James 3:1-9

James 3:1 (KJV)
My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation.
Masters - teachers
Condemnation - Judgment
James now begins a discourse on the use and misuse of the tongue. Since words are a very powerful instrument, it behooves every Christian to know what to say and when to say it. (Prov 18:21 KJV) Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof. This is why James is counseling his readers that they should not seek to be teachers. This is not to say that no one is to teach because teaching is one of the spiritual gifts. (Rom 12:7 KJV) Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching;
God has appointed Bible teachers in the church as one of the gifts to build up and equip the Saints. What James has in view here is the person who wants to be a teacher but is unqualified to do so.  Those who teach must be qualified to teach and they must teach the truth of Scripture. If a teacher teaches error, then they are liable for deeper condemnation than the students who follow their teachings. Now that does not absolve the students from checking out the teachings. James was also referring to the false teachers which were invading the church. He was warning them that those unbelievers who arrogate to themselves the position of teacher will be held more accountable on Judgment Day. The true Christian never comes into condemnation but this passage can also be a warning to true Christians that if they have not been called to teach, then it is better that they do not, since they must be held accountable for what they teach. If you notice James places himself in that category also, “…we shall receive…“ The book of Jude deals solely with the problems in the early church with false teachers. I personally counsel people away from teaching if they do not believe they have been called to do so. I also cringe when I hear “teachers” taking this position lightly. Teaching has the power to change the mind for either truth or error. Woe be unto us if we teach not what is right. This means we teach the Bible and not prophecy books or newspapers.
James 3:2 (KJV)
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.
Offend - To strike foot against and fall
Perfect - reached his intended goal, completed
James now furthers his exposition on the tongue. He states that every one of us will offend people in different areas. These people may stumble over some of the things we do. This happens because we are human and still in the sin body. It doesn’t matter whether we do things intentionally or if we do them accidentally. The sin nature sometimes has its way in our life. Here James is telling us that we may offend people in different ways but we all offend with the tongue. In other words we say things that will emotionally hurt other people.
We are being told in this verse that if a person is able to bridle their tongue, and to bridle means to guide or lead as with a horse, then that same person is able to keep their bodily passions under control all the time. In other words, he is the perfect human being able to control both tongue and body. In essence, he is able to act like his body has also been redeemed. Notice that this speaks of bridling the whole body. That means his eyes do not wander after lustful things. His ears always hear pleasant things, such as no desire for gossip or dirty jokes. His feet always walk in a righteous path. His hands are always spiritually dutiful. That would be the perfect person but that will never happen this side of Heaven.
James 3:3 (KJV)
Behold, we put bits in the horses' mouths, that they may obey us; and we turn about their whole body.
Bits = part of the horses bridle
Here James references the method in which a horse is made to obey its master. The bit is a small object yet it is capable of directing the path of the horse. The tongue falls under the same category. It is a small object yet it carries such great power. Whoever can control his tongue will be able to control their entire body. A horse is a very big and powerful animal yet the bit has control over that animal. Look how God describes the horse in his discourse with Job:
(Job 39:19-25 KJV) Hast thou given the horse strength? hast thou clothed his neck with thunder? {20} Canst thou make him afraid as a grasshopper? the glory of his nostrils is terrible. {21} He paweth in the valley, and rejoiceth in his strength: he goeth on to meet the armed men. {22} He mocketh at fear, and is not affrighted; neither turneth he back from the sword. {23} The quiver rattleth against him, the glittering spear and the shield. {24} He swalloweth the ground with fierceness and rage: neither believeth he that it is the sound of the trumpet. {25} He saith among the trumpets, Ha, ha; and he smelleth the battle afar off, the thunder of the captains, and the shouting.
James 3:4 (KJV)
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.
Governor - The Steersmen
Listeth - The inward desire that makes the outward action
Now the Bible expands its teaching on the tongue further. In the first example, a horse was used, now in this example a very huge ship is in view. The ship is guided by the rudder. A ship is very large in comparison to the size of the rudder, yet if the pilot of the ship controls the rudder with the helm, then that ship will be able to stay on its course, despite the high seas and winds. If a person can control their tongue, then they will be able to stay their course too.
James 3:5 (KJV)
Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth!
