Read James 3
Therefore go, make disciples, baptize, and teach; but teachers beware. Lookout teachers, you will be judged more strictly!
What the heck! I am commissioned to make disciples, baptize, and teach but I better watch out if I do teach.
What is the danger in teaching? Consider the following excerpt from a recent sermon on the gift of teacher.
Consider two words you might want to remember as you study and especially if you feel called to teach—gift or no gift.
The first is exegesis. That is to extract the intended meaning from a text. We look at a text—a set of scriptures—and do our best to discern what the original author meant. We seek to understand the message that God conveys in this part of his word.
The next term is eisegesis. This is to take what we believe and try and make it fit into the scripture. We should consider James’s warning when we catch ourselves doing this. It is easy to do. We believe something or want to believe something so we make what we believe fit into a scripture in which it doesn’t belong.
Those with the gift of teacher are equipped to produce good fruit. They hunger to teach so others will hunger to learn, but be warned: Teachers will be judged more strictly.
So, what are we to do? Stick to the word of God. Use your experience to help explain but don’t make your experience superior to the world of God.
Embrace the full biblical witness. Don’t cherry-pick. Don’t declare something out of context because it does not fit into your personal context. Seek and you will find! God’s word will speak to you. You don’t need to coach it to say what you want.
Trust in the power of his word.
Now we come to one of the most challenging sections in this book and perhaps the Bible. The tongue is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person.
So, did God design us with a defective part?
Think back to the beginning of this letter. Think of the term double-minded. Think of being of God and of the world. Think of asking God for something then doubting he can deliver it. That dog don’t hunt.
We like to say that we are of God but live in the world, but sometimes the world is living in us. The litmus test for this is often the tongue.
James describes the tongue like a rudder. A small rudder turns a big ship.
The tongue is like a spark. The tongue is not a forest fire, but it can start one.
People have domesticated all sorts of animals but the tongue seems to be a wild beast. How do we deal with the volatility of our tongue—of what we say?
Let’s try this on for size.
Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.
Earlier, we looked at meeting other’s needs by listening to them first with being slow to speak the concomitant of this leading premise. Now let’s consider slow to speak on its own merits.
What if being slow to speak gives us a chance to restrain the wild beast that we speak with? We are counseled to take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ. What if between the time that we had the though and the time when we voiced it, there was a deliberate delay?
What if our tongue only praised God because we were very deliberate in what we said?
James used the term double-minded. Native Americans once used the term forked tongue. James is challenging us to have no dichotomy in our faith—that includes our speech.
We believe and our prayer life is evidence of that belief.
We have faith and our actions are evidence of that belief.
We have a heart for God and our words are not in conflict with our hearts.
I have asked that in your personal study and hopefully you have discussed this in your classes, that you consider the power of words. Think of these areas:
The words spoken over you.
The words spoken by you.
The words spoken by you with God’s Spirit.
The words spoken by you without God’s Spirit.
Don’t you want the words spoken over you to be filled with God’s Spirit?
Don’t you want the words spoken by you to others or over others to be filled with God’s Spirit?
No human can tame the tongue. We will say something that will get us off course or be the spark that starts a wildfire.
But we are not without hope or without help. If we will deliberately make time for the Spirit of the Lord to instruct us before we speak, our chances of saying only the things that bring glory to God go up significantly.
Once upon a time I taught cognitive restricting. That’s programspeak for thinking skills. One of the programs used a simple mantra: Stop and think!
In a community where good thinking skills were in short supply, Stop and think was the exact interjection require to give people a chance to make a good decision.
Let’s apply something similar here when it comes to the tongue: Stop and Listen!
In this case it’s not listening to the other person to meet their need. It’s listening to the Holy Spirit before we speak. It’s our best shot at taming the wild beast we call the tongue.