Dear brothers and sisters, not many of you should become teachers in the church, for we who teach will be judged more strictly. James 3:1
The right word spoken at the right time is as beautiful as gold apples in a silver bowl. The warning of a wise person is valuable to someone who will listen. It is worth as much as gold earrings or fine gold jewelry. Proverbs 25:11-12 (ICB)
The first 12 verses from the third chapter of the book of James are all about the tongue. However, the way today's verse, James 3:1, relates to the tongue isn't immediately obvious. Let's make some connections. Our verse mentions the church, so then, overall we are looking at the proper use of the tongue in the church of Jesus Christ. The inference here is that the improper use of the tongue has been an issue among the believers James is writing to. This is suggested by James 3:16, where it says, "For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind." And then James 4:1 speaks very directly about the misuse of the tongue in the church when it says, "What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don’t they come from the evil desires at war within you?" Finally, James 4:11A says, "Don’t speak evil against each other, dear brothers and sisters."
So how does the problem of the misuse of the tongue in the church fit in with the caution of verse 1 about becoming teachers in the church who will have a stricter judgment awaiting them? Let's try this on. Those who have been the teachers in the church have been a significant part of the problem. While we are not told this, it was likely the case and it suggests three things: First, they did not train those they were responsible for in the proper use of the tongue with everyone being accountable for how the tongue was employed. Second, they did not deal with the problem of tongue that had obviously become a widespread practice in the church. Third, the teachers themselves were engaged in the misuse of the tongue just like everyone else.
We need to be ones who only want the best for other people. This means that we must diligently pursue making sure our words are words that increase the quality of life of other people (encouragement and admonishment). Certainly, this needs to be true in the church and it must begin with church leadership. Perhaps the warning of verse one was not so much directed at those who might become teachers (leaders) but those who already were and were missing the mark. It is unfortunate that in society today far too many churches are characterized by quarrels and fighting and have become known for it in the world. Are we not blessed to be a part of church that is characterized by the the proper use of the tongue where unity and peace prevail and that we are known for it in the community around us? What a blessing to have leadership who are right on target with all this and are seeking to let God mold them and develop them further in the use of the tongue as they call us to do the same.
Lord, we pray for churches and their leaders everywhere. We pray that unity and peace will prevail as tongues and hearts are transformed. May your people everywhere be known for expressions of love, acceptance, and grace, instead of hate, rejection, and anger. Lord, protect and preserve our church in regard to the use of the tongue and help us wonderfully continue to flourish as a center of healing and restoration.
Posted on Tue, July 14, 2015
by Alan Porter