“Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment. 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. Now if we put the bits into the horses’ mouths so that they will obey us, we direct their entire body as well. 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. 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!”
---End of Scripture verses---
With great responsibility comes strict judgment (verse 1), so the warning is that we should not rush into teaching. The word of God is too pure, the truth too vital to salvation, and teachers wield influence that is too great to enter into teaching without the right motives and adequate preparation. It was common for unqualified men to aspire to the enviable status of public teacher for the prestige and authority they could wield. Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 1:7 about men “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.”
There comes a point in every Christian’s life when he/she should have the ability to teach others the truth (Hebrews 5:12), so James is not discouraging all forms of teaching. But, not everyone is cut out for publicly teaching the word of God, and that is certainly no disgrace. We all have important resources and talents to contribute to the Kingdom of Christ, and they are all vital to its prosperous functioning. Having said that, everyone who knows enough to be saved can teach others what they need to do to obey the Gospel and be added to the kingdom!
“We all stumble in many ways” (verse 2). But there is no other member like the tongue that can so readily trip us up and cause us to fall into sin. Teachers need to be especially careful with the words they choose, but this is a problem that “we all” struggle with. The bit is a small instrument in comparison to a horse and a rudder is a small instrument in comparison to a ship, but humans use them to control the animal and the vessel. If we can bridle our tongues, we demonstrate the ability to control “the whole body as well” (verse 2). Though, “the tongue is a small part of the body…it boasts of great things” (verse 5), both righteous and evil. We possess, with our tongues (words), the potential for great good and great harm.
When we learn to bridle that “pink devil” and allow it to steer us in paths of righteousness, we exhibit great self-control and demonstrate ourselves to be “perfect” (spiritually mature) (verse 2). But when our carnal minds direct that potent little demon, things can quickly get out of control. It takes just a small spark to set a whole forest of trees on fire (verse 5). Just so, a few thoughtless, vindictive, incendiary words can destroy friendships, relationships and congregations. Think twice before you speak once or you may set your world ablaze!
Much more to come on this subject…
Please read James 3:6-11 for tomorrow.
Have a great day!
- Louie Taylor