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Friday, October 23, 2015

TEACHERS, TONGUES, AND RIGHTEOUSNESS – James 3

Introduction

We are well into our study of the book of James. James taught Christians are to be “doers” and “hearers” of the Word. This requires a balance between a person’s spiritual life and his or her physical life. The person must make sure everything he or she does and says comes from a Spirit-filled inner being pursuing righteousness.

In chapter three, James continued to teach about specific actions a Christian should put into practice to be a doer and not just a hearer of the Word. He especially taught about the Christian’s use of his or her tongue. James specifically taught about teachers and generally taught about every Christians’ use of their tongues. He gave guidelines explaining how to know the wisdom and knowledge a person shares with another person or people is from God and when it is not. James used examples to show the power of a tongue in daily life. At the end, He said a person who speaks truth from God does so in peace, makes peace, and reaps righteousness. We need to consider with care each of the eighteen verses in James 3 to understand well what James stressed in this chapter.

Consider Teachers

Bible scholars have looked at this chapter and considered it made of two distinct lessons – God’s strict requirements and judgment of teachers (vs. 1 & 18), and taming the tongue (vs. 2-17). I propose that we see this chapter as one lesson. The chapter speaks pointedly to teachers – the seriousness of their teaching responsibility to God, the damage a tongue can do, the wisdom needed to speak rightly, and the result of using the tongue for godly purposes.

Because James began and ended this chapter speaking about teachers, we can conclude he meant for the chapter mainly to speak to and about teachers. This technique of enveloping helps point readers’ and hearers’ attention to the primary lesson of the chapter from the beginning and refocuses their attention back to the primary lesson at the end. It is an effective literary technique.

James said in the first verse, “Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment.” Let us look at the definition of some of the words from the Greek language. The word “teachers” comes from the Greek word didaskolos. It means one who teaches about the things of God and the duties of man by the special help of the Holy Spirit[i]. This word includes anyone who teaches about God and humankind’s duties according to God’s Law. “Teachers” include pastors, preachers, evangelists, and other teaching ministers. “Knowing” comes from the Greek word oikeios and means belonging to a house or family, an intimate by Jesus’ blood of God’s household[ii]. From these definitions, we can see this verse encourages actual and potential teachers to make sure God called them to teach about Him and what He requires of His children, knowing they will receive a stricter condemnation for teaching wrong.

This teaching of James’ about a stricter judgment should make a person consider with care whether he or she is called by God to teach or whether he or she wants to teach to gain followers and acclaim. Paul wrote to Timothy in 1 Timothy 1:6-7 saying, “For some men, straying from these things [love, good conscience, and sincere faith], have turned aside to fruitless discussion, wanting to be teachers of the Law, even though they do not understand either what they are saying or the matters about which they make confident assertions.” To be a Rabbi or teacher in the first century and later eras was to gain a higher standing in the community. The people of the towns and cities looked up to Rabbis and teachers. This gave them influence and power in the communities. Because of this, people wanted to gain a following and gather disciples. Many times, though, what the people taught was not according to God’s Word. From selfish ambition and jealousy, those teachers allowed their sinful nature the freedom to speak as if they had God’s authority. James spoke about this in James 1:16; he spoke about a lust in one’s heart that gives birth to sin. From this, we understand the desire for greatness can cause the tongue to lead to sin. Teachers, as spoken of by this passage, have a greater likelihood of falling victim to this temptation to sin through use of the tongue/speech.


Consider the Tongue


Guard the Tongue.

James began verse two with a preposition (“for”), which shows this thought continues from the earlier thought. He said, “For we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well.” Here James made the point that every person make mistakes and sin in many ways, not just in speech. We must remember no person is perfect/righteous except Jesus Christ. So no one can control their natural, earthly desire to serve him or herself exclusively without God’s help. In verse two, James’ use of “perfect” comes from the Greek word teleios and means wanting in nothing, complete, perfect such as consummate human integrity and virtue[iii]. Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” No one is perfect and no one can be perfect without God.

James continued by saying if a person can remain righteous in what he or she says, then he or she can control his or her actions. Righteousness in a person shows through a person’s words and actions, which comes from the person’s heart, the place the Holy Spirit dwells in the believer. Jesus taught this when He said what goes into a person is not what defiles that person, but what comes from him or her – what comes from the person’s heart (Matthew 15:11). We need to understand when James spoke in this chapter about “a perfect man,” he used the Greek word aner. Aner is a word used generically to refer to both men and women[iv]. Because of James use of aner, we understand James meant everyone sins and fails to be righteous, men and women. Added to this, everybody need the Holy Spirit’s guidance to change their hearts, words, and actions.  

