Summary: Showing how Christian people can be hurtful with their words or helpful.
Jas 3:1-12 NKJV My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment. (2) For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body. (3) Indeed, we put bits in horses' mouths that they may obey us, and we turn their whole body. (4) Look also at ships: although they are so large and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires. (5) Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles! (6) And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell. (7) For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. (8) But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. (9) With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. (10) Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so. (11) Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening? (12) Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh.
“Watch your tongue. It's in a wet place where it's easy to slip!”
James starts out by saying that not many should become teachers, knowing that teachers have a greater burden of speaking and teaching about the Word of God. In truth James is saying that we should not be too quick to step into the role of teacher, but first be sure that God is really calling you to become one who is to use his or her tongue to teach others about God. None of us is perfect, that is the point that James makes, we all slip up from time to time, he also points out that it does not take something big to cause problems. Talking about a ship that is controlled by a rudder which is in reality pretty small considering the size of the ship.l
It is a truth that if you are to teach the Bible, you can only hope to affect the lives of your students if you yourself live the scriptures yourself. You must be totally committed to Christ, morally upright and believe what the scriptures say. If you don't then you cannot hope to bring people into a knowledge of Jesus Christ.
Now the tongue as James says is a powerful thing, it can hurt or it can heal. Many things are said that are hurtful to others, and since we are Christian people it is our responsibility to not do things that are hurtful to others. James uses the example of a ship, it is a very large vessel, yet it is guided by a small item called a rudder. He also speaks of horses, we put a bit in the horses mouth and use it to make the horse move in the direction we want it to go. The tongue too is a small thing, yet it can be used in ways that cause great pain to others.
I have watched the events unfold in the Middle East this week, people have preached hatred against the United States and incited their followers to riots and then have used those riots to kill 4 of our embassy staff in Libya. There are those who say it is because of a movie that denigrates Mohammed their "prophet". I doubt that many people had seen this 15 minute "movie" which does indeed denigrate Mohammed. It makes him out to be somewhat of a weird person, but it is so poorly done it is actually quite stupid. I did go and watch it simply because I wanted to see what the fuss was about. Anyone who seriously believes what this thing says, is really having big problems in their own lives. I have studied the history of religion in our world, and it makes quite a different picture than what this thing does.
Of course part of the problem with good Christian people, is that we sometimes don't think about what we are saying. Sometimes we hear something from someone we know, or worse, get something from someone we know in an email, and pass it on without checking if it is true. We need to be more careful about our words than those around us, and we need to be sure that what we say is not hurtful to others. One of the worst things we can do is to pass on gossip, things we hear from someone that we think may be true. The problem with gossip is that the person who tells you that juicy tidbit, will probably be telling someone else something about you.