James 3 - The Tongue

James 3:1 - "Not many ... should become teachers" James says, yet it seems that many want to teach or assume that they have something to teach. In some ways it makes me wonder even about blogging. So many folks with blogs. Should we assume to teach? Is there a difference between simply sharing one's thoughts and observations that assuming to be a teacher? I guess, but I the warning still applies. James warns that teacher will be "judged with greater strictness" so anytime we share anything we ought to do so with humility and care, mindful of the impact our words can have. We ought to share what we do in the hopes to help, but not assuming that we have something that others need to hear. The difference, as always, is not in the specific actions but in the heart behind them. Too many proclaim with great confidence that God is saying so and so or that God wants such and such out of someone. We ought to be careful and slow to claim that we know the will of God outside of what He has put in writing for all of us.

James 3:2-12 - It's in this context that James goes on to warn about the dangers of the tongue. He expounds from warning about what we teach to warning about what we say in general. What we say can do great harm and great good, and it is very easy to go from one to another. One who can truly control his tongue is an amazing man indeed, he says in verse 2.

We easily speak as if we know what God would have us say. We easily and carelessly throw our opinions around as if they do no harm. Certainly, we can become so careful that we say nothing and influence no one, and I wonder if I often fall into that trap, thinking that it is better to avoid the possibility of offense rather than speaking my convictions. James warns us, however, how easy it is to do harm with our words. In fact, he notes how man has tamed the most powerful creatures in nature, but still hasn't figured out how to control his tongue (James 3:7-8).

The tongue is a powerful tool, able to instruct in the ways of God and able to tear down those it is used against. Just like any other power tool we might use, we must respect it and use it with care or we can destroy not only the work we intend to do with it, but the people involved.

James 3:13-18 - One might call this a mini-primer on how to tell if a leader is of God or not. Is he seeking peace or seeking his own advancement? Is he gentle, open to reason, merciful, impartial and sincere? We must not judge those who claim to lead us in the Lord by the world's standards - monetary success, size of their following, praise of others - instead, we should look to his character.

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