Summary: We can tame and control so many things, but our tongues, ooh, how difficult that is.
First Baptist Church
September 30, 2001
On the September 13th edition of the Christian television program "The 700 Club," Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson had the following conversation regarding the terrorist attacks —
Falwell said, "The ACLU’s got to take a lot of blame for this.
Robertson said, "Well, yes."
And Falwell continued, "And, I know that I’ll hear from them for this. But, throwing God out successfully with the help of the federal court system, throwing God out of the public square, out of the schools. The abortionists have got to bear some burden for this because God will not be mocked. And when we destroy 40 million little innocent babies, we make God mad. I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way--all of them who have tried to secularize America--I point the finger in their face and say "you helped this happen."
Robertson said, "Well, I totally concur."
Can you believe that these 2 Christian men, men who are respected by thousands of people made these statements? I hold Robertson as responsible as Falwell, because he just sat there and agreed. Doing nothing is almost as bad as saying what Falwell said. Can you imagine having lost loved ones in these attacks and a Christian leader says the attacks were the result of Americans who are gay, feminists, abortionists and involved in certain organizations? I may call certain lifestyles sinful, but they did not cause the terrorist attacks. If you were considering becoming a Christian and you heard that statement, it would make me think that we are no better than those terrorists.
Today we are looking at James 3, attempting to learn more about the power of our words — how they impact others and the damage they can create. Again, throughout this practical book, we seek to become more authentic Christians, as we pursue holy living, and holy living means that we must tame our tongues.
Chapter 3 begins with a warning to those who speak and teach in the church. James says, ‘not many of you should become teachers, for those who teach will be judged with greater strictness.’ That’s an intimidating statement by James. It really doesn’t make many of us want to teach if we know we will be judged more strictly.
During the time of the early church, the rabbis were the teachers. And rabbis were very highly esteemed. Often times they became legends during their lives and were so pampered that some began to feel that they were as important as the Word of God which they were supposed to be teaching. In essence, they were not teaching the Bible. As a result of their teachings, people were deceived and were led away from worshiping God to worshiping the teacher. James tells us this type of teaching, teaching that is done for your own benefit will lead to a stricter judgment. This doesn’t mean you can’t make a mistake, instead James is looking at the motivation and purpose behind what you are saying. If your heart is set in the right place and your desire is to teach and inspire children and adults to learn more about Jesus, then that is all God expects from you. It is a matter of heart.
So James reminds us that not all people are perfect, in verse 2 he tells us ‘everyone will make mistakes.’ In a sense that’s reassuring, because I know that I’m not perfect and while James says that someone who doesn’t make mistakes is perfect, the literal meaning of perfect in the Bible is mature. When you don’t make mistakes speaking it’s a result of your maturity, not that you are perfect.
How do we become more mature? In short, we do it by our willingness to be transformed by God into a new creation. Step one is our conversion. Step two is trying as best as we can to live a life that is filled with holiness. Obviously men like Falwell and Robertson make mistakes, and Falwell has since apologized for his statements. Remember from a few weeks ago where James says, "Be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry" (1:19). That’s a great beginning to growing in maturity.
But, James goes on to tell us that it really isn’t that easy to tame our tongues. And of course, James gives us some great illustrations. I don’t know about you, but I don’t go horseback riding. The last time I did, about 23 years ago, I had a horse that was much larger than I needed. Pride got in the way and I said ‘of course I can ride that horse.’ The horse was smarter than me and knew I was petrified. It didn’t help that I knew nothing about riding a horse, especially that I could control the horse by the bit in its mouth. Eventually the horse was moving pretty fast and heading for a tree, so I did the only thing I could think of. . . I jumped off the horse in full stride.