Have you ever heard a speaker or teacher who had a lot to say, but actually talked too much? Aren't we a little weary of teachers who teach as if they mastered it?
Job had the same problem. He's confronted by God at the end of the book, chapter 40, around there, and he says, I will make no reply. I lay my hand upon my mouth. That's another way of saying, I have been talking way too much. Isaiah, a great prophet, faithful prophet, encounters the living God and he says, I am a man of unclean lips. It's possible for teachers and speakers to think that their job is talking, so they do it, a lot. The real responsibility of the teacher, especially a Bible teacher, is to communicate truth. It's a serious responsibility. In James chapter 3, God gives a warning to those who want to become teachers. But watching what we say is not just for teachers. The average person speaks between two and ten thousand words a day.
That means we have thousands of opportunities daily to encourage others or tear them down. Today, Stephen challenges you to think before you speak in this message called runaway tongue. There is a common household plant used for decorative purposes. You probably have one in the home, large green leaves, a little hint of lime green bordering inside the leaf and a touch of yellow called the Difenbachia. What many people aren't aware of is that the Difenbachia's leaves are somewhat toxic. If a child or animal were to chew on one of its leaves, their tongues would temporarily swell up and it would cause an inability to speak. Because of that fact, the plant has the nickname dumb cane.
The effects of its leaves cause the prevention or they cause the prevention of someone from speaking. I thought that's an interesting plant. In fact, following the service, the ushers are going to hand everybody a leaf or two to use this week in case of emergency. Maybe we all ought to own a plant or two and put those into practice.
Who knows? Experts in the field of speech estimate that the average person creates about 12,000 sentences a day composing about 50,000 words. If that were put into print, it would make a small paperback of about 150 pages every day. I wonder how many of us would want to read from those paperbacks at the end of each day. If we had a tape recorder that followed you around this past week and recorded everything you said, I wonder how many would want it replayed in public.
A tape recorder is a rectangular piece of plastic that plays cassettes. J. Vernon McGee, the former Bible teacher now with the Lord with a strong Texas accent said, you know, it takes a baby two years to learn how to talk and then 50 years to learn how to be quiet. The truth is we never do get it under control, do we?
We never master it. And as I prepared to preach and as we will begin to expound on the text of scripture related to the tongue, there are a few subjects that I know that I'll begin to preach about and immediately we all find ourselves guilty. If I were to get up and say, I'm going to begin to preach on the subject of prayer, every one of us would know immediately we don't do it enough. If I get up and talk about the tongue, all of us are going to immediately know we do it, use it too much. Nonetheless, we need the conviction and the challenge. The Bible refers to the power of the tongue to heal, to encourage, to edify, to teach, to support, to exhort, to pray, to praise.
But this little two ounce slab of muscle and nerve can also do the exact opposite, can it not? In fact, the first temptation came from the words crafted by a serpent. The very first sin following the fall of Adam and Eve was a sin of speech where Adam is accusing God of giving him Eve to be his wife and it's gone downhill from there.
The Bible refers to the power of speech to corrupt, to pervert, flatter, slander, gossip, blaspheme, complain, curse, seduce, destroy, lead astray, and that's just for starters. I think it's interesting, every time I go to the doctor and I went a few weeks ago because I had gotten sick, even though I had, in case you're wondering, taken my flu shot, the first thing the doctor looked at was my tongue. Why? Because the tongue often reveals deeper issues, deeper problems. Frankly, the tongue is nothing more than a little tattletale, isn't it? As I studied to prepare it and I came across that thought that this is really nothing more than a tattletale, I immediately think of that moment in my life where my older brother tattled on me, even though I was undeserving of that kind of treatment. This will date me with the patriarchs, but my three brothers and I went to a school that could actually deliver spankings. Now, can you imagine that? How many of you can remember that?
A lot of old people in here, right along with me. Imagine, in that era, some of you younger guys would go, you've got to be kidding. It'd be a lawsuit. That's true, it would be now, but my parents have the rule, I've shared this with you in the past, that if we got a spanking, this is to encourage all of you parents and to the chagrin of all of you young people. They had the rule that if we got a spanking at school, we got a spanking where? Well, your parents were as cruel as mine. Can you imagine, though, a time where parents would actually automatically side with the teacher rather than the student? What kind of horrible world was that?
