Study 1 41:15
  • 2 James 1:13-18 – Study 2 39:38
  • 3 James 1:19-27 – Study 3 40:48
  • 4 James 2:1-13 – Study 4 40:18
  • 5 James 2:14-26 – Study 5 43:53
  • 6 James 3:1-12 – Study 6 37:15
  • 7 James 3:13-18 – Study 7 40:40
  • 8 James 4:1-12– Study 8 43:11
  • 9 James 4:13-17 – Study 9 33:44
  • 10 James 5:1-6 – Study 10 40:14
  • 11 James 5:7-12 – Study 11 39:48
  • 12 James 5:13-20 – Study 12 41:40

Teacher Notes on James

More Notes on Each of the Preceding Studies

A Devotional Commentary
Epistle of James

Good quotes and illustrations - See example of an outline below

James - A Devotional Commentary — Nine Tests of Genuine Faith - 93 page Pdf

I. Character of Faith

A. (James 1:1-12) Persevering under Trials     >>> Will

B. (James 1:13-18) Progress of Temptation

C. (James 1:19-27) Planting the Word             >>> Word  

D. (James 2:1-13) Personal Favoritism            >>> Works

E. (James 2:14-26) Performance of Faith

II. Control of Faith

A. (James 3:1-12) Power of the Tongue           >>> Words  

B. (James 3:13-18) Portrait of Pure Wisdom   >>> Wisdom

III. Conflicts of Faith

A. (James 4:1-12) Perversity of Pleasures     >>> Worldliness

B. (James 4:13-5:6) Pride of the Rich            >>> Wealth

IV. Consummation of Faith

A. (James 5:7-12) Patient Endurance            >>> Wait

B. (James 5:13-20) Prayer and Restoration  >>> Wholeness

Here are several examples of quotes you will find throughout Apple's outline commentary

  • Allen: "Problems Purify my Faith… James uses the word 'testing' - as in testing gold and silver. You would heat them up very hot until the impurities were burned off. Job said, 'But God knows the way that I take, and when he has tested me, I will come out like gold.' Job 23:10 (NCV) God is not interested in watching our faith get torpedoed. God desires that our faith would be 'approved.' A student who is accepted by the admissions office of a college can say, 'I am a student.' But until that person takes tests and exams, no one can actually affirm that he is worthy of the name 'student.' They only way to determine the validity of a student’s work is to see the performance on exams. Christians are a lot like tea bags. You don’t know what’s inside of them until you drop them in hot water. Your faith develops when things don’t go as planned. It purifies your faith."...Today, there are numerous ideas being tossed around regarding trials and hardships. Some believe they’re a form of punishment from God. Others dangle before us the promise that if we can just reach a certain level of maturity, trials will disappear and we’ll live happily every after. Life will be one big Disneyland. And still others are out there trying to convince us that there’s really not such thing as adversity. Trials such as death, pain, sickness, emotional hurt, are a figment of our imagination.
  • Chromy: "The double-minded man has reservations about being completely yielded to God. You are double-minded when you want your own will and God’s will at the same time. God wants you to trust him completely and allow him to take care of you throughout difficulties."
  • Barclay: "If life is so uncertain, if man is so vulnerable, if the externals of life are so perishable, then calamity and disaster may come at any moment. Since that is so, a man is a fool to put all his trust in things --like wealth--which he may lose at any moment. He is only wise if he puts his trust in things which he cannot lose. So then, James urges the rich to cease to put their trust in that which their own power can amass. He urges them to realize and to admit their own essential human helplessness, and humbly to put their trust in God, who alone can give us the things which abide for ever. He is pleading with men to glory in that new humility which realizes its utter dependence on God."
  • Wiersbe: “Our values determine our evaluations. If we value comfort more than character, then trials will upset us. If we value the material and physical more than the spiritual, we will not be able to ‘count it all joy!’ If we live only for the present and forget about the future, the trials will make us bitter, not better.”
  • Mooney: "Learn to Grow Through Adversity …When faced with adversity we will also discover some things about ourselves. We will discover what our view of God really is. We will discover what our weaknesses and our strengths are. We will discover how mature we are. We will discover what our priorities really are. God’s command or my comfort."
  • Luck: "Patience is usually thought of as calm resignation to God's will in face of the inevitable. But Christian patience, as spoken of in the New Testament, is more than this. It is true that calm submission is a part of it, but this is only the negative side. On the positive side there is a steady and determined perseverance, in spite of difficulties, toward the right--toward the goal of God's will for our lives."
  • Racer: (James 1:1-4) The Power of Pressures to Perfect Us Introduction: Plumbing Illustration – when you attempt to fix a plumbing problem, the real test comes when you turn the water back on and put pressure on the system … then you find out whether the system can hold up. Trials pinpoint the weaknesses in our system that still need to be addressed. Life might appear all well and good until God sends just enough pressure so that we can’t handle things on our own; then we blow a gasket and need to turn to Him for help. Opportunity in this passage to examine how we respond to pressure – different options: being built up, blown up by the pressure, or blowing up at the pressure
  • Wiersbe: "No temptation appears as temptation; it always seems more alluring than it really is. James used two illustrations from the world of sports to prove his point. Drawn away carries with it the idea of the baiting of a trap; and enticed in the original Greek means 'to bait a hook.' The hunter and the fisherman have to use bait to attract and catch their prey. No animal is deliberately going to step into a trap and no fish will knowingly bite at a naked hook. The idea is to hide the trap and the hook."...Re "lusts" -- "Some people try to become 'spiritual' by denying these normal desires, or by seeking to suppress them; but this only makes them less than human. These fundamental desires of life are the steam in the boiler that makes the machinery go. Turn off the steam and you have no power. Let the steam go its own way and you have destruction. The secret is in constant control. These desires must be our servants and not our masters and this we can do through Jesus Christ."
  • Vaughan: "The suggestion is that man's lust, like a harlot, entices and seduces him. Man surrenders his will to lust, conception takes place, and lust gives birth to sin."
  • Ross: "The mere fact of our being tempted does not involve in itself anything sinful. It is when the desire of man goes out to meet and embrace the forbidden thing and an unholy marriage takes place between these two, that sin is born. Once sin is born, it grows, and, unless it be counteracted and mastered by the grace of God, when it is fullgrown, it brings forth death, death in all the breadth of the meaning of that dread word, death spiritual and death eternal, the death that lies beyond physical death for the ungodly. Thus, we have here the two destinies of man, in James 1:12 the fullness of life that is to be the portion of those who love God and the death that is to be the inevitable doom of the persistent haters of God."
  • Zodhiates: "The heavenly bodies change, they move about in space, and their benevolence to us varies, but not so with the One who is light, who is space, who is time, who is the Creator of them all, and no one can cast a shadow on Him… There is no night so dark that His light cannot shine upon you. 'I am the Lord, I change not' (Mal. 3:6). 'God is light, and in him is no darkness at all' (I John 1:5)."...."In the Old Testament the first fruits, therefore, were the peculiar possession of God. Among His entire creation we are peculiarly His possession, for we were not only created by Him, but also re-created. A little boy who had lost his toy boat found it for sale in a store, and when he bought it, he took it in his hands and hugged it, saying 'My little precious boat, you are now twice mine; once I made you and once I bought you.'"
  • Wiersbe: "One of the enemy's tricks is to convince us that our Father is holding out on us, that He does not really love us and care for us. When Satan approached Eve, he suggested that if God really loved her, He would permit her to eat of the forbidden tree. When Satan tempted Jesus, he raised the question of hunger. 'If your Father loves You, why are You hungry?' The goodness of God is a great barrier against yielding to temptation. Since God is good, we do not need any other person (including Satan) to meet our needs. It is better to be hungry in the will of God than full outside the will of God. Once we start to doubt God's goodness, we will be attracted to Satan's offers; and the natural desires within will reach out for his bait."
  • Apple - God gave you two ears and only one mouth so that you would listen twice as much as you talk. Some people just babble on; hard to get a word in; they are thinking only of their response instead of listening. (Zeno quoted by Barclay)
  • Zodhiates: "Once a young man came to that great philosopher Socrates to be instructed in oratory. The moment the young man was introduced, he began to talk, and there was an incessant stream for some time. When Socrates could get in a word, he said, 'Young man, I will have to charge you a double fee.' 'A double fee, why is that?' The old sage replied, 'I will have to teach you two sciences. First, how to hold your tongue, and then, how to use it.' What an art for all of us to learn, especially for Christians."
  • Barclay: "The tribute was once paid to a great linguist that he could be silent in seven different languages. Many of us would do well to wait and listen more, and to rush in and speak less."
  • Zodhiates: "Sin in our lives is like having wax in our ears; it prevents the Word of truth from reaching our hearts; for if it cannot penetrate through the ear, it will not come down to the heart."
  • Barclay: "The teachable spirit is docile and tractable, and therefore humble enough to learn. The teachable spirit is without resentment and without anger, and is, therefore, able to face the truth, even when the truth hurts and condemns. The teachable spirit is not blinded by its own overmastering prejudices, but is clear-eyed to the truth. The teachable spirit is not seduced by laziness, but is so self-controlled that it can willingly and faithfully accept the discipline of learning. Prautes describes the perfect conquest and control of everything in a man's nature which would be a hindrance to his seeing, learning and obeying the truth."
  • Wiersbe: "It is not enough to hear the Word; we must do it. Many people have the mistaken idea that hearing a good sermon or Bible study is what makes them grow and get God's blessing. It is not the hearing but the doing that brings the blessing. Too many Christian mark their Bibles, but their Bibles never mark them! If you think you are spiritual because you hear the Word, then you are only kidding yourself."
  • Tasker: "It is not therefore something imposed upon the believer from without in the form of a code of external rules and regulations. It is not for him a dead letter but a living power. It would seem to be called the law of liberty partly because it enables men to find their true freedom in the service of God's will, and partly because the believer accepts it without any compulsion. The Christian loves God's commandments and is eager to obey them."
  • Wiersbe: "The emphasis in this section is on the dangers of self-deception: 'deceiving your own selves' (James 1:22); 'deceiveth his own heart' (James 1:26)… Many people are deceiving themselves into thinking they are saved when they are not… But there are true believers who are fooling themselves concerning their Christian walk. they think they are spiritual when they are not… Spiritual reality results from the proper relationship to God through His Word. God's Word is truth (John 17:17), and if we are rightly related to God's truth, we cannot be dishonest or hypocritical.
  • (For more quotes see James - A Devotional Commentary)

