Talk about a sinner pastor! Missing two days of his scripture commentary!
James 3:1 Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. 2 We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check.
James 3:3 When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. 4 Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go.
This verse reminds us that being a teacher or any other kind of leader in the church demands a high accountability. Yes, all Christians SHOULD be accountable to the faith and to righteous living. But because of the sinful world that we live in, there is a heavier burden of righteous living for the church leader. The consequences on the church when its leaders fall into sin is very large!
I know this for myself, unfortunately! I really don’t make huge “mistakes” every day, but what I have come to realize is that people in the congregation – and otherwise – hold me up to a very high standard – and when I DO make an obvious mistake, seemingly however small it is, it IS a BIG DEAL. You can pray for all pastors and lay leaders in our churches, that we might be faithful in our example of Christian living!
5 Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. 6 The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.
James 3:7 All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, 8 but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
James 3:9 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. 11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 12 My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.
We always like to sing the song “Pass it On” which begins with the words: “It only takes a spark to get a fire going…” I always wondered whether the author of that song knew about these verses from James? The idea is the same, although the subject is opposite! The song’s subject is the Gospel, but here James is talking about the power of the an evil word to cause a whole forest fire!
Perhaps the most difficult task of the Christian is to keep his tongue in check! I always ask confirmation students what the hardest commandment to keep is. Usually they never pick the 8th commandment. I propose to them that it probably is one of the most difficult. Our Lutheran Catechism teaches:
You Shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.
What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not tell lies about our neighbor, betray him slander him or hurt his reputation, but defend him, speak well of him, and explain everything in the kindest way.
Stick that in your hat and keep it!
James 3:13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15 Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.
James 3:17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18 Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.
What more is there to say on this? James is wonderfully clear and concise! There is wisdom from God that we ought to be seeking out with all our hearts: a wisdom steeped in humility! (Humility is the subject of this Sunday’s sermon!)