Peninsula Community Church
James – the Power of the Tongue
James 3:1-5 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!
We are finally moving to chapter three of our study. Once again James returns to a discussion of the tongue and the power of our words. He does this I believe because there is power in our words to bring life and death. This is confirmed by the writer of Proverbs who states, The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit (Proverbs 18:21).
In this particular discussion James begins this discussion by interjecting the idea that teachers will be judged with greater strictness. For that reason he speaks to those who desire to be teachers. He states that, Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. In James day there were many who wanted to be teachers or at least they wanted to present themselves as teachers. They often had a genuine desire to educate people but while this was a noble desire, James reminds them that they will be judged at a greater degree.
We also must remember that we influence others by our words. We will also be held accountable for these words as well.
The fact is teachers must use their tongue to share truth and as godly teachers we must teach God’s truth. The concern today is the same as it was in James’ day. Teacher’s must not sin with their tongue by way of gossip, antiChristian rhetoric, false judgment and so forth. They must preach the fulness of the Word and the entire gospel and not pick and choose which parts of the gospel they will teach. Teachers must also practice what they teach; otherwise, they fall into the sin and deception of hypocrisy. James also reminds us that teachers are not the only ones who are tempted toward sin. Every Christian must admit “We all stumble in many ways” (James 3:2). It seems that sins of the tongue are at the top of the list. A measure of one’s spiritual maturity is one’s ability to control their tongue. He insinuates however that even the mature in Christ will slip up and at times say things that prove that we continue to need to grow in Christ and submit our tongue to God’s ways.
As a teacher, we face judgement from two sources. We will be judged by God himself as we will be held accountable for what we teach and to whom we teach. Not only will we be judged when we stand before God but we will also be judged in this life as well. When we teach we will either inform or we will confuse our listeners. We will challenge people in their growth in Christ or we can cause them to become stagnate and be stunted. Now we must note that while this is true we cannot be accountable for how people receive the word we speak as there are many issues that exist to prevent people from receiving the intent of our message. It could be the hardness of their heart. It could be that they do not like the one speaking so they shut them off. It could be that they are not interested in real growth so while they listen to what is being spoken they do apply the word into their life.
Second we will be judged by others. This is most interesting as when one knows they will be judged by others there is a tendency for them to be more accountable and honest. There is also a judgment that will come from people that will be unjust and will be filled with anger and bitterness. This is the tough one. To be judged unfairly is painful and causes emotional pain. We must guard our hearts against being judgmental of others. It is in this arena that James states that we must show mercy over judgment.
Then James makes the statement that we all stumble in many ways, and if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man. This again has a two pronged force to it. First, for those who are teachers we must attempt to guard our words and speak the truth in love so as not to misspeak or say the wrong thing. Second, the idea here is that no one has reached the point of perfection in what they may say. There will always be the possibility of saying things that are hurtful, crude, inappropriate, gossip, and judgmental. It is unfortunate but I have sat with some pastors and Christian leaders who have caused me to blush with their language, their jokes, their criticism of others, and their gossip. Their message in the pulpit did not match their life off the platform.
Another thought is that the tongue has power but man struggles to control the tongue. Here James deals with the power of the tongue and the inability of man to control the tongue. It is a rare person who can control their tongues without any slip up or mistake in their speech. I am sure you may have heard the term “loose lips sink ships”? This phrase was used by the government during WWI. During the war, enemy spies would hang around British pubs to hear loose talk about ship movements. Sailors would talk about their next assignments, where they were going, when they were leaving. This was all vital information for the German submarines. Just a few careless words remind people of the terrible devastation that could result from words ill spoken, “Loose lips, sink ships.” The problem of careless talk was so great that the government began to put up posters like the example I have on the overhead. As believers if we are not careful we will have loose lips that destroy relationships and cause division in the body of Christ.
Would you like to have a control z function on your tongue?
Listen to what the Bible has to say about the words we speak. Proverbs 12:18 Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. James 1:26 If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.