Matter - Material for burning, fuel or forest
He likens his previous examples to the of the tongue as he ties it all together. In contrast to the size of the human body, the tongue is very small. Yet because of the power it holds, it can destroy very easily. Remember the tongue is the megaphone for the mind! This verse teaches us that the tongue can ignite a fire as large as a forest fire. (Prov 26:20 KJV) Where no wood is, there the fire goeth out: so where there is no talebearer, the strife ceaseth. Whether the tongue is engaged in harmful speech in public or in private, it still produces the same effect. The tongue will boast of great things, beyond what the person can accomplish. One place this arrogant ranting of the tongue is evident is in the Charismatic movement whereby they teach that God wants you rich and healthy, yet the overwhelming majority of adherents are poor and bodily imperfect, yet they don’t get it, that it is a “windbag” theology. Did you ever see a windsock? On a windy day it looks like it is filled but when it turns in your direction, you can see right through it because it is filled with air. Thus you have the essence of the “tongue” movement.
James 3:6 (KJV)
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.
Iniquity - unrighteousness or wickedness
Nature - Genesis - Lineage, descent, or birth
Set on Fire - Like a fire out of control it consumes everything in its path like the iniquitous tongue.
In the first part of this verse we read how the tongue is a world of iniquity or wickedness. (Psa 10:7 KJV) His mouth is full of cursing and deceit and fraud: under his tongue is mischief and vanity. (Psa 12:3-4 KJV) The LORD shall cut off all flattering lips, and the tongue that speaketh proud things: {4} Who have said, With our tongue will we prevail; our lips are our own: who is lord over us? James is showing us how wicked the unsaved tongue is. It is very easy to hear how wicked it is, just wake up in the morning and go about your regular duties during the day and you will hear all kinds of lewd speech from jokes to swearing God’s name in vain. (Psa 120:2 KJV) Deliver my soul, O LORD, from lying lips, and from a deceitful tongue. The true righteous man desires to be delivered from the lies and calumnies being told about him.
Now James turns to the Christians and tells them that their tongues can also produce the same wickedness if they are not controlled. An uncontrolled ship in a fierce storm will eventually capsize and be demolished. This is the point that James wants to get across that impure speech can defile the entire body. If we speak in sexual terms to others, then our bodies are going to become excited to the point that we will be unable to control the urges which accompany that type of speech. If we carry through with those urges, we could contract a disease and die. What would be worse for the Christian is to lose their testimony and give the opportunity to Satan’s people to rejoice over them.
It is also interesting to note in this verse that the tongue has the ability to set on fire the course of nature. The word “nature” is the word genesis. We see that the evil tongue will be passed from generation to generation unless someone in that lineage becomes saved and the unconstrained evil tongue is now brought into control. The words “set on fire” carries with it the meaning of uncontrolled fire, like a forest fire raging out of control. The person with the wicked tongue consumes the reputation of everyone in their path, just like the forest fire. The last part of that verse gives us the source of the evil tongue and that is hell itself, the final abode of the unsaved. At this time, the sin nature is the one that increasingly ignites the evil tongue. The more sinful it gets, the more it gives birth to sinful usage. The only thing that can stop that vicious progression is when a person becomes truly saved.
James 3:7 (KJV)
For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind:
In this verse we are reminded that every animal on earth is able to be tamed and to some extent there has been a taming of every type. In the circus we see elephants, tigers, lions, bears, which represent some of the most ferocious on earth doing tricks. At a snake show, I once had a Boa Constrictor on my shoulder and she enjoyed sitting there while others petted her. Even whales and eagles can be tamed and trained.
James 3:8 (KJV)
But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.
Tame - Subdue or control
James says that all kinds of wild beasts can be tamed but the little tongue cannot be tamed. The tongue is full of poison which is like deadly venom. (Rom 3:13-14 KJV) Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: {14} Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness:   The Romans verse gives us insight as to what is spewed from the venomous tongue. Unsaved man is unable to control the tongue. Is saved man any better? We can control the tongue a little better by means of the Holy Spirit indwelling us but we are still prone to allow that tongue to spew venom as wicked as the unbeliever. I know for I have done it myself. The hardest thing for any Christian to do is to control the tongue because words are the easiest thing to produce. Speech can be reactionary which will almost always exacerbate a volatile situation rather than mollify it. I have been in congregational meetings which had louder shouting than some of the bars I used to drink at before I was saved.
James 3:9 (KJV)
Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God.
Similitude - Likeness or image
Curse - Like placing someone under a curse
The most hypocritical part of our anatomy is the tongue. On one hand we are singing the beautiful hymns in worshipping the Lord and then on the other hand we are swearing at drivers for cutting us off. Man was created by God in the image of God, and we are no better than anyone else in this world. We have no right to curse at someone or to desire something to happen to them by placing a curse upon them. (1 John 4:20 KJV) If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? Cursing people and praising God sends seriously mixed signals to those around us. Do people on the job know you are a Christian? Have they heard you swear at work? There is no such thing in Scripture as a holy sinner.