When James used the word “bridle” in verse two, he applied the same idea of guiding a horse to guiding our bodies. “Bridle” comes from the Greek word chalinagogeo and means to guide, to hold in check, or to restrain[v]. This brings to mind what James taught in James 1:26 when he said, “If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue, but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless.” James began this book speaking about bridling tongues and developed it to bridling the whole body. That does not mean he wants his hearers to forget what he said in chapter one, but to include other parts of the body in the metaphor. Foremost, though, James dealt with bridling the tongue since he specified it in his opening statements of the book and said God would judge teachers (people who use their mouths in service to the Lord) more strictly. Since “bridling” means guiding and directing something or someone to hold true to the path to get to a goal, we can see what James meant in verse three. Any part of the body can be bridled for a goal by guiding a person’s tongue, arms, hands, legs, and feet. Each part of the body is controlled by the mind and heart where the Holy Spirit lives when a person becomes a Christian. James’ goal was righteousness, staying away from temptation and sin. Followers of Jesus must bridle every part of their bodies as James said in 3:2 and in 1:26. What a person says shows his or her heart and how much he or she allows the Holy Spirit to teach, grow, and lead him or her to perfection/completion in Christ.

We must understand another thing James said in this verse. When he used the words “whole body,” we recognize he spoke about a person’s physical body. We should realize James meant the body of Christ - the Church - too. The word “body” comes from the Greek word soma meaning a person’s body or the body of Christ, the New Testament church. With this understanding, we realize James spoke to individual Christians about bridling their bodies and tongues and to Christian teachers who taught and led the body of Christ to greater understanding of God and His Word. Here we begin to see this chapter is not made of two lessons, but of one – teachers bridling their tongues to teach correctly of God from the Holy Spirit within them and Christians in general bridling their tongues so they speak righteous words. When people speak according to God, it gives evidence they are growing more like Christ. God will judge teachers more strictly because they have greater influence on more people. What a teacher says can affect the direction of his or her listeners (plural) - what they think and do. To lead people in the right way – God’s way – a teacher must teach things true to God’s Word and character. When a teacher does that he or she glorifies God and not self. It shows humility and recognition of the greatness of God and the smallness of self. By using James’ figure of speech, a teacher bridles his or her tongue and by that act bridles/leads the body of Christ to grow closer to God and follow Him, not the world. What the tongue says affects the whole body – the physical body of the speaker and the spiritual body of believers.

Power of the Tongue – Metaphors.

In verses three through six, James gave three metaphors depicting how the tongue, though the smallest member of the body, wields great power. He used common things of the time so people would understand his instruction. James used of horses’ and bits, a ships’ and rudder, and flame and forest fire as metaphors to explain small parts often make the whole miss the mark. With careful and judicious leading/direction by the rider, pilot, and fire starter, the goal can be attained.

Horses’ Bits

James said in verse three, “Now if we put the bits into the horses’ mouths so that they will obey us, we direct their entire body as well.” The first thing we must see is that “bits” and “horses’ mouths” are plural. By this, we realize James spoke of directing more than one person, such as an assembly of believers or churches. He spoke of influencing by speech one person at a time, too. The fact James used a possessive plural noun allows us to understand the middle of chapter three is not just a lesson to Christians in general, but applies to teachers in specific. That means this metaphor is more for teachers. The groups of horses are a group of people taught by the Christian teacher. The horses’ bits are the spoken message by the teacher that guides the horses to a goal - loving and obeying God. When James taught this metaphor, he meant, too, for it to reflect every Christian’s speech as well. (Christian teachers are a subset of all Christians.) The horse bit reminds each Christian to guard what he or she says by allowing the Holy Spirit to guide his or her words. By doing that, God is glorified and the hearer is not mislead to believer the speaker is Christian when he or she is guided by secular wisdom. That could make the listener believe the speaker’s faith did not change him or her.

What is the message James taught in verse three? He told Christians, and, in specific, teachers, actively to “put the bits into the horses’ mouths.” Intentionally teach God’s righteous Word (teachers) or speak right words (Christians) to lead others to see God at work in Christians’ lives and to love and obey Him. The only way God’s righteous words can flow from a Christian in secular work or in Christian service is by the power of the Holy Spirit since every person is sinful and unrighteous. When a person speaks from selfish ambition or out of jealousy to gain followers or power, what the person says will not be from God. We must not underestimate the power of words to influence and guide people to action. As people who have influence in a community, teachers who speak for the Lord must make sure they speak from the power of the Holy Spirit and not from the old sinful nature. Because teachers are people of influence, God will judge them with stricter judgment. Teachers must put the bit into their own mouths to guide themselves to speak what the Holy Spirit directs so they can lead the body of Christ (put the bit in the people’s mouths) to follow God. James said, as teachers, “We direct their (the church’s) entire body as well.” (vs. 3b)

Ships’ Rudder

In verse four, James used a different metaphor to explain his point. In this verse, James said, “Look at the ships also, though they are so great and are driven by strong winds, are still directed by a very small rudder wherever the inclination of the pilot desires.” Once again, an everyday occurrence provides a teaching picture for Christians as a metaphor for the teachers of God.