James Commentary

Hiebert - Barclay holds that our book of James is the substance of a sermon preached by James, the Lord's brother, taken down by someone else and translated into Greek with a few additions. Barclay's own translation is printed at the beginning of each of the paragraphs into which the epistle is divided. Most valuable for its word studies and background material.

See Critique of Barclay who is not always fully orthodox

Notes on the New Testament

James Rosscup writes that Barnes "includes 16 volumes on the Old Testament, 11 on the New Testament. The New Testament part of this old work was first published in 1832–1851. Various authors contributed. It is evangelical and amillennial...Often the explanations of verses are very worthwhile." (Commentaries for Biblical Expositors: An Annotated Bibliography of Selected Works)

C H Spurgeon "Albert Barnes is a learned and able divine, but his productions are unequal in value, the gospels are of comparatively little worth, but his other comments are extremely useful for Sunday-school teachers and persons with a narrow range of reading, endowed with enough good sense to discriminate between good and evil....Placed by the side of the great masters, Barnes is a lesser light, but taking his work for what it is and professes to be, no minister can afford to be without it, and this is no small praise for works which were only intended for Sunday-school teachers." (Spurgeon, C. H. Lectures to my Students, Vol. 4: Commenting and Commentaries; Lectures Addressed to the students of the Pastors' College, Metropolitan Tabernacle)

John Cereghin - Valuable commentary that had a wide sale when first published by this Presbyterian pastor.

Calvary Chapel, Murrieta
Sermon Notes on James

Nice outline format with pithy sayings and practical application - here is a sample from James 1:1 -11

Intro:James is a very practical book that discusses “living the Faith”! It’s the N.T.’s book of Proverbs; you’ll hear bits of the Sermon on the Mount in it; & you’ll see many O.T. word pictures & references. James refers to: Abraham, Isaac, Rahab, Job, & Elijah, & alludes to 21 O.T. books! It’s main point – “True Faith is a Faith that Works!”If we truly practice our faith it will be seen in: How we face trials (ch.1); How we treat people (ch.2); What we say (ch.3); How we deal w/ sin in our lives (ch.4); How we Pray (ch.5). It deals w/the crucial relationship between faith & active works! It’s balancing right belief w/ right behavior. How will we study this book? “See Christianity must not only be believed, it must be lived!”  The type of Christianity that has “no experience of a changed life”, is no Christianity at all!  The proof of real faith is a changed life! Here is plenty of practical advice on Christian living! You could call it the “How-To” Book on Christian Living! (Christian Living for Dummies!) “The true seed of saving faith is verified by the tangible fruit of serving faith.” Will you take the challenge this morning (& each Sunday morn) to be a “doer” of James words? We will not be the same at the end of this book if we prayerfully ask the Spirit to apply what we learn. E. J. Goodspeed called James, “just a handful of pearls, dropped one by one into the hearers mind.”


James Commentary
The Critical English Testament

Note: Represents Combination of Bengel's Gnomon  and Comments by more modern expositors (in brackets) to make this more usable for those who do not read Greek.

Spurgeon comments on the goal to make Bengel's Gnomon (listed above) more accessible -- "Such is the professed aim of this commentary, and the compilers have very fairly carried out their intentions. The whole of Bengel’s Gnomon is bodily transferred into the work, and as 120 years have elapsed since the first issue of that book, it may be supposed that much has since been added to the wealth of Scripture exposition; the substance of this has been incorporated in brackets, so as to bring it down to the present advanced state of knowledge. We strongly advise the purchase of this book, as it...will well repay an attentive perusal. Tischendorf and Alford have contributed make this one of the most lucid and concise commentaries on the text and teachings of the New Testament" (Spurgeon, C. H. Lectures to my Students, Vol. 4: Commenting and Commentaries; Lectures Addressed to the students of the Pastors' College, Metropolitan Tabernacle)

John Wesley said of Bengel "I know of no commentator on the Bible equal to Bengel" and referred to him as "The great light of the Christian world."

James Commentary
Gnomon of the New Testament

Note: If not proficient in Greek, see related Critical English Testament below.

James Rosscup writes "This work (Gnomon), originally issued in 1742, has considerable comment on the Greek, flavoring the effort with judicious details about the spiritual life. It has much that helps, but has been surpassed by many other commentaries since its day." (Commentaries for Biblical Expositors: An Annotated Bibliography of Selected Works)


Spurgeon - Adopted by the Wesleyan Conference as a standard work, and characterized by that body as marked by “solid learning, soundness of theological opinion, and an edifying attention to experimental and practical religion. Necessary to Methodist Students.

Resources that Reference James


Spurgeon - We liked Burkitt better when we were younger. He is, however, a homely and spiritual writer, and his work is good reading for the many. Burkitt is somewhat pithy, and for a modern rather rich and racy, but he is far from deep, and is frequently common-place. I liked him well enough till I had read abler works and grown older. Some books grow upon us as we read and re-read them, but Burkitt does not. Yet so far from depreciating the good man, I should be sorry to have missed his acquaintance, and would bespeak for him your attentive perusal.


Spurgeon on Calvin - Of priceless value....Calvin is a tree whose “leaf also shall not wither;” whatever he has written lives on, and is never out of date, because he expounded the word without bias or partiality.


By E H Plumptre

D Edmond Hiebert- A valuable commentary on these epistles for the lay student by a conservative British scholar of the past century. Important introductions and concise notes on the text. (An Introduction to the New Testament)

Logos - A concise book that is packed with practical application, the New Testament book of James is discussed in-depth by E. H. Plumptre. From the author of the epistle, to the date it was written, to the analysis of the book as a whole, Plumptre brings his readers a critical look at James. This engaging commentary expands on the doctrines found within this small epistle, and is infused with scriptural cross-references.



Click critique of his theological persuasion.

James Rosscup - This old, conservative Wesleyan Methodist work is good devotionally and aggressive for righteous living. Laypeople can find it still valuable today. It is Arminian in viewpoint and thus helpful, for example, in showing the reader how this approach deals with texts involving the eternal security question. The work contains much background material from many sources on all books of the Bible.

