What does James 3:11 mean?
ESV: Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water?
NIV: Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring?
NASB: Does a spring send out from the same opening both fresh and bitter water?
CSB: Does a spring pour out sweet and bitter water from the same opening?
NLT: Does a spring of water bubble out with both fresh water and bitter water?
KJV: Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter?
NKJV: Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening?
Verse Commentary:
James continues making his case that human beings—including Christians—are not naturally in control of our tongues. If we were, how would it be possible for us to use our words both to praise God and to curse people created in His image? James stated what seems obvious to us now: It shouldn't be that way.

It's not just that we "shouldn't" use our words for both blessing and evil. It's that it is contradictory. It's a conflict with the nature we're supposed to be relying on as saved, born-again believers. James illustrates this with the example of a spring. Nowhere in nature will you find bubbling up from the ground a mixture of salt and fresh water. It just doesn't happen. Salt water and fresh water come from two completely different sources—just as words of blessing and words of cursing come from two completely different natures.

In the same way, a single mouth shouldn't pour out both blessing and cursing. The fact that our mouths do exactly that is evidence that we're broken.
Verse Context:
James 3:1–12 discusses talking. This passage continues James's big idea that faith and works go together. Specifically, that what one does (or says) proves what they really believe. Those who trust God, who really believe Him, begin to be changed in their speech, as well. And yet, everyone still stumbles. The tongue is untamable, capable of great destruction. In fact, James calls it a fire and a restless evil that is itself set on fire by hell. We need to be changed. It shouldn't be that we praise God and curse the people made in His image. And yet, as fallen people, we do just that.
Chapter Summary:
Human words are powerful. Our tongues are small, but they are capable of wreaking great havoc. Any person who could perfectly control their words would be in perfect control of their entire bodies. Instead, as sinful human beings, our tongues are untamable. Our words are fire, igniting the entire course of our lives. Blessing God and cursing people should not come out of the same mouth; we are corrupted. James concludes the chapter by exploring what it means to be truly wise. True wisdom is not necessarily found in those with the most education, money, or friends. Rather, wise people can be spotted living wisely in humility, participating in good works, enjoying peace, singleness of purpose, and gentle lifestyles.
Chapter Context:
What does it look like to lead a life characterized by trusting God? Chapters 1 and 2 introduced the idea of how one's actions demonstrate the reality of their beliefs. Here, in chapter 3, James continues to explore this effect. In this passage, he talks about our words and heaven's wisdom. The one with perfect faith in God would have perfect control over his or her words. Worldly wisdom—envy and selfish ambition—with its me-first mentality is a source of disorder and evil in the world. God-trusting, self-sacrificing heavenly wisdom is the source of peace, gentleness, mercy and, ultimately, righteousness. Chapters 4 and 5 will make specific practical application of these thoughts.
Book Summary:
The book of James is about specifically understanding what saving faith looks like. How does faith in Christ reveal itself in a believer's life? What choices does real trust in God lead us to make? Those are the questions James answers. Most scholars believe the writer was Jesus' half-brother, a son born to Joseph and Mary after Jesus' birth. James may not have come to believe Jesus was the Messiah until after the resurrection. Eventually, though, he became one of the leaders of the Christian church in Jerusalem. This is possibly the earliest-written of all the New Testament books, around AD 40–50. James addresses his letter to Jewish Christians scattered around the known world.
Accessed 5/18/2024 7:06:07 PM
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