The Tongue: James 3:1-12
Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment. James 3:1 (NASB)
James is not denying that the call to teach or preach the Word of God is a noble one. Rather, what we have here is a warning, and one with contemporary relevance, that teaching should not be treated as a "cheap calling".
It is not something we do simply because we like to talk and assume we have something special to say.
The scriptural warning that teachers will receive a stricter judgment is one that needs to be heeded. This warning is not meant to discourage those who have a genuine ministry in teaching, rather, it should place on us the burden of responsibility and accountability for the things we say and do on behalf of God.
Teaching God's word carries the same responsibility as bringing up children. It is a calling that should be handled with due diligence and care. Jesus said:
"but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea." (Matthew 18:6 NASB)
In short, God's judgement comes on those who fail to handle with love and respect those they are supposed to bring up in the way of the Lord.
James does not limit his admonition to teachers. All believers, irrespective of calling or gifts, have a responsibility to control their tongue.
James uses the illustration of bits in a horse's mouth and the rudder of a ship to portray the power of the tongue. Incidentally, horses and ships were the two most power and fastest means of transport in those days. Our words are powerful and as James says can "set on fire the course of life " (James 3:6).
Homes, churches, friendships, and work places can all be destroyed by the power of the tongue (James 3:8-10).
James however does not leave us without a solution to this potential dilemma.
"Does a fountain send out from the same opening both fresh and bitter water?
Can a fig tree, my brethren, produce olives, or a vine produce figs? Nor can salt water produce fresh" (James 3:11-12 NASB).
The source of a fountain determines the end product just as a tree determines the type of fruit you get from it. Jesus put it this way.
The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart. (Luke 6:45 NASB)
To change your words you need to deal with your heart. The heart controls the tongue just like bits control a horse and the rudder a ship.
Take time today and examine your heart before the Lord. Are you full of bitterness and hurt? Is there a mischievous streak within you? Do you secretly delight seeing people fall out with each other? Do you get upset when people correct you? Do you envy the success of other people? Is your ambition always to get the most recognition?
If you answer affirmative to any of these questions then you might have found the reason for your unruly tongue.
Take your heart before the Lord and you will observe the conduct of your tongue change for the better.