Spurgeon - Adam Clarke is the great annotator of our Wesleyan friends; and they have no reason to be ashamed of him, for he takes rank among the chief of expositors. His mind was evidently fascinated by the singularities of learning, and hence his commentary is rather too much of an old curiosity shop, but it is filled with valuable rarities, such as none but a great man could have collected....If you have a copy of Adam Clarke, and exercise discretion in reading it, you will derive immense advantage from it, for frequently by a sort of side-light he brings out the meaning of the text in an astonishingly novel manner. I do not wonder that Adam Clarke still stands, notwithstanding his peculiarities, a prince among commentators. I do not find him so helpful as Gill, but still, from his side of the question, with which I have personally no sympathy, he is an important writer, and deserves to be studied by every reader of the Scriptures. He very judiciously says of Dr. Gill, “He was a very learned and good man, but has often lost sight of his better judgment in spiritualizing the text;” this is the very verdict which we pass upon himself, only altering the last sentence a word or two; “He has often lost sight of his better judgment in following learned singularities;” the monkey, instead of the serpent, tempting Eve, is a notable instance.

Sermons on James

Highly Recommended. These sermons are the same material found in Pastor Cole's book if you prefer Kindle or Paperback format.  Notice that his book has 8 customer reviews and all give it Five Stars! Click to read some of the reviews. Great tool if you are leading a Bible study, are preaching through the book of James or simply studying it on your own. 

Excerpt - Many writers claim that there is no unifying theme to James, but that it is just a series of unrelated, random exhortations. But, as difficult as it may be to outline the book, I think that the contents may be arranged under this theme of true faith. James is giving a series of tests by which one may determine whether his faith is genuine or false (D. Edmond Hiebert makes this point, “The Unifying Theme of the Epistle of James,” Bibliotheca Sacra [135:539, July-September, 1978], pp. 221-231). I offer this outline:

Introduction: Author and recipients (1:1).

1. True faith responds with practical godliness under testing (1:2-27).

  • A. True faith responds with joy when it faces testing (1:2-4).
  • B. True faith seeks God for wisdom in times of testing (1:5-8).
  • C. True faith adopts God’s eternal perspective in both poverty and riches (1:9-11).
  • D. True faith perseveres under testing, not blaming God for temptations (1:12-18).
  • E. True faith obeys God’s word, even when provoked (1:19-27).

2. True faith shows itself in practical obedience (2:1-26).

  • A. True faith does not show partiality (2:1-7).
  • B. True faith practices biblical love (2:8-13).
  • C. True faith proves itself by its works (2:14-26).

3. True faith controls the tongue and acts with gentle wisdom (3:1-18).

  • A. True faith controls the tongue (3:1-12).
  • B. True faith acts with gentle wisdom (3:13-18).

4. True faith resists arrogance by humbling oneself before God (4:1-5:18).

  • A. True faith practices humility in relationships (4:1-12).
  • B. True faith practices humility with regard to the future (4:13-17).
  • C. True faith practices humility by waiting for God to judge the wicked who have wronged us (5:1-11).
  • D. True faith practices humility by speaking the truth apart from self-serving oaths (5:12).
  • E. True faith practices humility by depending upon God through prayer (5:13-18).

Excerpt - Joni Eareckson Tada, as most of you know, was paralyzed from the neck down in a diving accident when she was 17. She wrote this about her suffering (Joni [Zondervan], p. 154):

God engineered the circumstances. He used them to prove Himself as well as my loyalty. Not everyone had this privilege. I felt there were only a few people God cared for in such a special way that He would trust them with this kind of experience. This understanding left me relaxed and comfortable as I relied on His love, exercising newly learned trust. I saw that my injury was not a tragedy but a gift God was using to help me conform to the image of Christ, something that would mean my ultimate satisfaction, happiness—even joy.

That is God’s wisdom on how to endure a major trial with joy! She did not get that wisdom from the world. She did not make it up herself. It came from God, through His Word. If you need God’s wisdom for how to endure any major or minor trial with joy, ask Him in faith and He will give it.

Excerpt - The famous evangelist, George Whitefield, once told of seeing some criminals riding in a cart on their way to the gallows. They were arguing about who should sit on the right hand of the cart, with no more concern than children arguing about who sits where in the car (in Elisabeth Dodds, Marriage to a Difficult Man [Westminster Press], p. 113). Here were men about to die that very day, arguing over who got the best seat! James would have us see that life is a vapor (4:14). We’re all going to die soon. To focus on accumulating wealth if we lack it or to expend ourselves in amassing more wealth than we already have, would be rather shortsighted. Rather, we should focus on the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love Him. That eternal focus will enable us to persevere in trials with joy.

Excerpt - A man was on a diet and struggling. He had to go downtown and as he started out, he remembered that his route would take him by the doughnut shop. As he got closer, he thought that a cup of coffee would hit the spot. Then he remembered his diet. That’s when he prayed, “Lord, if You want me to stop for a doughnut and coffee, let there be a parking place in front of the shop.” He said, “Sure enough, I found a parking place right in front—on my seventh time around the block!” As Robert Orben said, “Most people want to be delivered from temptation but would like it to keep in touch” (Reader’s Digest [8/86], p. 35). Allow me to state the obvious: You will not make it as a Christian if you do not learn to overcome temptation.

Excerpt - A current popular myth in evangelical circles is that salvation is based on a personal decision for Christ and that such a decision may or may not result in a changed life. In this paradigm, a child from a Christian home may make a decision at summer camp “to invite Jesus into his heart.” He goes forward at the closing song after a meeting. He gets some follow-up, is given a Bible and told to read it every day. Perhaps when he gets back to his church, he is baptized. He attends church every Sunday, because that’s what his family does.

But as he gets older, he finds church to be boring and irrelevant. He prefers having fun with his worldly friends to hanging out with the church crowd. His friends introduce him to drinking, drugs, pornography, and sex. He drops out of church. He never reads his Bible. He has no desire to know Christ in a deeper way. And yet his parents will say, “But he’s saved, because he made a decision for Christ as a boy at church camp!”

But the important question in situations like this is, “Is there any evidence of a changed heart or new life in Christ?” As we saw in James 1:18, salvation is a matter of God imparting new life through His word of truth. Just as a newborn baby gives clear evidence that he is alive and well, so a new believer gives evidence of his new life in Christ. His desires change. He was a God-hater, alienated from God, hostile toward Him. Now he is a God-lover, reconciled to God, receptive to the truths of God’s word.

Jesus’ parable of the sower (Matt. 13:3-9, 18-23; Mark 4:3-20; Luke 8:4-15) shows that genuine faith in Christ is not just a flash in the pan. Faith in Christ endures and produces fruit. 

Excerpt - Pastor Stuart Briscoe was teaching the principles of Bible study. He showed how to pick out the promises and the commands in Scripture, and what to do with them. Finally, he reviewed and asked, “Now, what do you do with the commands?” A little old lady raised her hand and said, “I underline them in blue.” Underlining the Bible’s commands in blue might make for a colorful Bible, but the point of the commands is that we obey them. Unfortunately, there are many people in evangelical churches who have their heads filled with information from the Bible, but they don’t obey what the Bible commands. That may sound harsh, but surveys commonly show that there is substantially no difference between evangelical Christians and the population at large on most moral and social beliefs and behavior. For example, pollster George Barna (in World [12/6/03], p. 33) found that one out of three “born-again Christians” (defined as “those who report having made a personal commitment to Christ and expect to get to heaven because they accepted Jesus”) accept same-sex unions. Thirty-nine percent believe it is morally acceptable for couples to live together before marriage. And, born-again Christians are more likely than non-Christians to have experienced divorce (27 to 24 %)! James would be aghast!

Expository Notes
Book of James

Sermons on James

Study on James

Blue Jean Faith: A Study of James for Wise Women

Study Notes on James

The Tests of True Religion:
A Study of the Book of James


These make excellent sermon illustrations. 

These devotionals are arranged by chapter - C H Spurgeon, G Campbell Morgan Our Daily Bread, F B Meyer

To show how one might use this devotional page, here are several examples of illustrations that can be found on the page of devotionals listed above...

