Summary: James is presenting practical Christianity. He has told us faith without works is dead. In other words a prayer that doesn't change our practices is powerless. Meeting Jesus changes us permanently and continually. This impacts our works and our words.
Intro: We dive in again to the depths of James practical teaching. He has given us tests and teachings on practical faith in a personal Jesus. Remember that James and Jesus want us to not only be born again of the word but have it to take root in our lives and cause us to trust God more fully and faithfully. James is giving some stern instruction but as a loving father and pastor.
In chapter three he is giving us warnings about the terrible danger and destructive power of our words. But after the warnings he will give us the warm teaching of a spiritual father to show us there is hope. Our mouths can be mastered!
Why would we say there is great danger in our words? Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never harm me. If you have ever been on the receiving end of a verbal stoning you know the untruth of this statement. If you are average you will spend 1/5 of your entire life talking. On an average day you engage in 30 conversations, in an average year you fill 66 books with 800 words each. It is obvious that there are many opportunities to bless or curse.
James talks more about the tongue than anyone else in the New Testament. You might remember Jesus saying “from the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” Why would James focus on the tongue? Isn’t he being legalistic and attacking the symptom instead of the source. Ancient Hebrews did not differentiate the member from the source. Proverbs 1.16 for their feet rush into sin, they are swift to shed blood.” 1 John 2.16 “lust of the eyes.” Once again James is not merely being legalistic but tying the sin to the source the heart.
James has taught us thus far that words are empty if they are not followed by works. The faith is evidenced by the works. However in each of the chapters of this letter James speaks of our words. So that we will not be mistaken that words don’t matter James addresses the mouth and its ability to either build or break.
If we watch our words we can get a gauge for our faith. Because our words drag up what is in the well of our hearts.
Aesop, the ancient storyteller, told this fable: Once upon a time, a donkey found a lion’s skin. He tried it on, strutted around, and frightened many animals. Soon a fox came along, and the donkey tried to scare him, too. But the fox, hearing the donkey’s voice, said, "If you want to terrify me, you’ll have to disguise your bray." Aesop’s moral: Clothes may disguise an ass, but his words will give him away.
We have such an opportunity to be agents of healing and reconciliation and the power often flows through our words. So we learned a few weeks that in light of faith words are cheap. However in light of our commission the task Jesus has given to His bride the church is to communicate healing, forgiveness, and reconciliation in Jesus’ name.
I. Prudent warning for teachers/preachers
James 3.1 “Don't be in any rush to become a teacher, my friends. Teaching is highly responsible work. Teachers are held to the strictest standards. And none of us is perfectly qualified.”
A) Make sure your motives are pure
The context of James warning is found in the great honor show to Rabbis or teachers in Jesus’ day. There were many ambitious to be recognized as great “teachers” of the position, privilege, and prestige.
“Everything they do is done for people to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; 6 they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; 7 they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by others.
James is warning people not to teach for public attention and approval. Instead we are to teach the hard truths of God’s word. Some had a great desire to be seen as more intelligent, wiser, than others. James is not trying to reduce the number of teachers/preachers but is challenging all who teach to be certain of the right calling and motivation.
B) Make sure it is ministry minded
Jeremiah 20.9 “I think to myself, "I can forget the LORD and no longer speak his name." But [his word] is inside me like a burning fire shut up in my bones. I wear myself out holding it in, but I can't do it any longer.”
Jeremiah felt that God had deceived and overcome him. He felt like he was always shouting messages of coming disaster, these announcements led to the people criticizing and ridiculing him constantly.