Summary: The Bible makes the control & proper use of the tongue a matter of great importance. The tongue is far too prone to excess, perversion & pollution. But the Christian who gains control over the tongue can control his life as well.
TAMING THE TONGUE
The children in a prominent family decided to create for their father’s birthday a book of the family’s history. They commissioned a professional biographer to do the work, carefully warning him of the family’s "black sheep" problem: Uncle George had been executed in the electric chair for murder. The biographer assured the children, "I can handle that situation so that there will be no embarrassment. I’ll merely say that Uncle George occupied a chair of applied electronics at an important government institution. He was attached to his position by the strongest of ties and his death came as a real shock."
James has been pronouncing judgment on the separation between faith and works. In no area is this more likely than in the area of human speech. While Christians profess one thing with their speech, they often practice something quite different. Nothing is opened more by mistake than the mouth. John Calvin said "there is nothing more slippery or loose than the tongue."
The Bible makes the control and proper use of the tongue a matter of great importance. The general thought in chapter three is that another way to measure spiritual maturity is the believer’s power over his tongue. So James moves from idle faith to idle speech. Just as disturbing as those who have "faith" and no works are those who substitute words for works. Though the tongue is small, it is powerful and far too prone to excess, perversion and pollution. But the Christian who gains control over the tongue can control his life as well (CIM).
I. STRICTER JUDGMENT, 1.
II. CONTROL PRIORITY, 2.
III. DIRECTING POWER, 3-5.
IV. DEFINING POWER, 6.
The passage begins with a statement of the Christian teacher’ responsibility in verse 1. "Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment."
Again with the address my brethren James begins a new topic. The Jewish culture that predominated these churches highly prized the office of teacher. The word rabbi actually means my great one. The position of teacher offered respect, prominence, prestige and power and many sought its high honor.
Mixed motives can propel people to aspire to teach. But not many should become teachers. The reason set forth is that teachers incur greater responsibility before God and thus will incur a more severe standard of judgment. Teaching is a great and high calling but those who teach must understand their greater responsibilities and accountability due to their greater influence (Lk 20:47; Mt 23:1-33). Teachers must be careful what they say with both their words and life. They must use their tongue to share God’s truth and refrain from sinning with their tongue. Furthermore teachers must practice what they teach otherwise they are hypocrites. A doctor who neglects his health, an accountant who doesn’t balance his checkbook or an attorney in trouble with the law contradict what they stand for. Likewise Bible teachers who do not use their tongue to develop or build up their students in the truth contradict their reason for being.
Church leadership comes with responsibilities. You shouldn’t take a position of leadership in church unless you are prepared to be honest, pure, and loving in your lifestyle. Leadership is a privilege, and with privilege comes responsibility. God holds teachers of His truth doubly responsible because we who lead are in a position where we can either draw people toward Christ or lead them astray.
This is illustrated in the life of the famous author MARK TWAIN. Church leaders were largely to blame for his becoming hostile to the Bible and the Christian faith. As he grew up, he knew elders and deacons who owned slaves and abused them. He heard men using foul language and saw them practice dishonesty during the week after speaking piously in church on Sunday. He listened to ministers use the Bible to justify slavery. Although he saw genuine love for the Lord Jesus in some people, including his mother and his wife, he was so disturbed by the bad teaching and poor example of church leaders that he became bitter toward the things of God.
Indeed, it is a privilege to be an elder, a deacon, a Sunday school teacher, or a Bible club leader. But it is also an awesome responsibility. Let’s make sure we attract people to the Savior rather than turn them away. A good leader is one who knows the way, shows the way, and goes the way.
[THE TEACHER] The story is told of a teacher named Pestalozzi who lived in a Swiss village. He was highly esteemed by his peers and deeply loved by the children, whose lives were molded by the strength of his character. After he died, a statue of him was erected in the town. When the sculpture was unveiled, everyone was amazed to see how much it resembled the old master. The teacher was shown kneeling down, with a little child looking up into his face. But those who knew him best felt the sculptor had missed the dominant desire of the teacher–to have his students look up to the challenging heights of learning, and to God - not to him. So the statue was changed, and a second unveiling revealed the child peering toward heaven rather than looking at the teacher.