  • Illustration of James 3:6 The Point of No Return - It wasn’t as simple as just crossing another river. By law, no Roman general could lead armed troops into Rome. So when Julius Caesar led his Thirteenth Legion across the Rubicon River and into Italy in 49 bc, it was an act of treason. The impact of Caesar’s decision was irreversible, generating years of civil war before Rome’s great general became absolute ruler. Still today, the phrase “crossing the Rubicon” is a metaphor for “passing the point of no return.”Sometimes we can cross a relational Rubicon with the words we say to others. Once spoken, words can’t be taken back. They can either offer help and comfort or do damage that feels just as irreversible as Caesar’s march on Rome. James gave us another word picture about words when he said, “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” (James 3:6).
  • Illustration of James 1:2 - Fire can be one of the worst enemies of trees. But it can also be helpful. Experts say that small, frequent fires called “cool” fires clean the forest floor of dead leaves and branches but don’t destroy the trees. They leave behind ashes, which are perfect for seeds to grow in. Surprisingly, low-intensity fires are necessary for healthy growth of trees.Similarly, trials—pictured as fire in the Bible—are necessary for our spiritual health and growth (1 Peter 1:7; 4:12).
  • Illustration of James 1:2-4 - HIGHER MATH - Mathematical formulas work well with numbers, but not with people. That's why this equation in James 1 sounds unworkable: FAITH + TRIALS = PATIENCEOne might better try to mix oil and water. But what makes this formula work is confidence in God's unfailing love, which allows for all the human emotions that come with life's trials.
  • Illustration of James 1:1-4 - A University of Michigan microbiologist tells his students that the human body is made up of ten trillion cells, which are home to some 100 trillion bacteria. He supports this claim by citing studies conducted by University of Pennsylvania researchers who once estimated that a dime-sized patch of skin may hold up to two million bacteria. The presence of all those little critters might seem to be an over­whelming threat to our health. But scientists who have come to understand and appreciate the role of bacteria say that we would actually be sicker without them than we are with them. They appar­ently help ward off other bacteria that cause diseases. This is not an argument for careless personal hygiene. But it is an interesting parallel to the setting in which Christians are called to live. Contrary to what we might think, we can actually benefit from a hostile environment.
  • Illustration of James 1:1-12 Trial By Fire - F. B. Meyer explained it this way: “A bar of iron worth $2.50, when wrought into horseshoes is worth $5. If made into needles it is worth $175. If into penknife blades it is worth $1,625. If made into springs for watches it is worth $125,000. What a ‘trial by fire’ that bar must undergo to be worth this! But the more it is manipulated, and the more it is hammered and passed through the heat, beaten, pounded, and polished, the greater its value.” Christian, are you wondering about the trials through which you are passing? With impatient heart are you saying, “How long, O Lord?” The heat of the flame and the blows of the hammer are necessary if you are to be more than an unpolished, rough bar of iron. God’s all-wise plan, though it calls for the fire, produces the valuable watch spring of maturity. His very best for your life has behind it His perfect timing

Below are links to a collection of devotionals from Moody Bible's "Today in the Word." The introduction to each devotional frequently begins with an illustration related to the specific passage.

Biblegateway devotionals - click for link to multiple devotionals on James. They are of variable quality to Be a Berean. Here are some examples...

John Piper - Is God’s Love Conditional?. (James 4:8)

This verse means that there is a precious experience of peace and assurance and harmony and intimacy that is not unconditional. It depends on our not grieving the Spirit.

It depends on our putting away bad habits. It depends on forsaking the petty inconsistencies of our Christian lives. It depends on our walking closely with God and aiming at the highest degree of holiness.

If this is true, I fear that the unguarded reassurances today that God’s love is unconditional may stop people from doing the very things the Bible says they need to do in order to have the peace that they so desperately crave. In trying to give peace through “unconditionality” we may be cutting people off from the very remedy the Bible prescribes.

Let us declare untiringly the good news that our justification is based on the worth of Christ’s obedience and sacrifice, not ours (Romans 5:19, “as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous”).

But let us also declare the biblical truth that the enjoyment of that justification in its effect on our joy and confidence and power to grow in likeness to Jesus is conditioned on our actively forsaking sins and forsaking bad habits and mortifying lusts and pursuing intimacy with Christ, and not grieving the Spirit.

Quest Bible -  Is faith enough? James 2:14–24

Are we saved by grace through faith alone (see Eph 2:8–9) or do we also need good works?

James does not argue that good works are required for salvation. Nor does he say that deeds are more important than beliefs. Rather, he insists that there are two kinds of faith—one legitimate and the other illegitimate; “faith … made complete” (v. 22) and “faith without deeds” (v. 20). Both are “belief” in one sense of the word. But legitimate faith goes deeper than “right thinking” to “right living.”

Confusion may arise, however, when we recall that Paul writes that we cannot earn salvation. He uses Abraham as an example of one who received God’s promise, not through human effort, but through faith (see Gal 3:6–12).

James also uses Abraham as an example, but his focus and emphasis are different than Paul’s. He skips over the futility of human effort to discuss the futility of deficient faith—faith that stops at the intellectual level. Even demons have that kind of “faith,” James exclaims (v. 19)!

James’s point, then, is that Abraham exercised authentic faith—demonstrated by his actions. Abraham’s deeds earned him nothing, but they proved his faith was genuine: Right faith led to right actions. If he had not trusted God, Abraham could never have offered his son—the fulfillment of God’s promise—on the altar (vv. 21–22). Paul uses Abraham to show that people are justified on the basis of real faith; James shows that Abraham’s faith was proven to be real because it worked (compare Gal 5:6).

So then, we don’t need anything but faith—the right kind of faith—to be saved by God. And our behavior will show what our faith is made of, whether or not it is legitimate.

Believer's Chapel Dallas

150 pages of transcripts

Click here if you would rather listen.

James Sermons

Epistle of James

Click here for the devotionals below.

  • James 1:1-8 Getting
  • James 1:9-11 God Is Not Impressed
  • James 1:12-15 The Birth That Brings Death
  • James 1:16-18 God Enjoys Giving!
  • James 1:19-21 Open Ears - Closed Mouth
    James 1:22-25 Have You Looked in the Mirror?
  • James 1:26,27 The Religion God Wants
  • James 2:1-13 God's Royal Law
  • James 2:14-26 Not Words but Works
  • James 3:1-6 A Matter of Life and Death!
  • James 3:7-12 The Secret of a Controlled Tongue
  • James 3:13-18 Wisdom From Heaven
  • James 4:1-3 The War Within
  • James 4:4-7 Don't Court the World
  • James 4:8-12 You Get Nearer by Getting Lower
  • James 4:13-17 God Will Guide You
  • James 5:1-6 Prices or Values?
  • James 5:7-12 He Is at the Door!
  • James 5:3-16 Sickness and Sin
  • James 5:17-20 Prayer That Works

The Book of James

James: Responsible Faith

Older Explore the Bible Series

The Book of James
Alfred Plummer

James Rosscup writes - This is a good study in the Greek text.

Cyril Barber - Worth consulting, but does not deserve to be placed high on the preacher's priority list. (The Minister's Library, Vol 1)

  • Introduction
  • James 1 Commentary
  • James 1:1 The Author of the Epistle: James the Brother of the Lord
  • James 1:1 The Persons Addressed
  • James 1:2-4 The Relation of This Epistle to the Writing of St Paul
  • James 1:12-18 The Source of Temptations
  • James 1:22-25 The Delusion of Hearing Without Doing
  • James 2 Commentary
  • James 2:1-4 The Christology of St James
  • James 2:5-10 The Iniquity of Respecting the Rich and Despising the Poor
  • James 2:14-26 Faith and Works
  • James 2:19, 21, 25 The Faith of the Demons
  • James 3 Commentary
  • James 3:1-8: The Heavy Responsibilities of Teachers
  • James 3:9-12 The Moral Contradictions in the Reckless Talker
  • James 3:13-16 The Wisdom that is From Below
  • James 3:17, 18 7,18 The Wisdom that is From Above
  • James 4 Commentary
  • James 4:1-13 Lusts as the Causes of Strife
  • James 4:4-6 The Seductions of the World
  • James 4:7-10 The Power of Satan and Its Limits
  • James 4:11, 12 Self Assurance
  • James 4:13-17 Presuming Upon Our Future
  • James 5 Commentary
  • James 5:1-6 The Follies and Iniquities of the Rich - Their Miserable End
  • James 5:7-11 Patience in Waiting
  • James 5:7-11 The Prohibition of Swearing
  • James 5:13 Worship the Best Outlet
  • James 5:14-15 The Elders of the Church
  • James 5:16-18 Confession of Sins
  • James 5:19, 20 The Word of Converting Sinners

Commentary on James

James Commentary
W E Oesterley

D Edmond Hiebert- Greek text. A technical commentary providing grammatical information and important word studies. Often cites rabbinic sources. Defends Petrine authorship and dates the letter at A.D. 64. (An Introduction to the New Testament)


James Rosscup - Gill (1697–1771), a pastor of England, wrote these which are two-column pages, ca. 900–1,000 pages per volume, Originally they were 9 volumes, folio. He also wrote Body of Divinity, 3 volumes, and several other volumes. His commentary is evangelical, wrestles with texts, is often wordy and not to the point but with worthy things for the patient who follow the ponderous detail and fish out slowly what his interpretation of a text is. He feels the thousand years in Revelation 20 cannot begin until after the conversion of the Jews and the bringing in of the fullness of the Gentiles and destruction of all antiChristian powers (volume 6, p. 1063) but in an amillennial sense of new heavens and new earth coming right after Christ’s second advent (1064–65), and the literal thousand years of binding at the same time. He feels the group that gathers against the holy city at the end of the thousand years is the resurrected wicked dead from the four quarters of the earth (i.e. from all the earth, etc. (1067).  