Well, that's the one I was raised in. Well, one afternoon, I was taken by my fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Jolly, who was not very, at least at that point in time, I actually loved her, she was a wonderful teacher, took me up the stairs to the library and to get a spanking. She had obviously not developed the fruit of the spirit, which is patience and I was going to pay for it. But the bigger problem was that my older brother saw me going up the stairs and knew I was not checking out books. And so my entire bus ride home, I pled with him, don't tattle on me, please don't tattle on me, don't tell. And he promised he would not. You see, my school did not automatically tell the parents about the spanking.
Again, another error. So the possibility existed, they would not find out. And that was at the top of my prayer list that afternoon. But at the dinner table, we're sitting around eating and my older brother, Danny, said, Stevie has something he needs to tell you. So he could keep his promise of not tattling, but open the door. And they looked at me, I had nothing to share but my testimony, which I was ready to give. That led to a phone call to Mrs. Jolly and that led to a great tribulation with no rapture in sight. My parents had another rule and that was if you got a spanking at school and did not confess it at home, you got a spanking from both parents. I learned that from Hitler too. So I got three spankings that day, which was actually a good day compared to others I experienced as a little boy. Listen, nobody likes a tattletale, right?
I've forgiven Danny who is now Daniel a pastor and he loves the Lord and he's grown in his faith. The tongue is really nothing more than the messenger that delivers the mail composed by the heart. It simply tattles on the heart. That's why we have to think heart when we see tongue. When we read the word tongue, think deeper issues.
So we can handle this text that we'll handle in a little bit and deal with it tritely and I've found it treated that way many times and we all leave with 10 resolutions for the tongue. This is really about the heart. Solomon would say it this way, a wise man's heart guides his mouth. Proverbs 16, 23. Jesus Christ said in Luke 6, verse 45, out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. You see, we all have the same speech impediment.
It's called sin. And nowhere is our sin put on display any more than with our mouths. So it is really no surprise that as James deals with the subject of progressing in maturity, he is going to address the issue of the tongue. So if you have read Bibles, there's a letter from James, turn to chapter 3 and we'll begin James writings and in this first session we'll just call this speech therapy for the tongue, the tongue of the saint, that is those who've believed, who follow Christ and we need help with it. And it begins with a rather serious caution. Look at verse 1. Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment. This is actually an imperative, one of over 50. You could put an exclamation point at the end of this verse. He's saying we could render it a little more woodenly. Don't be so quick to be a teacher!
Kind of an interesting way to start, isn't it? I believe James is specifically relating this caution to teaching biblical truth. His caution could apply certainly to teachers in general because of the responsibility.
But why is teaching as it relates to truth, the truth of scripture, under such scrutiny? And why would teaching in general be something that he would caution anyone from pursuing? A teacher deals with words.
His instrument is speech. The agent is the tongue by which he fashions words, lessons, instruction, which ultimately influence lives. Teachers deal with concepts, ideas. They handle pliable minds. They reveal doctrines that will influence and shape the thinking of those under their charge.
Now let me back up for a minute or two and expound on the problem I believe James is addressing and the context from which this comes. The word for teacher here comes out of the context of the Jewish synagogue, carried with it the teacher, the term, a great deal of admiration and respect. The New Testament teacher, the New Testament pastor, was in some ways inheriting the legacy, the heritage of the rabbi. The rabbi was a Jewish teacher who had given his life to studying the law, its application to life. He was engaged in teaching others. It was more than likely the most highly influential position in the Jewish community, probably second only to the Sanhedrinists, those judges that occupied the Supreme Court of Israel.
One Old Testament scholar commenting on James' caution here said the rabbi was treated in a way that was most likely to ruin his character. Everywhere he went he was called teacher or rabbi. The word actually means my great one, great one. Can you imagine going throughout the day and everybody who says hello to you says, hello, great one? Tanimad and Arvin are just saying, you're the greatest.
