"THE EPISTLE OF JAMES"
Let Not Many Of You Become Teachers (James 3:1-12)
1. In our study of "The Epistle Of James", we now come to the third
2. In verses 1-12, we find:
a. A WARNING against too many becoming teachers - James 3:1-2
b. A DISCOURSE on the untamable tongue - James 3:3-12
3. In a time where "verbal abuse" is often epidemic, and where "self-
proclaimed teachers" engage in all sorts of heated religious
discussions, there is much we can learn from this passage
[First, let's notice...]
I. THE "WARNING" (Vs 1-2)
A. "LET NOT MANY OF YOU BECOME TEACHERS"
1. Note carefully:
a. James does not say, "Let not many of you BE teachers"
b. But rather, "Let not many of you BECOME teachers"
2. This passage is not just a rebuke of those who try to BE
teachers before they are ready, but a warning that many should
not even BECOME teachers in the future!
3. It is a mistake to believe that EVERYONE should become a
teacher at some point in their service to Christ!
a. Paul illustrated time and again that the body of Christ has
many members, and not all members do not have the same
1) To the saints at Rome - Ro 12:3-8
2) To the church at Corinth - 1 Co 12:12-31
(note esp. verse 29, where Paul with a rhetorical question implies
that not all are to be teachers)
b. Peter likewise taught that God's grace toward is "manifold"
(multi-faceted) and that we should exercise our respective
abilities accordingly - 1 Pe 4:10-11
4. In view of what Paul, Peter, and James wrote, we should be
careful before we apply He 5:12-14 to mean that EVERYONE
should one day be teachers (the author of Hebrews may have
been writing to a select audience, whom he knew ought to have
B. WHY MANY SHOULD NOT BECOME TEACHERS...
1. Teachers shall receive "a stricter judgment"
a. There is a grave responsibility involved in teaching others
b. We can lead people to TRUTH - but we just as easily lead
them to ERROR!
c. Just as with elders (He 13:17), those who teach will be
held accountable if they mislead others!
2. Because we all "stumble in many things"
a. Everyone has faults, and with many people the improper use
of the tongue is a major one
b. But it takes spiritual maturity ("a perfect man") not to
stumble in word!
[So James cautions against many people trying to become teachers. This
should not discourage any from trying to find out if teaching is a gift
that they might have if nurtured along, but one should proceed with
humility and caution.
In verse 2 James briefly mentions the power of the tongue over the
body. He elaborates on this theme as we now consider...]
II. THE "DISCOURSE" ON THE UNTAMABLE TONGUE (Vs 3-12)
A. THE ILLUSTRATIONS OF THE BIT AND RUDDER (Vs 3-4)
1. Both illustrations are used to demonstrate that a small member
(like the tongue) can control the body
a. A bit controls a horse
b. A rudder controls the ship
2. So our tongue controls the body...
a. If you speak a lie, it won't be long before you find yourself
living a lie
b. If you speak suggestively in an immoral manner, it won't be
long before you begin acting immorally!
3. The power of the tongue to direct is easily applied to the
dangers of teaching...
a. The teacher's speech can easily set the mood of the
b. He can easily direct the congregation in an uplifting way,
or just as easily direct the congregation in a discouraging
4. Should not this power to direct via the tongue humble those
who teach, and caution the spiritually immature?
B. THE ILLUSTRATION OF A LITTLE FIRE (Vs 5-6)
1. A small fire can easily cause great destruction (remember the
Great Chicago Fire?)
2. So it is with the tongue!
a. A loose tongue can ruin one's reputation
b. It can also destroy churches, families, friendships
3. In describing an uncontrolled tongue, James uses very vivid
terms to make his point: The tongue is...
a. A fire
b. A world of iniquity
c. So set among our bodies that it defiles the whole body
d. That which sets on fire the course of nature
e. That which is itself set on fire by hell!
4. Should not this power to destroy and defile both ourselves and
others caution us in becoming teachers?
C. THE DIFFICULTY OF TAMING THE TONGUE (Vs 7-12)
1. Despite being able to tame wild animals, man is unable to tame
a. It is an unruly evil!
b. It is full of deadly poison!
2. I understand James to be somewhat hyperbolic here for the sake
a. It is true that no MAN (by himself) can tame the tongue
b. But with GOD'S help, we can tame it (as David prayed in
c. And with GOD'S help, we MUST tame it - cf. Ep 4:29; Col 4:6
3. As a further example of how difficult it is to tame the tongue,
James uses a very common (and relevant) problem
a. I.e., blessing God and cursing men
b. Something we are very likely to do, especially on Sundays
1) We spend time in worship, blessing God
2) But in driving home, we might curse men (other drivers!)
c. Racists and bigots are often guilty of "blessing God and
4. But with the illustrations of a spring, a fig tree and a
grapevine, James shows the inconsistency of this!
a. What comes forth is a true indication of what is inside
b. Just as Jesus taught in Mk 7:20-23
c. Despite all the praises we offer God, it is the curses
against man that reveals the true person inside!
1. Again, these examples of the misuse of the tongue should humble and
caution all those who would become teachers
2. But they should also serve as a warning for us all, whether we teach
or not, that we need to seek God's help in controlling the tongue!
May David's prayer be our own:
Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be
acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.
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