Spurgeon - Beyond all controversy, Gill was one of the most able Hebraists of his day, and in other matters no mean proficient...His ultraism is discarded, but his learning is respected: the world and the church take leave to question his dogmatism, but they both bow before his erudition. Probably no man since Gill’s days has at all equalled him in the matter of Rabbinical learning.

He preached in the same church as C. H. Spurgeon over one hundred years earlier. Yet most people today have never heard of John Gill. This is unfortunate, since his works contain priceless gems of information that are found nowhere except in the ancient writings of the Jews. 

Commentary Notes on James

Conservative, modern commentary from Calvary Chapel pastor. 



Spurgeon - A Christian man wishing for the cream of expository writers could not make a better purchase. Ministers, as a rule, should not buy condensations, but get the works themselves.

James Rosscup - This evangelical work, devotional in character, has been in constant demand for about 280 years. Its insight into human problems is great, but it often does not deal adequately with problems in the text. The one-volume form eliminates the Biblical text and is thus less bulky. It has sold very well. The late Wilbur M. Smith, internationally noted Bible teacher, seminary professor and lover of books, tabbed this “The greatest devotional commentary ever written”. Henry was born in a Welch farmhouse, studied law, and became a Presbyterian minister near London. He wrote this commentary in the last 13 years before he died at 52 in 1714. The first of six volumes was published in 1708. He completed through Acts, and the rest of the New Testament was done by 14 clergymen. (Ed: Thus James are not the comments of Matthew Henry).

Sermons on James

Frequent illustrations. 

To Book of James

See also Our Daily Bread

Epistle of James
George M. Stulac

James Rosscup - A Presbyterian pastor provides a clear, refreshing survey that shows often how to apply truth. This is one of the top three or four popular expositions, though teachers, pastors and students can need more grappling with details to bolster discussions, as in R. Martin, J. B. Mayor, P. Davids, J. Adamson, R. C. H. Lenski, etc. At times, Stulac’s work gets fairly detailed on views and arguments, as in 4:5. In 5:14–16 physical illness may also involve sin.

Richard J Krejcir

Informative notes.

Epistle of James

Published 1871 - Probably best older commentary on prophetic passages as it tends to interpret more literally.

James Rosscup - This is a helpful old set of 1863 for laypeople and pastors to have because it usually comments at least to some degree on problems. Though terse, it provides something good on almost any passage, phrase by phrase and is to some degree critical in nature. It is evangelical....Especially in its multi-volume form this is one of the old evangelical works that offers fairly solid though brief help on many verses. Spurgeon said, “It contains so great a variety of information that if a man had no other exposition he would find himself at no great loss if he possessed this and used it diligently” (Commenting and Commentaries, p. 3). Things have changed greatly since this assessment! It is primarily of help to pastors and lay people looking for quick, though usually somewhat knowledgeable treatments on verses.

Spurgeon - A really standard work. We consult it continually, and with growing interest. Mr. Fausset’s portion strikes us as being of the highest order. 

John Cereghin -  A conservative exposition. He defends Petrine authorship (xlixff); argues for the deity of Christ (619); holds that assurance in Scripture is doubly sure (622); identifies the elements as “the world’s component materials” (627); holds that Paul’s Epistles were already known as “Scripture” (628).


Epistle of James

433 page commentary

Cyril Barber - A classic in the field. Published originally in 1871. A must for the expository preacher.Buy it! (Ed: click it = it's free online) These concise studies faithfully expound the Greek text and provide a solide foundation for a series of message. Works of this nature are rare and should obtained and used by every Bible-teaching preacher. (Bolding added) (The Minister's Library. Volume 1 and 2)

Spurgeon comments - "A very useful, scholarly, and readable book."

  • James 1:1-4 Joy in Trials
  • James 1:5–8 Wisdom through Prayer,
  • James 1:9–12 Rich Poor and Poor Rich,
  • James 1:13–15 Genesis of Sin,
  • James 1:16, 17 Good Gifts from God,
  • James 1:18 Regeneration,
  • James 1:19–21 Receiving the Ingrafted Word,
  • James 1:22–25 The Spiritual Mirror,
  • James 1:26, 27 True Religious Service,
  • James 2:1–7 Respect of Persons,
  • James 2:8–11 Unity of God’s Law,
  • James 2:12, 13 Judgment by the Law of Liberty,
  • James 2:14–19 Faith without Works,
  • James 2:20–26 Justifying Faith a Working Faith,
  • James 3:1, 2 Responsibility of Teachers,
  • James 3:3–6 Power of the Tongue,
  • James 3:7–12 The Tongue Untameable and Inconsistent,
  • James 3:13–16 Earthly Wisdom,
  • James 3:17, 18 Heavenly Wisdom,
  • James 4:1–3 Origin of Strifes,
  • James 4:4–6 Worldliness Enmity to God,
  • James 4:7–10 Submission to God,
  • James 4:11, 12 Evil Speaking and Judging,
  • James 4:13–17 Vain Confidence regarding the Future,
  • James 5:1–6 Woes of the Wicked Rich,
  • James 5:7, 8 Patience through the Blessed Hope,
  • James 5:9–11 Murmuring against Brethren,
  • James 5:12 Swearing,
  • James 5:13–15 Prayer and Praise,
  • James 5:16–18 Confession and Prayer,
  • James 5:19, 20 Error and Conversion,


D Edmond Hiebert on Fronmuller - Prints author's own translation. An exhaustive exposition by a conservative interpreter which has stood the test of time. Important for the expositor of 1 Peter. A careful interpretation of these epistles with a mass of material of a practical and homiletical nature.(An Introduction to the New Testament)

James Rosscup - The treatments of books within this evangelical set (Lange's Commentary) vary in importance. Generally, one finds a wealth of detailed commentary, background, and some critical and exegetical notes. Often, however, there is much excess verbiage that does not help particularly. On the other hand, it usually has something to assist the expositor on problems and is a good general set for pastors and serious lay people though it is old.

Expository Sermons on James

Functions Like a Verse by Verse Commentary

  • James Introduction - Title, Author, Date, Background, Setting, Historical, Theological Themes, Interpretive Challenges, Outline by Chapter/Verse.
  • James 1:1 An Introduction to James, Pt. 1
  • James 1:1 An Introduction to James, Pt. 2
  • James 1-2 Dead Faith, Part 1
  • James 1:2-12 How to Endure Trials, Part 2
  • James 1:2-12 How to Endure Trials, Part 3
  • James 1:2-12 How to Endure Trials, Part 1
  • James 1:2: From Trouble to Triumph--Pt 1
  • James 1:2-4: From Trouble to Triumph--Pt 2
  • James 1:5-12: From Trouble to Triumph--Pt 1 Study Guide
  • James 1:5-12: From Trouble to Triumph--Pt 2 Study Guide
  • James 1:5-12: From Trouble to Triumph--Pt 3 Study Guide
  1. Also in Study Guides above - The Purpose of Trials
  2. Also in Study Guides above - James 1:13-17 Whose Fault is our Temptation?
  3. Also in Study Guides above -James 1:18  Born to Holiness
  • James 1:5-12: From Trouble to Triumph--Pt 3
  • James 1:13-17: Whose Fault is our Temptation?
  • James 1:18: Born to Holiness
  • James 1:18-22 Submitting to God's Word
  • James 1:19-27 Responding to the Word
  • James 1:19-21 The Belief That Behaves, Pt. 1
  • James 1:22-25 The Belief That Behaves, Pt. 2
  • James 1:26-27 The Belief That Behaves, Pt. 3
  • James 2:1-4 The Evil of Favoritism in the Church, Pt. 1
  • James 2:5-7 The Evil of Favoritism in the Church, Pt. 2
  • James 2:8-13 The Evil of Favoritism in the Church, Pt. 3
  • James 2:14-26 Dead Faith, Part 2
  • James 2:14-20: Dead Faith
  • James 2:21-26: Living Faith
  • James 3:1-5: Taming the Tongue--Pt 1
  • James 3:5-12: Taming the Tongue--Pt 2
  • James 3:13-18 Spiritual Wisdom
  • James 3:13 Earthly and Heavenly Wisdom, Pt. 1
  • James 3:13 Earthly and Heavenly Wisdom, Pt. 2
  • James 3:14-18 Earthly and Heavenly Wisdom, Pt. 3
  • James 4:1-2 The Danger in Being a Friend of the World, Pt. 1
  • James 4:2-6 The Danger in Being a Friend of the World, Pt. 2
  • James 4:6-7 Drawing Near to God, Pt. 1
  • James 4:8-10 Drawing Near to God, Pt. 2
  • James 4:11 The Blasphemous Sin of Defaming Others, Pt. 1
  • James 4:11-12 The Blasphemous Sin of Defaming Others, Pt. 2
  • James 4:13-17 Responding to the Will of God
  • James 5:1-3 Judgment on the Wicked Rich, Pt. 1
  • James 5:1-3 Judgment on the Wicked Rich, Pt. 2
  • James 5:7-11: How to Face Trials Patiently
  • James 5:12 Stop Swearing
  • James 5:13-18 The Power of Righteous Praying
  • James 5:13-18 Bearing Up the Weak in Prayer
  • James 5:19-20 Saving a Soul from Death


