Summary: Christians may unconsciously destroy their church. Often, they perform this nefarious deed with the best of intentions. James warns us to review our actions and our attitudes so that we will not destroy our church or dishonour the Lord.
HOW TO DESTROY YOUR CHURCH
“Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.
“How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.”
The title of the message may cause you to respond that there is no need for a primer for the destruction of a church. Certainly, secularists and bureaucratic functionaries do a pretty good job of assaulting the Christian Faith, with some success at destroying churches and the faith of God’s people. However, I contend that professed Christians do a far more effective job of destroying churches than have all the antagonists we would usually suspect of such efforts.
Few of us who name the Name of Christ have ever lived up to the responsibilities imposed by the name we bear. Our Lord commanded us to love one another, and though we know the words, we don’t know the melody. We still go to church, instead of being the church. We are careful to live by rules trumpeted by church leaders, all the while ignoring obedience to the few commands of the Master. We are comfortable saying prayers, but we don’t pray. James’ concern is that Christians can become more like the world than like the Father. Because we live in a world of evil, without diligence, the people of God will more likely reflect the world in which we live than reflecting Him who is our Father.
Throughout the Word of God are warnings against abusing speech. Though we occasionally encounter these passages, we don’t often embrace them. Paul warned in the Ephesian encyclical, “Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving” [EPHESIANS 5:4]. These are sins usually associated with speech for which few make any excuse. However, the same Apostle warned, “You must put … away … anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk” [COLOSSIANS 3:8]. Here, he named sins that are all associated with the mouth. The warning iterates his caution in another place. “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear… Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamour and slander be put away from you, along with all malice” [EPHESIANS 4:29, 31].