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. - James 3:2
I love the humility in this phrase, especially because it immediately follows the first verse that carries a warning about becoming a teacher. He is well aware of his own shortcomings as he says “we” all stumble in many ways. He does not consider himself to be better than his audience. I think many of us teachers are tempted toward superiority, and we have to consistently and intentionally check ourselves. It is a privilege to be given the role of teacher, but with that role, people will constantly look to you for wisdom and guidance. This can be dangerous if we step outside of the boundaries of the Spirit working through us. If we begin to dispense wisdom in our own power, we have given in to the temptation of superiority. I’ve found the only way to battle that temptation is to consistently stay in the Word. We know His Spirit, and thus our ability to teach, is strengthened by our time in His Word. Teachers must stay humble and in the Word.
Remember, yesterday, we discussed the fact that we all take on this role of teachers in our lives, or at least we should be as we share the Gospel with those around us. So, this warning to stay humble and recognize our shortcomings, is for all of us.
After James’ reminder that we all stumble, he quickly takes us to the the main idea for this passage - bridling the tongue. These warnings are for all of us, well beyond just the teacher. Our spiritual maturity is demonstrated through our actions, and the tongue provides the clearest evidence of where we are spiritually. Our tongue demonstrates the fruit of the Spirit most clearly. If we are demonstrating love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control, it is going to be evident in what we say to others. The tongue also displays evidence of all those things we should be putting away: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language.
Again, James is humble in his statements, reminding his audience that none of us can do this - if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man. He captures the arrogant belief of any audience member who goes to the thought that their speech is pretty good, with the immediate retort only a perfect man doesn’t stumble. We couldn’t possibly consider ourselves perfect - there is only One who is perfect, so thus, we must recognize our shortcomings. At some point, and in some way, we all stumble in our speech. We lie, we tear down, we humiliate, we hurt, we boast, we are self serving....the list goes on and on.
James is not only trying to make the point that we all fail in our speech, he’s also trying to make the point that it is our tongue that controls everything else we do. What comes out of our mouths is a clear indication of what’s in our hearts. We are blind to what’s in our hearts at times - we struggle to truly see what’s hiding in our hearts because we don’t want to believe such anger or bitterness, such selfishness or superiority, such impurity or foolishness, lives inside of us so we convince ourselves that it doesn’t. But then words come out when we are angry or tired that reveal what’s truly in our hearts if we’re listening. Far too often, we dismiss what we see with comments like, “I didn’t mean it.” If it came out of your mouth, it came from your heart - make no mistake about it, those words you “didn’t mean” should give you pause and cause you to reflect on the root.
Looking forward to spending more time contemplating the things I say as we study this passage in James. My desire is that everything I do glorifies my King, and my speech is most critical and the greatest evidence of my heart to those around me.
Press on ~ you are loved 💗
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