Sermons on James

James Rosscup - This evangelical work is both homiletical and expository and is often very good homiletically but weaker otherwise. Helpful in discussing Bible characters, it is weak in prophecy at times because of allegorization. It is not really as valuable today as many other sets for the serious Bible student. The expositions are in the form of sermons.

A Practical Exposition of James

In Depth Verse by Verse Comments (>150 pages on James 1!)

An Estimate of Manton by J. C. Ryle

Spurgeon's comment on Manton's work - In Manton’s best style. An exhaustive work, as far as the information of the period admitted. Few such books are written now.

Cyril Barber: First published in 1693, these exhaustive studies highlight the special relevance of this epistle to the situations facing the church. (The Minister's Library. Volume 1)

Joseph Mayor
The Epistle of James
The Greek Text with Introductory Notes and Comments

James Rosscup: First issued in 1892, this commentary of more than 600 pages gives the reader almost 300 pages in introductory explorations about the identity of the writer James, the date (he says near the end of the A. D. 40’s), the relations to other New Testament books, grammar and style, etc. It is a work of towering scholarship and exhaustive detail. From the standpoint of the Greek text it is the best older and one of the best at any time on James. (Commentaries for Biblical Expositors: An annotated bibliography)

Cyril Barber: An encyclopedic work on the Greek Text. Regarded by many as the most important critical commentary on this portion of God's Word. Technical. (The Minister's Library. Volume 1)

Cyril Barber: A work of massive scholarship that ranks among the most important exegetical works ever published on this epistle. (The Minister's Library. Volume 2)

F B Meyer
Our Daily Homily on James
One from Our Daily Walk (ODW)

Resources on James
Conservative, Evangelical


  • James 1:2-12 - Suffering in James 1:2-12 - Tracy Howard
  • James 1:18 - James 1:18 and the Offering of First-Fruits - F H Palmer
  • James 1:22-25 - Mirrors in James 1:22-25 and Plato, Alcibiages 132C-133C - Nicholas Denyer
  • James 1:17, 27, 3:9 Father-God Language and OT Allusions in James - E Y Ng
  • James 2 - The Rich Man in James 2: Does Ancient Patronage Illumine the Text? - Nancy J Vyhmeister
  • James 2:13 - Mercy Triumphs Over Justice: James 2:13 and the Theology of Faith and Works - William Dyrness
  • James 2:14 - The Soteriology of James 2:14 - Gale Heide
  • James 2:14-26 - Faith, Works, and the Christian Religion in James 2:14-26 - Mark Proctor
  • James 2 - "Saved by Faith [Alone]" in Paul Versus "Not Saved by Faith Alone" in James - Robert H Stein
  • James 2:14-26 - James 2:14-26: Does James Contradict the Pauline Soteriology? - Robert Rakestraw
  • James 2:21-24 - James 2:21-24 and the Justification of Abraham - R Bruce Compton
  • James 5:14-20 - An Exegesis of James 5:14-20 B J Forrester
  • James 5:13-18 - The Significance of Elijah in James 5:13-18 Keith Warrington
  • James 5:13-18 - The Waiting Church and Its Duty: James 5:13-18 - Mark a Seifrid
  • James 5:14-16a - Will God Heal Us--A Re-Examination of James 5:14-16a - Gary S Shogren
  • Preaching from the Book of James - George Davis
  • The Theological Message of James - Simon J Kistemaker
  • The Law in James - M J Evans
  • The Christology of James - Robert B Sloan
  • Christology in the Epistle of James - William R Baker
  • "A Right Strawy Epistle": Reformation Perspectives on James - Timothy George
  • Commenting on Commentaries on the Book of James - David Dockery
  • Dating the Epistles
  • The Main Theme and Structure of James - William C Varner
  • True Piety in James: Ethical Admonitions and Theological Implications - David Dockery
  • A Perfect Work: Trials and Sanctification in the Book of James - Ron Julian
  • The Wisdom of James - Robert W Wall
  • The Wisdom of James - John Burns
  • The Wisdom of James the Just - Dan G McCartney
  • The Spectrum of Wisdom and Eschatology in the Epistle of James and 4Q Instruction - Darian Lockett
  • Faith According to the Apostle James - John MacArthur
  • First Response to "Faith According to the Apostle James" by John F MacArthur, Jr - Earl D Radmacher
  • Second Response to "Faith According to the Apostle James" by John F MacArthur, Jr - Robert L Saucy
  • Doctrine of Faith - Journal of Biblical Literature, Vol. 19, No. 1 (1900), B W Bacon
  • Christ, Community and Salvation in the Epistle of James - Michael J Townsend
  • The Theology of Prayer in James - C. Richard Wells
  • James' Instructions to Ill Christians - P G Nelson
  • Cessationism, "The Gifts of Healings," and Divine Healing - Richard Mayhue
  • The Rich and Poor in James: Implications for Institutionalized Partiality - Duane Warden

BEST COMMENTARIES - Epistle of James

James Rosscup comments on the James Commentary by Zane Hodges - He takes what has been called a “non-Lordship” view that those who have eternal life by grace may lose faith and not persevere in good works, but the eternal salvation remains intact; lack of works do not reflect on professing believers possibly not having genuinely received life as a gift...In James 2:14–26, only the saved are in view, so the faith that is dead without works is an “ineffectual, unproductive faith” of the saved (Ed: This is an amazing statement in light of James clear statement that "Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.")..

HENRY MORRIS - Defender's Study Bible - Excellent, conservative, literal study Bible notes from a leading Creationist.



  • NET Study Bible Excellent resource, includes NETBible notes and Thomas Constable's notes that synchronize with the Scriptures.


A Comparison of James 2:24 and Ephesians 2:8-10 





J LIGON DUNCAN and Gabe Fluhrer 


You will also be interested:

Click chart to enlarge
Chart from recommended resource Jensen's Survey of the NT - used by permission
See also Overview Chart by Charles Swindoll

Faith for Living

The Place of Works:
Outward Demonstration of Inner Faith
Jas 1:1-18Jas 1:19-2:13Jas 2:14-25Jas 3:1-12Jas 3:13-4:12Jas 4:13-5:12Jas 5:13-19
Trials &
Word &
Faith &







and the

and our




DON ANDERSON - Teaching Resources

AUDIO - Click here for the audios of the 12 lessons on James listed below averaging about 41 minutes each...

  • 8 James 4:1-12– Study 8 43:11
  • 9 James 4:13-17 – Study 9 33:44

Teacher Notes on James

More Notes 































James Rosscup - Though concise in its statements, this old commentary reveals a thorough knowledge of the Greek and is very helpful in matters of grammar and word meanings.




  • James 4 Commentary
  • James 4:1-13 Lusts as the Causes of Strife
  • James 4:4-6 The Seductions of the World
  • James 4:7-10 The Power of Satan and Its Limits
  • James 4:11, 12 Self Assurance
  • James 4:13-17 Presuming Upon Our Future






James Rosscup - This dispensationally oriented work is not verse-by-verse, but deals with the exposition on a broader scale, treating blocks of thought within the chapters. Cf. also Arno C. Gaebelein, Gaebelein’s Concise Commentary on the Whole Bible (I Volume, Neptune, NJ: Loizeaux, 1985), the Annotated Bible revised. The author was a popular evangelical Bible teacher of the first part of the century, much like H. A. Ironside in his diligent but broad, practical expositions of Bible books. Gaebelein was premillennial and dispensational, and editor for many years of Our Hope Magazine.