As we look at this verse, we notice “ships” is plural. Besides this, the pilot must actively guide them ship (the church) by the rudder or the strong winds will knock the ship off course. Here, too, James spoke to teachers in specific as they educated Christians about God and His Word. He spoke to individual Christians in general as they spoke and went about their days in the secular world, too. In this metaphor, the rudder is the tongue used to guide/speak.

The pilot is the teacher who must allow the Holy Spirit to lead him or her to speak about God and His Word. By doing that, he or she will speak right and lead people to God and His Word. The Greek word James used that we translate as “pilot” is euhtuno[vi]. It means to make straight, level, or plain. The pilot is to make paths straight or plain/clear so people can hear and know God and obey Him with righteous service. (This sounds like Isaiah 40:3-5 when he said the Messiah would make the crooked roads straight and the rough places plain.) Wherever the pilot’s goal may be, that will be the direction his or her rudder will direct the ship. If the pilot’s goal is selfish ambition and influence, then his or her teaching will direct people to follow him or her and see God as second in life. If the pilot’s goal is to love and obey God, then his or her teaching will direct people to follow God. James said, even if the ships are battered about by strong winds, the teaching and leading by the righteous teacher/pilot using the very small rudder will lead people to seek and follow God. The teacher must actively choose to use the rudder to direct people to follow God, just as the rider had to decide to use the bit to guide the horse to God. Because the teacher is a leader in the community able to influence more people to follow God, or him or herself, God will judge him or her more strictly.

Flame and Forest Fires

James made his point about teachers being more accountable to God from verses three and four, but emphasized it again in the beginning of verse five. He said that even as the bit and rudder are small parts that direct the whole, so, too, the tongue is a small part of the body. The next part of his statement gives a notable point to this message. James said in verse 5b, “Yet it boasts of great things.” The tongue is just a small part of a body, but when unchecked it can wreak great damage. As a teacher in the church that person can be considered the “tongue” of the church. The physical tongue of each person and the spiritual tongue (the teacher) of the body of believers is small, but boasts of great things either to lead people to God or to gain a personal following.

The word “boasts” most often refers to negative things because it compares one thing or person to another to show superiority over another person. This often happens because of jealousy or self-centeredness. Boasting, too, can mean speaking well of something or someone, referring to someone or something else as great or better than one’s self or one’s accomplishments/abilities. When the Bible speaks of this kind of boasting, the people who boasted spoke of the Lord God and were zealous He receives the glory. Paul spoke of this in 1 Corinthians 1:31 when he said, “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” He said this because boasting should reflect toward the greater person. When we compare ourselves with the person and work of God - sending His Son, Jesus Christ, to die for our sins, and His wisdom, holiness, and righteousness –we must recognize God is greater than humankind. So only the Lord should be the recipient of boasts. This positive boasting is not about what James spoke though. He spoke about negative boasting, a boasting that took away from the status of another person and gave the glory to the speaker. James found amazing that so small a thing as a tongue could boast and cause such wide-ranging negative reactions by hearers.

James used a metaphor to express the result of boasting. He said the tongue is a small fire that sets aflame a great forest. What a person says kindles a small fire that leads to great fires that consume forests. The tongue can do great damage when used for personal advantage instead of God’s purposes. From a person, one word can kindle anger in another who gets other people to back him or her and come to his or her defense. Then people gather to support the speaker and before much time passes, the organization to which these people belong smolders in anger and dissension. With this dissension, people cannot work together and find it hard to care about or like other people. The organization then falls apart and disintegrates to be unrecognizable from what it was before the flame ignited the great fire. The flame is the speaker. The forest is the people within the community circles of the two people involved in the disagreement.

In relation to teachers, the flame is the teacher speaking for personal advantage. The forest is the church set aflame by false leadership and doctrine that creates a fire, a rift in the church. From that, the trust in which the community held the church is destroyed and the community of believers go their ways leaving the church scarred from burns left by the errant fire/tongue/teaching. James explained this in verse six. He said, “And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell.” James stated emphatically this fire began by a false teaching that came from hell, as all false teachings do. We need to be careful to understand James was emphatic to make a point. Speaking can be used for good, too. Yet just as we know the tongue can cause great good to happen, so it can cause great wickedness, too.

