1 Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. 2 We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check. ~ James 3:1-2
In the epistle of James, the theme is the maturation of the believer's faith in the God of the Bible. In fact, in James 3, we are told the words we use give great evidence to whether we have maturing faith. James uses the words we use as another test of our maturing faith, because the genuineness of our faith inevitably will be demonstrated by our speech. There are not many things that reveal that our faith is mature as much as our words. James mentions the tongue in every chapter in this epistle. It is a dominant theme throughout this book.
It's been estimated that the average person speaks 18,000 words per day. That's enough to write a 54-page book! Supervising our words is essential, and we desperately need the help of God for the wisdom to know: when to speak, what to speak, how to speak and to whom we are to speak. Our words always speak louder than our religious rituals. Anyone can dress nicely and go to church, put a fish icon on the rear bumper of their car or listen to Christian music. But without a doubt, one of the greatest indicators of our spiritual maturity is our ability to have firm control over the words we speak.
In v.1 of today's text we read, "Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly."
Many admire the teaching position because of the honor, recognition, and power it brings. But, it is incredibly easy to become a spiritual tyrant. And, such self-seeking honor coming from ill-intended motives is to be foreign to any true follower in Jesus Christ. Since our speech is a mark of our maturing faith, those who teach the faith are scrutinized most closely. Of course, the Lord wants us to articulate His truth. But, we do well to master the fine art of choosing our words more carefully. Few speak words that are seasoned by grace, and, because of this, speaking on the behalf of God is truly a fine art.
We have a tremendous responsibility to God when we teach at any level. This is why Paul reminds us in 2 Timothy 2, "Be diligent to be approved of God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, because he is rightly dividing the word of truth." There is, rightfully, judgment and shame connected to teaching error.
In v.2 of today's text we read, "We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check."
The phrase "We all stumble" is a comprehensive word on the depravity of everyone on this earth. There is no person who does not sin. "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God." The word "stumble" means a moral lapse against God or a failure to do what is right. It is written in the present tense, meaning, we all do it in all kinds of ways, at all kinds of times. To stumble means we all fail to do what is right, and the tongue is one of the many means by which we fail.
When we entered into a personal relationship with God, He began the process of giving to us His heart. And, in time, He gives us new mouths and a new way to speak words which reflect His culture. This new way of talking is jeopardized in a continual fashion because it remains subject to our old way of thinking and speaking. This is James point here in v.2, and because of this, James says the only people who don’t sin with their mouth are perfect people, and, there are no perfect people on this earth.
Now, if in the process of the maturation of our faith, we can get to the place where we exercise self-control over what we say, we succeed. But self-control is not adamic to any of us for it is a fruit of the Spirit. So, to the degree that we die to ourselves and allow Christ to express Himself through our yielded lives, will be the degree to which we will mature.
And, the person who controls his words will also control his body, with all of its other impulses. Since the tongue responds more immediately, more quickly, and more easily, to sin, if it were controlled, the slower-responding parts would also be controlled, because the means of divine grace applied to the greater are then also applied to the lesser.
Finally, teachers should be conscious of the weight and potential influence of what we say because words lie at the heart of our teaching ministry. To have an unreliable tongue is likely to pro- vide a destructive model for those who are taught. The potential for multiplication of influence requires an enormous amount of discernment that takes the measure of both responsibility and opportunity into account.