GENE GETZ - short videos emphasizing principles

  • James; Principle #10; James 4:1-10; Humility versus Pride: To apply God's wisdom, we are to imitate Christ's example of humility. Video
  • James; Principle #11; James 4:13-17; Money and Humility: When we accumulate and use material possessions, we are to reflect Christlike humility. Video


BRUCE GOETTSCHE - sermons on James


GOTQUESTIONS - Sound Biblical answers to questions related to the Book of James









Cyril Barber - Continuously in print for 50 years, having made its debut in 1947. Ironside always has something good to say. He is easy to read, evangelical, and provides deft applications of the truth to life. One limitation of this revision is the use of the KJV when some other modern translation (e.g., NKJV) would have better served the needs of modern readers. Otherwise, this exposition is lucid and ideal for lay Bible study.

James Rosscup - He is staunchly evangelical, showing good broad surveys based on diligent study, practical turns, even choice illustrations. In prophecy he is premillennial dispensational....Many preachers have found that Ironside works, read along with heavier books on details of exegesis, help them see the sweep of the message and prime their spirits for practical relevance.

John Cereghin - Ironside, Harry A., Expository Notes on the Epistles of James and Peter, 1947, 41 pages. Brief devotional exposition. He attacks hyper-Calvinism (68); denounces the error of “soul sleep” (73); suggests that angels may refer to Genesis 6 (82-83); teaches the Premillennial coming of Christ (98). A practical and devotional exposition. Reprinted from the 1904 edition. 

IVP COMMENTARY - George M. Stulac





D Edmond Hiebert- Greek text. A technical commentary providing grammatical information and important word studies. Often cites rabbinic sources. Defends Petrine authorship and dates the letter at A.D. 64. (An Introduction to the New Testament)

Cyril Barber - One of the better works in this series. (The Minister's Library - Volume 1)





LIFEWAY - sermons



BRYN MACPHAIL - sermons 


MASTER'S BIBLE CHURCH Sermon Series on James

Quick overview suggests these are an excellent resource (e.g., 21 pages on James 1:2-4!)

JOSEPH MAYOR - The Epistle of James The Greek Text with Introductory Notes and Comments

James Rosscup: First issued in 1892, this commentary of more than 600 pages gives the reader almost 300 pages in introductory explorations about the identity of the writer James, the date (he says near the end of the A. D. 40’s), the relations to other New Testament books, grammar and style, etc. It is a work of towering scholarship and exhaustive detail. From the standpoint of the Greek text it is the best older and one of the best at any time on James. (Commentaries for Biblical Expositors: An annotated bibliography)





HENRY MORRIS - Defender's Study Bible 




JIM NEWHEISER - each sermon has nice 2 page outline with lots of Scripture cross-references


JAMES NISBET - Church Pulpit Commentary





MATT POSTIFF - sermons on James - Fellowship Bible Church

  • James 4:1-15 (docx)
  • James 4:6-10 (docx)
  • James 4:11-12 (docx)
  • James 4:13-17 (docx)

WIL POUNDS - sermon transcripts





RICK RENNER - devotionals

GRANT RICHISON - verse by verse commentary



A T ROBERTSON - Practical and Social Aspects of Christianity -The Wisdom of James - A Commentary





SERMON AUDIO Various Sources Be a Berean!


JOHN SCHULTZ - former missionary to Papua New Guinea

  • James Commentary - 74 pages, brief but well done notes (he quotes 54 times from Moo's work)




JAMES SMITH - Handfuls of Purpose - click here for all the topics below on the same page

  • FRIEND OF GOD. James 2:23; 4:4
  • THE CRAZE FOR PLEASURE. James 3:18; 4:1-5
  • HUMBLED OR HUMILIATED—WHICH? James 4:6-10,13-17





RUDOLF STIER - 520 pages, pages are somewhat water stained but very legible

Cyril Barber: First published in English in 1871. This work is of value to preachers as well as laypeople. The former, the method of exposition is at once informative and instructive. To the latter, the method of application is enriching and edifying. . (The Minister's Library. Volume 1)

Spurgeon on Stier - No one can be expected to receive all that Stier has to say, but he must be dull indeed who cannot learn much from him. Read with care, he is a great instructor.






DAVID E THOMPSON Expository Sermons



  • Sermons on James - find sermons on following. For Pdf select "Download" and then Transcript
  • James 4:1a Turmoil in our relationship with others
  • James 4:1b-3 Uncontrolled desire
  • James 4:1b-3 Unfulfilled desire
  • James 4:1b-3 Selfish desire
  • James 4:1b-3 Abiding in Christ
  • James 4:1b-3 Praying in Christ’s name
  • James 4:4-6 Hostility toward God
  • James 4:4-6 Disregard for the Scripture
  • James 4:4-6 A proud spirit
  • James 4:7-10 Humility
  • James 4:8 Drawing near to God
  • James 4:11-12 Avoiding destructive words
  • James 4:13-17 Presumptuous planning





