PJ’s Daily Devotional for Tuesday, April 11, 2017.
Who has influenced your life and way of thinking? Are you thankful for your teachers?
James addresses a very important issue: being thankful for our teachers because they do an impossible task for us!
Listen to what the Scriptures teach, “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!” (James 3:1-5).
Look at the natural flow of what the Bible says in the above passage:
- Be warned that being a teacher is a serious job for you will judged with greater strictness.
- But recognize that all people (including the subject of this conversation, teachers) stumble in what they say. If a person doesn’t stumble, he or she is perfect and has control over his or her whole body. (An assumed thought: only Jesus is perfect!)
- The tongue (the primary tool of a teacher) has a way of getting the whole ship off course or setting a whole forest on fire. It is important to bridle the tongue, but an impossible task apart from the Holy Spirit.
Do you see it? Do you see how James is dealing with some specific issues in the church, not just our everyday use of our tongue (though the principles apply), but how there were people most likely wagging their tongues at the teachers (James oversaw the Jerusalem church, see Acts 15:13-21) and he was telling them to get a handle on their critique and ridicule of the early church teachers because there was only one perfect teacher: Jesus. All human teachers, are going to be imperfect, including James, and yet knowing we will be imperfect the teachers still took on the high calling of being a teacher. Teachers are willing to face the “greater strictness” of God’s judgment, not because we think we can get it right every time, but because God has called us to it and God gives grace to that which God expects imperfect people to accomplish.
So often we isolate verse 1 and put it on plaques for our Sunday School Teachers or for a Christian teacher at school to honor them for being brave and generous. And then we take verses 2 forward and focus on how we all stumble, the struggles with our flesh, our tongues, are just seemingly insurmountable. It is appropriate to use verses 2-12 to talk about the dangers of the flesh and tongue, but don’t neglect the context, James is crying out for fair treatment of the teachers, even when they misspeak or make mistakes.
A person that wordsmiths and actively looks for the errors of the teacher is a stumbling block in the body of Christ! That type of person robs the teacher of their freedom in Christ and causes the teacher to teach from a place of fear of man, rather than the fear of God. I can imagine the very real circumstances of the early Jerusalem church, filled with experts in the law, Pharisees and their disciples, just waiting and looking for a way to jump on their specific concerns regarding the new covenant. Like a cat waiting to pounce. We know that many wanted the dietary laws to be upheld, the practice of circumcision to be continued, and many of the man-made rules and expectations of the synagogue (the way their parents and grandparents did it!) to be carried on, regardless of Jesus and the teachings of these upstart apostles! James is calling them to submit themselves to these teachers and not disqualify them just because they were human. James is calling them to stop being a hostile crowd and start being a peaceful congregation.
Keep reading in the book of James and see that James 2:13-18 calls you to instead “show [your] works in meekness of wisdom” because, “where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. . . And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace to those who make peace.”
Be thankful for your teachers, especially those who teach and model the Word of God to you.