Mistakes (chapter 3)

James said that not many of his readers would become teachers.  Teachers are held to higher standards.  However, most people make a lot of mistakes.  The only ones who don’t make mistakes in speaking have control of their tongues.  You can control the whole body of a horse by putting a bridle in its mouth.  This is just like the ships with their rudders.  You are able to control large sailing ships with a small rudder directed by a pilot.  Do you have control over your body?

Mistakes (Jas 3:2)

“All of us

Make many mistakes.

Anyone who makes

No mistakes

In speaking

Is a perfect person,

Able to keep

The whole body

In check

With a bridle.”

πολλὰ γὰρ πταίομεν ἅπαντες· εἴ τις ἐν λόγῳ οὐ πταίει, οὗτος τέλειος ἀνήρ, δυνατὸς χαλιναγωγῆσαι καὶ ὅλον τὸ σῶμα.

James said, “All of us (ἅπαντες) make many mistakes (πολλὰ γὰρ πταίομεν).  Anyone who makes no mistakes (οὐ πταίει) in speaking (εἴ τις ἐν λόγῳ) is a perfect person (οὗτος τέλειος ἀνήρ), able (δυνατὸς) to keep the whole body (καὶ ὅλον τὸ σῶμα) in check with a bridle (χαλιναγωγῆσαι).”  This is the only time that this word appears in the NT writings, here in the Letter of James, χαλιναγωγῆσαι, that means to lead with a bridle, bridle, curb, restrain, oar sway.  James pointed out that everybody stumbles or makes mistakes.  Anyone who didn’t make any mistakes would be a perfect person.  They were able to control their whole body with a bridle.  James liked this idea of using a bridle to keep the tongue and the whole body in control, since he seemed accustomed to handling horses.  Have you ever bridled a horse?

The power of Yahweh’s name (Jer 16:21-16:21)

“Therefore I am surely

Going to teach them.

This time

I will teach them

My power

With my might.

They shall know

That my name is Yahweh.”

Yahweh clearly proclaims that his name is powerful and mighty. If they did not understand it, he was going to teach them. There would be no mistakes. Yahweh was in charge.

False tongue (Sir 28:22-28:26)

“A false tongue

Has no power

Over the godly.

They will not be burned

In its flame.

Whoever forsakes the Lord

Will fall into its power.

It will burn among them.

It will not be put out.

It will be sent out against them

Like a lion.

Like a leopard,

It will mangle them.

As you fence in your property

With thorns,

So make a door.

Make a bolt

For your mouth.

As you lock up your silver,

So make balances

For your words.

As you lock up your gold,

So make scales

For your words.

Take care!

Do not err

With your tongue.

Otherwise you will fall victim

To one lying in wait.”

Sirach says that this false tongue does not have any power over the godly. They will not be burned by its flames. However, those who forsake the Lord will fall under the power of these false tongues. The fire will burn in them so that they will not be able to put out this fire. They will feel like they are being attacked by a lion or mauled by a leopard. You need to put a door and a bolt on your mouth just as you fence in your property with thorn bushes to keep you from false speech. You should weigh what you say and balance your words, just as you protect your silver and gold. Do not make mistakes with your tongue by falling victim to those who are waiting to catch you.