Aimless PrayingH. W. Beecher.James 4:1-3
Ask and HaveC. H. Spurgeon.James 4:1-3
Conditions of PrayerW. H. Hutchings, M. A.James 4:1-3
Contention in a CommunityT. Manton.James 4:1-3
DesireDr. Johnson,.James 4:1-3
Disappointed LustT. Manton.James 4:1-3
Foolish Prayers UnansweredJames 4:1-3
Hindrances to the Efficacy of Social PrayerC. Stanford, D. D.James 4:1-3
How Prayer May be Rendered UnavailingJ. A. M. Chapman, D. D.James 4:1-3
Little SinsTheodore Monod.James 4:1-3
Lusting and MurderDean Plumptre.James 4:1-3
Lusting, Yet LackingJ. Trapp.James 4:1-3
Lusts the Causes of StrifeA. Plummer, D. D.James 4:1-3
Men's Love of StrideJustin McCarthy.James 4:1-3
PeaceViedebandt.James 4:1-3
Petitionless PrayersJ. Hamilton, D. D.James 4:1-3
PrayerW. R. Inglis.James 4:1-3
Praying AmissT. Manton.James 4:1-3
Propriety of PrayerJames 4:1-3
Requisites of PrayerG. Carr.James 4:1-3
Serious Reflections on WarS. Davies, M. A.James 4:1-3
The Causes of Spiritual DestitutionD. Thomas.James 4:1-3
The Causes of Unsuccessful PrayerC. Stanford, D. D.James 4:1-3
The Dead-Prayer OfficeJames 4:1-3
The Missing PrayerJ. Harries.James 4:1-3
Thoughtful PrayerBaxendale's AnecdotesJames 4:1-3
WarJ. A. Hamilton.James 4:1-3
Warrior LustsC. F. Deems, D. D.James 4:1-3
Wars and Fighting -- Whence They ProceedJohn Adam.James 4:1-3
Wars and FightingsC. JerdanJames 4:1-3
Was the Picture True? -- ThereDean Plumptre.James 4:1-3
Wrong PrayingJ. ThemoreJames 4:1-3
Ye Ask, and Receive NotDean Plumptre.James 4:1-3
War or Peace?T.F. LockyerJames 4:1-10
Dark HeavenwardArchbishop Leighton.James 4:4
Drawn to the WorldNew Cyclopaedia of IllustrationsJames 4:4
Friendship with the WorldR. Watson.James 4:4
The Contrariety Betwixt the World and GodR. Turnbull.James 4:4
The Friendship of the World -- Enmity with GodJohn Adam.James 4:4
The Friendship of the World Enmity with GodWm. Dawes, D. D.James 4:4
The WorldJ. Ryland.James 4:4
The World or GodS. S. Roche.James 4:4
The World's Friends, and the Friends of GodJ. F. Fenn, M. A.James 4:4
WorldlinessT. Manton.James 4:4
Worldly Friendship Enmity to GodR. Treffry.James 4:4
Worldliness Enmity with GodC. JerdanJames 4:4-6
The Spirit's JealousyJ. C. Coghlan, D. D.James 4:5
The Yearning of the Divine Spirit Over UsDean Plumptre.James 4:5
Continual GraceSamuel Rutherford.James 4:6
Divine GraceT. Brooks.James 4:6
God's Abhorrence and Defiance of the ProudT. Manton.James 4:6
How God Resisteth the ProudR. Turnbull.James 4:6
HumiliationJames 4:6
HumilityJames 4:6
Humility a Means of ContentmentG. J. Zollikofer.James 4:6
More and MoreC. H. Spurgeon.James 4:6
More Grace WantedJames 4:6
Need of More GraceWilliam Jay.James 4:6
The Abundance of GraceAbp. Trench.James 4:6
The Cure of Pride; Or, the Lesson of HumilityR. Newton, D. D.James 4:6
The Gift of GraceC. A. Jeary.James 4:6
The Greatness of the Divine Gifts a Source of Christian EncouragementA. Raleigh, D. D.James 4:6
The Humble are the Fittest Recipients of GraceT. Manton.James 4:6
Submit Yourselves Therefore to GodCharles G. FinneyJames 4:7
War or Peace?T.F. LockyerJames 4:1-10
Answer to the DevilNew Cycle. of IllustrationsJames 4:7-10
Christian SubmissionPaley.James 4:7-10
Fighting the DevilR. South.James 4:7-10
Humble Submission to GodR. Turnbull.James 4:7-10
On Submission to GodH. Hunter.James 4:7-10
ResistJ. C. Lees, D. D.James 4:7-10
Resist the DevilR. A. Griffin.James 4:7-10
Resist the DevilR. Wardlaw, D. D.James 4:7-10
Resistance of EvilW. H. H. Murray.James 4:7-10
Submission to GodA. S. Patterson, D. D.James 4:7-10
Submission to GodSketches of SermonsJames 4:7-10
Submission to GodT. Manton.James 4:7-10
Submission to GodBp. Huntington.James 4:7-10
Submission to GodJames 4:7-10
Submission to GodC. JerdanJames 4:7-10
Submission to God's WillJames 4:7-10
Submitting Ourselves to GodJohn Adam.James 4:7-10
Temptation Sometimes SubtleJeremy Taylor, D. D.James 4:7-10
The Christian ChampionA. W. Shape, M. A.James 4:7-10
The Devil Put to FlightJames 4:7-10
The Devil to be ResistedJames 4:7-10
The Duty and Advantages of Submission to GodB. Scott, M. A.James 4:7-10
The Reason Why Many Cannot Find PeaceC. H. Spurgeon.James 4:7-10
The Right WarfareHomilistJames 4:7-10
Unconditional SurrenderC. H. Spurgeon.James 4:7-10
Yielding Ourselves Up to GodJames 4:7-10
Approaches to GodBp. Reynolds.James 4:8
Carnal Joy Exchanged for Godly SorrowT. Mouton.James 4:8
Christian Humility the Way of an ExaltationH. W. Beecher.James 4:8
Communion with GodAlex. Hislop.James 4:8
Communion with GodJames 4:8
Deep Root, Tall GrowthJames 4:8
Draw Nigh to GodJohn Grose, M. A.James 4:8
Draw Nigh to GodT. Townson, D. D.James 4:8
Drawing Near to GodR. Turnbull.James 4:8
Humility Explained, and its Necessity EnforcedA. Thomson, D. D.James 4:8
Humility in God's SightJ. G. Merrill.James 4:8
Laughter Turned to MourningJ. Trapp.James 4:8
Lividly as in God's SightH. Crosby, D. D.James 4:8
Mourning for SinJ. Trapp.James 4:8
The Approach of a Devout Mind to the AlmightyO. A. Jeary.James 4:8
The Reasonableness and Blessedness of PrayerF. Snyder.James 4:8
Be Merciful in Your Judgment of OthersJames 4:11-12
Conscience Subject to God AloneEmperor Maximilian.James 4:11-12
DetractionI. Barrow, D. D.James 4:11-12
Evil SpeakingR. Wardlaw, . D. D.James 4:11-12
Evil SpeakingThe Christian MagazineJames 4:11-12
Evil SpeakingChas. Hope.James 4:11-12
Evil SpeakingA. Warwick.James 4:11-12
Evil Speaking RebukedJames 4:11-12
Evil-SpeakingR. Turnbull.James 4:11-12
Evil-Speaking and Evil-JudgingC. JerdanJames 4:11, 12
Habit of CensureJ. Spencer.James 4:11-12
Judging Our BrethrenJohn Adam.James 4:11-12
Judgment, Human and DivineT.F. LockyerJames 4:11, 12
Look for Good in OthersJames 4:11-12
Of Judging Our NeighbourChas. Peters, M. A.James 4:11-12
On Evil SpeakingJ. Seed, M. A.James 4:11-12
Rights of ConscienceH. C. Fish, D. D.James 4:11-12
The LawgiverD. Thomas.James 4:11-12
The Love of Censuring OthersA. Plummer, D. D.James 4:11-12
The Supreme LawgiverT. Manton.James 4:11-12
Uncharitable Speech in the Light of DeathAdvocate and Guardian.James 4:11-12
A Holy .Frame of MindJ. J. Van Oosterzee.James 4:13-17
A Jewish StoryDebarim Rabba.James 4:13-17
A Principle, not a RuleA. Plummer, D. D.James 4:13-17
A True Estimate of LifeJ. F. Whitty.James 4:13-17
Boastful GloryingC. H. Spurgeon.James 4:13-17
BoastingA. J. Macleane, M. A.James 4:13-17
BoastingsDean Plumptre.James 4:13-17
Changes in LifeBp. Jeremy Taylor.James 4:13-17
Earnest LivingT. L. Cuyler, D. D.James 4:13-17
Estimates of LifeJames 4:13-17
Evil BoastingOld . English Author.James 4:13-17
Godless MerchantsU. R. Thomas.James 4:13-17
God's Will About the FutureC. H. Spurgeon.James 4:13-17
God's Will About the FutureC. H. Spurgeon.James 4:13-17
Holy Forms of SpeechT. Manton.James 4:13-17
Human Life TransitoryE. N. Kirk, D. D.James 4:13-17
IfR. R. Shippen.James 4:13-17
If the Lord WillA. Raleigh, D. D.James 4:13-17
Ignorance of the FutureR. Wardlaw, D. D.James 4:13-17
Impossible to Forecast EventsJames 4:13-17
LifeJ. H. Evans, M. A.James 4:13-17
Life a Divine Gift and DisciplineJ. A. Anderson.James 4:13-17
Life Precious Because BriefJames 4:13-17
Man Proposes, But God DisposesC. JerdanJames 4:13-17
Man's Ignorance of the FutureR. C. Dillon, D. D.James 4:13-17
Man's Life and God's ProvidenceT. E. Thoresby.James 4:13-17
Presumptuous Language Respecting FuturityR. Walker.James 4:13-17
Recognition of God's WillR. Turnbull.James 4:13-17
Religion and BusinessJ. G. Rogers, B. A.James 4:13-17
Shortness of LifeDr. Wise.James 4:13-17
Sin Against KnowledgeJ. Trapp.James 4:13-17
Sinful Confidence Regarding the FutureJohn Adam.James 4:13-17
Sinful Neglect of DutyR. Walker.James 4:13-17
Sins of EmissionBp. Stillingfleet.James 4:13-17
The Absorbing Interest of Worldly Business to be Guarded AgainstA. S. Patterson, D. D.James 4:13-17
The Brevity of LifeJames Bolton, B. A.James 4:13-17
The Christian BusinessS. Pearson, M. A.James 4:13-17
The Danger of the BoasterJ. Gilmour, M. A.James 4:13-17
The Duty of Reference to the Divine WillG. T. Shedd, D. D.James 4:13-17
The FutureArchdeacon Farrar.James 4:13-17
The Jews and TradeStarkeJames 4:13-17
The Possibilities of LifeW. L. Watkinson.James 4:13-17
The Providence of God and the Providence of ManHomilistJames 4:13-17
The Responsibility of KnowledgeF. H. Roberts.James 4:13-17
The Wisdom of the Divine WillJames 4:13-17
What is LifeT. De Witt Talmage.James 4:13-17
What is LifeJ. Parker, D. D.James 4:13-17
What is LifeJ. G. Hall, D. D.James 4:13-17
What is Your LifeC. H. Spurgeon.James 4:13-17
What is Your LifeJames Vaughan, M. A.James 4:13-17
What is Your Life?Bp. Harvey Goodwin.James 4:13-17
What is Your Life?G. Huntington.James 4:13-17
What is Your Life?J. Parker, D. D.James 4:13-17
What is Your Life?T.F. LockyerJames 4:13-17
The Approbation of Goodness is not the Love of ItWilliam G.T. SheddJames 4:17

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