(Today’s post by James Rooks)
James 3 begins with a warning that teachers are judged more strictly and rightly so. Look at the influence that they yield. People follow teachers even if what they say is wrong. Look at school systems where evolution and big bang are taught as facts/theories. Students follow along because the teacher said so. In the past week, we’ve heard from a preacher / motivational speaker out in Texas say that we shouldn’t obey God to please God, we should do what makes us happy which will in turn make God happy…and thousands of people in attendance applauded. Why? Teacher said so.
I don’t believe the reach of this warning is limited to people with the title “teacher” in the formal sense, whether it be school, Sunday school, small group, preacher, etc.. The way that Matthew 28:19-20 reads, we (believers) are ALL called “to make disciples of all nations..teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” If we are discipling others to follow Jesus, then we are also teaching them. As a result, the warning also applies to us. We think first of the more visible ‘teacher’ types, but we are in the same boat. Welcome aboard.
The tongue is a powerful thing, and one that has yet to be tamed, except by only one man (Christ). When we think teacher, we also think of telling people what they should do and how they should live. We think of someone who has the answers: the right thing to say at the right time. James 3 sets the playing field level and basically shows us that our tongue is going to let us down. Verse eight says that “no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison.” The tongue is paralleled with horse bits, ship rudders, and sparks that start huge forest fires.
In the end, if we rely only on what we say to display wisdom, we are going to fail and fail miserably.
So with the warnings, we’re left with the question of how are we all, as teachers, to be effective? By understanding and following the ways of wisdom and also by being able to spot a counterfeit.
Verse 13 answers this well. “Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior, his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom.” Wisdom isn’t displayed in what we say, but in what we do. True wisdom leads to action. Wisdom from above is “first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy”.
Let us seek to reflect wisdom, not just in what we say, but in how we live. Wisdom that doesn’t come from heaven is lumped into a three word description: earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. Fruits that follow are: envy, selfish ambition, disorder, and every evil practice.
How can we live today in a way that displays wisdom from above? Are we truly leading others toward Christ, or are we letting the things we say lead to destruction?