Summary: Taming our tongues
We have dynamite in our mouths.
Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me. You may have heard children yelling that to one another across the school yard. I’ve even said it myself. But you know the longer I’ve lived my life the more I see that this saying is a lie. Words do hurt. In fact words can be as destructive as any action.
That came home to me when I went with my sister up to Ottawa to help her move. As we were in the car together we reminisced about old times. I asked her if she remembered the times when my brother and I teased her and called her names. You know children can be very cruel. We called her dish face because her face was a little flat. We called her pirate’s treasure because she had a sunken chest. And on and on it went. When I reminded Pearl of those things we said I’ll never forget the look that came on her face. Do you know the term, “if looks could kill”? That’s what came on my sister’s face. She said, in a very scary voice, one that made me nervous being in the small confined space of a car with her, that she would have killed us if she could have gotten away with it. Words do matter. They do hurt. But on the other hand words have the power to bless and heal as well.
We have dynamite in our mouths. Our tongues have the power to destroy or bless. In our passage this morning we will see the power of the tongue in three areas and how in each of these areas the tongue can either destroy or bless. Let’s look at James 3:1-12 (read passage).
We have dynamite in our mouths. The first power the tongue has is this: The tongue has the power to teach. Look at verse one. The tongue can teach others and when you have the position of a teacher you have power. When I was going to teachers' college one of our profs clued us in about the power of, " the teacher said so ..." Using that power we could send our students home and get them to get all sorts of goodies for the class room. The kids would say to their parents, "We have to bring in egg cartons for class. The teacher said so."
But it's not only elementary teachers that have power, Bible teachers have power as well. If you hold a position as a Bible teacher, you hold a sacred responsibility. We can effectively close the door to heaven on the face of our students. I remember when I was child attending Sunday school class and one of my classmates asked the teacher a question about hell. I remember the teacher saying that we didn't have to worry about hell because God was too loving to send anyone there. That teacher was teaching heresy. That kind teaching can easily keep people from repenting. Jesus said very clearly there is a hell and we need to be saved from it.
It's no wonder this verse says that we teachers will be judged more strictly. Jude talks about how God views false teachers and their eternal fate in Jude 13: "They are wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shame; wandering stars, for whom blackest darkness has been reserved forever."
It is a serious thing to teach the Word of God. We can't do it to gain recognition and approval. If that's why you're teaching then you should quit. We can't be presumptuous and think we know more than everyone else. We need to teach from an attitude of deep humility and dependence.
Now saying all this you may be thinking, "I never want to teach." But teaching, real Spirit-filled, biblical teaching, is one of the greatest needs of the church. You see even though false teaching can keep people out of heaven, true teaching can help people through the gates of heaven. It may very well be when you are asked if you want to teach the youth class that you feel inadequate and afraid. But you know that's a good attitude to start with. Let me give you some suggestions about how to teach the Bible so that it brings life, not death.
First, pray. The more you depend on God in your teaching, the more God can do through you. A young seminary student was given his first preaching assignment. He came to the pulpit with a beautiful manuscript and was ready to wow the parishioners. But the message was not well received. His stories fell flat and no one laughed at his jokes. He left the pulpit dejected and humbled. As he went to his seat, a wise old saint came up to him and said quietly, "If you had gone up to the pulpit with the same attitude as you came down with, you would have preached a much better sermon."