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A World of Iniquity


Paul Rose MA

Shimei was a man who had nursed a grudge against king David because he blamed him for Saul's death. When David's throne was taken by his son, Absalom, Shimei was quick to vent his anger towards king David by throwing stones at him and cursing him as he fled from Jerusalem.

Ultimately, Shimei's folly cost him his life. You can read about Shimei in 2 Samuel ch 16; 19; and 1 Kings ch 2.

This kind of behaviour is caused by something that James calls a world of iniquity.

...the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! 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. (James 3:5-6)

While it is a good thing to know about controlling our tongue, it is quite another thing to actually do it.

If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body. (James 3:2)


...the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. (James 3:8)

Since it is evidently impossible to control the tongue, should we, then, just give in to our passions and, like Shimei, give full vent to our feelings? No, we are told that we should try to control ourselves:

Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom. (James 3:13)

...if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. (James 3:14)

James tells us that we should not just try to control our words, but that we should seek to control the source of our words-our thoughts:

This wisdom [the 'wisdom' of bitter envying and strife-vs 14] descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work. (James 3:15-16)

At the start of chapter 4, James continues this theme:

From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? 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. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts. Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy? (James 4:1-5)

What can we do about this?

James tells us how we can turn our thoughts around:

God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up. (James 4:6-10)

When we draw nigh to God He will give us the wisdom that is from above:

...the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. (James 3:17)

The Lord Jesus Christ also taught on this subject:

...that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man. (Matthew 15:11)

 ...those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: These are the things which defile a man (Matthew 15:18-20)

Final thoughts

We could also try to put these teachings into practice.

Wisdom resteth in the heart of him that hath understanding: but that which is in the midst of fools is made known. (Proverbs 14:33)

The lips of the wise disperse knowledge: but the heart of the foolish doeth not so. (Proverbs 15:7)

The heart of him that hath understanding seeketh knowledge: but the mouth of fools feedeth on foolishness. (Proverbs 15:14)

© Paul Rose 2003 <>

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