You're the greatest. That would ruin anybody. During the lifetime of James, it was held that a man's duty to his rabbi exceeded his duty to his parents. They taught that because they believed that the parents only brought that person into the life of this world, but his teacher brought him into the life of the world to come. The first was temporary, the second eternal. In fact, if a person's parents and their teacher, I found this interesting, were captured by an enemy and held for ransom, they believed that the teacher was to be ransomed first. See, now you move from the synagogue into the life of the developing church for the believer and in those early years and James is writing perhaps the first letter in the New Testament.
He's living, he's stepping over the threshold as it were of this transition period. Teachers in the Christian church no longer have to be rabbis. They weren't required to have the training to teach or to speak from the floor of the Christian assembly. Paul would later challenge Timothy to take his role seriously, to work hard in the word so that he correctly interprets the scriptures. So you add to this given admiration and respect for the teacher to the fact that the synagogue had kind of an open platform policy for visiting teachers, both Paul and Jesus would take advantage of that.
Now you have in the New Testament church, the assembly still often meeting on the Sabbath, that would transition by Acts 20 to the Lord's day, the Sabbath being assigned to Israel, the Lord's day being part of the new covenant for the assembly and we would worship, in fact we could worship every day, chosen by the early church to be Sunday which is the Lord's day because of his resurrection. So you have this open policy in this transition period and it'd be very easy for someone to step forward who was motivated by the wrong thing. He desired the admiration. He wanted the respect. He wanted to speak rather than listen. He loved the attention given to the great ones.
He wanted to be one of the great ones. James effectively says, hold on, you want the platform? Okay. But have you thought about the penalty?
What's the penalty? Knowing that as such, we will incur a stricter judgment. You want respect? Have you considered that kind of responsibility?
Have you taken on the role because you want admiration? Don't overlook this coming day of accountability. And so he says, as he opens with a serious caution, let not many of you become teachers, my brethren.
Why? Knowing that as such, we will incur a stricter judgment. That's future tense, by the way, used here. We will in the future incur a stricter judgment. James is referring to the Bema Seat, the judgment seat of Christ before which every believer will one day stand not to determine whether or not he'll get into the kingdom but how and where he'll serve in the kingdom. The unbelievers will be judged at a totally entirely different event called the Great White Throne where they will be judged and cast into the lake of fire, Revelation chapter 20. The believer will be judged at the judgment seat of Christ, the judgment basically involving the evaluation of what he did in the name of Christ. Sin won't be the issue, although that which we didn't do for his glory would certainly be seen or exposed as sinful.
All of it paid for already by Christ. Second Corinthians chapter 5 goes into detail on that. So James is delivering the news which was surprising and in fact it's good to know for those of you, including myself, who teach that those who do are held to a higher standard which follows consistently with New Testament texts that give us a higher qualification for those who will teach.
So pastors, youth leaders, Sunday school teachers for children, adult teachers, Bible study leaders, itinerant preachers, missionaries, church leaders who handle the word, Bible conference speakers, radio, television, Bible teachers, Christian counselors, and the list could go on. Basically anyone who serves the word of God to others and communicates his truth to students are going to get a double dose, a closer look, a stricter judgment. Every word will be judged not only for its delivery but its accuracy, its effect, its tone, its purpose, its spirit, its motive, its influence. Do you know what this means? This means that teaching is the most dangerous occupation on the planet.
Do you really want to do it? I appreciate the fact that James, let me show you this, he changes the pronoun. This will be a little tedious. We'll get to it quickly but I want you to notice this. He changes the pronoun.
It's first person plural. Did you notice we, the word we, let not many of you become teachers, my brother, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment for we all stumble in many ways. James is not saying, now let me tell you something, all you out there are going to incur a stricter judgment.
No, he's holding himself in with this company. He's saying, I'm in this too and I find that very encouraging. Not just all you but us and so am I. As I study this, I'm not just preaching this to you who teach, I'm preaching this to myself. I understand that by standing here and opening the word, I am inviting the indictment of God upon my life that this very act will be evaluated. This is especially dangerous for me at this moment too. I knew when we started James that James 3 verse 1 was coming.
I was hoping for another snow day. Maybe you're out there thinking, well, I just volunteered to teach an ABF, now I'm not so sure about that or I just volunteered to teach a ladies Bible class or I was thinking about teaching third graders until now. Well, go ahead. Go ahead. James is not trying to shut down the recruitment office. He's simply delivering a very serious caution. Be careful. Don't come unprepared. Don't treat it lightly. Don't enter into it for yourself.
