Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers and sisters, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For all of us make many mistakes. Anyone who makes no mistakes in speaking is perfect, able to keep the whole body in check with a bridle. If we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we guide their whole bodies. Or look at ships: though they are so large that it takes strong winds to drive them, yet 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 exploits. (James 3:1-5)
Pastor John’s Notes:
In the first seminary I attended, Reformed Episcopal in West Philadelphia, each week students took turns offering the sermon in chapel class. After the worship time was over, the professor publicly critiqued the sermon. After this, the students were allowed to offer their evaluation. While this was somewhat anxiety-producing, it produced a deep respect for accuracy in biblical preaching among all of the students. We learned that is one thing to offer an opinion, it is quite another to teach biblical truth.
James is cautioning us that those who teach will be judged with greater strictness. When we speak accurately, having done the necessary research to ensure the accuracy of what we say, our words can have a profound effect. Yet when we speak ignorantly, airing opinions without doing the necessary research, we can do great damage. James is simply warning us to be careful.
Lord, teach me to be careful in what I say. Let me not air opinions thoughtlessly, but carefully search the Scriptures for your truth. Give me the wisdom to know when to speak and when to remain silent. And when it is time for me to speak, let your Spirit guide me in all that I say.