Study and live for the benefit of your student. Resist the accolade. Resist this heritage of appreciation.
Remember you are a clay pot and I am too. Fear to teach. Pray that you will not lead your students astray. Why? There is, James says, a final exam just for teachers.
How's that for irony? A final exam especially for teachers is coming and Jesus Christ, the teacher, the chief shepherd will do the grading and he will determine and then reward that which was indeed accurate and spiritually minded and spiritually motivated and beneficial and edifying and courageously truthful and God honoring and honorable. You see, no one makes a mad dash for the stage if they understand the gravity of the coming beam of seat and its evaluation of our speech that will be greater and more strict than for any other. The Scottish reformer John Knox was so awed and burdened by the responsibility to declare God's word faithfully that when he stood at the pulpit to preach his very first sermon he burst into tears and wept uncontrollably and had to be escorted from the pulpit until he could compose himself again. Frankly, I fear more than ever the trivialization of the pulpit and the sermon and the lectern.
Now, following the serious caution is a rather surprising admission. Look at verse two, for we all stumble in many ways. Notice again James includes himself, for we all stumble. We all, thank you James, I would have expected an apostle to have it nailed down and he could say now you all stumble in many ways and we'd all go yeah you're right. But how encouraging that James would say look I've got the same, I'm in the same kettle, I'm in the same soup so to speak, especially regarding speech. But isn't it true? Aren't we a little weary of teachers who teach as if they mastered it?
Job had the same problem. He's confronted by God at the end of the book chapter 40 around there and he says I will make no reply. I lay my hand upon my mouth. That's another way of saying I have been talking way too much. Isaiah, great prophet, faithful prophet encounters the living God and he says I am a man of unclean lips. Peter periodically opened his mouth only to change feet, right? Makes this an incredibly noble and passionate resolution.
They will all fall away from you Lord but I will never. How that came back to haunt him. Eusebius, the first church historian, informs us that James had a couple of nicknames. One was camel knees because of his hours spent in prayer.
His knees were leathery with calluses. He was also nicknamed the just because of his great virtue and commitment to Christ. So here you have an apostle, an aged apostle pastoring the church in Jerusalem, writing to the scattered Jewish believers and he, the apostle, known for his prayer life, known for his virtue says for we all stumble. Would you note he does not say for we all fatally fall. The word stumble means to slip up by the way. Slip up in what we say. James uses the present tense to mean that this happens over and over and over and over and over and over again.
Does that surprise you? That kind of realism that you'd have an apostle saying we, I stumble over and over and over again. Maybe you're out there saying he's not talking about me. I don't stumble over and over and over again.
Just lean over and ask your wife. Is this about me? Go ahead.
I'll wait. We all stumble in many. If you look at your text, the next word is italicized. It's offered by the translator. Ways could easily have been translated words. We all stumble in many words. In fact, James goes on to write, if anyone does not stumble in what he says, so that's the context. He is a perfect man and you go, oh no, not that word again. Let me remind you that that word is different from what we think of.
Teleos. It means someone who is in maturing progress, not arriving at perfection. I've had the privilege over the years in ministry to be around some very godly, mature saints who've served Christ for 30, 40, 50, even 60 years. It's always a delight to have some of these aged men come and preach during the summer. And I can tell you this, to a man, at least those who get invited back, to a man in private conversations, every one of them does the same thing James just did. They classify themselves in the conversation as a beginner.
Those who have much to learn. And this is James' encouragement. He's with us. This is Scott Wiley and I'm jumping right in here because there's more to James' encouragement to us, but we're almost out of time for today. When we come back next time, Steven will bring you the conclusion to this lesson. This is Wisdom for the Heart.
Steven called this lesson Runaway Tongue. It's part of a series called Speech Therapy for Saints. You can learn more about us at our website, wisdomonline.org. We'd also enjoy learning about you. Give us a call at 866-48-bible. We'd love to hear from you. Join us back here next time for more Wisdom for the Heart.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-01-03 09:40:07 / 2023-01-03 09:49:16 / 9