As a Christian in secular employment, you, too, can influence people toward God. If you continue to speak and act righteously as God is righteous even when strong winds batter you, people will consider your great faith and seek God to understand and know Him for themselves. James said every Christian must allow the Holy Spirit to guide what they say whether the person is a Christian service worker or a Christian in secular employment. What a Christian says will influence a hearer to seek God or sneer at the idea of God. Every Christian must “pilot” his or her tongue to give God glory. By doing that, the Christian will grow toward perfection in Christ Jesus (Christ-likeness).

Tame the Tongue.

Lest his hearers misunderstand James and think the tongue was full of evil, he gave hope and said tongues can be tamed. In verse 7, James said, “For every species of beast and birds, of reptiles and creatures of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by the human race.” Just as humans tamed the animals of creation, so can their tongues be tamed. The key here, though, is God. In Genesis 1:28, “God said to them [Adam and Eve], ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’” God gave them the power to tame the animals using their tongues, but then humans sinned. Sin comes when a person puts his or her desires before the needs or desires of another person, including God. This makes the person unrighteous. Unrighteousness makes a person unable to tame the tongue. That unrighteousness comes from and is influenced by the person’s unrighteous heart.

James made sure his hearers understood him. He explained to them in verse eight, “But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison.” The key here is James’ words, “No one can tame the tongue.” The two-word indefinite pronoun, “no one,” comes from the Greek word anthropos[vii], which means “human being.” James implied only God can tame the tongue since because of selfish purposes, sin caused Adam and Eve to lose the power He gave them to tame the tongue. Sin affects the person’s life so that skewed decisions and actions occur to gain the best for him or herself with little regard for God or other people. As for the tongue, because of the fall, people will speak to get glory for themselves, to get more followers, and to gain influence and power. Because of sin, people cannot tame their own tongues by themselves. To tame a tongue requires a righteous person. That person is God. He made His righteousness available to us through His Son, Jesus Christ. Without God’s power and righteousness, selfishness cannot be overcome so that the tongue can be used for right reasons – to teach of God and His Word.

James said in verse 8b the tongue is “a restless (akatastatos – unstable, inconstant[viii]) evil and full of deadly poison.” He stated in verse nine, “With it [tongues] we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men who have been made in the likeness of God.” If humans could tame their own tongues, they would not have good and evil coming from them. They would not curse men whom God made in His image (imago dei – the symbolic relationship between God and humanity from Genesis 1:27). James emphasized the tongue’s instability by comparing things that cannot go together in the created world. He said in verse ten blessings and curses should not proceed from the same mouth. If the tongue is dedicated to proclaim blessing, filthy curses should not be able to come from the same lips. A fountain/spring that has fresh, sweet water will not spew out bitter water (vs. 11). A fig tree will not produce olives nor a grape vine produce figs. Finally, James said salt water cannot produce fresh water. Each of these explain God did not intend the tongue to bless and curse. God created humankind in His image and from Him only righteousness flows.

What is good, righteous, and expected, as created by God, cannot usher from something  exposed to evil and producing unrighteousness. Since this is so, what comes from man and woman, whom God created in His image, should not be evil and unrighteousness. God created humankind to be in relationship with Him. People cannot be in a relationship with Him while they produce unrighteousness, which comes from sin – a selfish desire to please self at the expense of another. To break the wall sin builds between God and people, God sent His Son to die the sin judgment and take away the sin of each person who believes in Him. Jesus Christ gives each believer His Holy Spirit to teach, admonish, edify, and guide him or her to speak and act righteously, just as God is righteous.

Call on God


Wisdom and Understanding.

      As we return to James, we find in 3:13 he revisited one of his lessons from chapter one – calling on God for wisdom. James said in 3:13, “Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom.” First we must notice, James again spoke to every Christians here, which includes teachers. Next, notice any person can be wise and understanding. God gives wisdom to every believers, not just to leaders. Third, James explained Christians are to show wisdom and understanding. What God gives Christians must live out in their lives. Fourth, deeds/actions based on wisdom are to show by good behavior in gentleness of wisdom. By this latter point, James meant while using your wisdom and knowledge for good deeds do it with meekness, kindness, and care. Let your knowledge and wisdom be used to help other people not to gain you honor. Peter spoke of this in 1 Peter 2:12 when he said, “Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deed, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation (the day God looks into the character of every person)[ix].”

The wisdom and understanding James spoke about that produces good behavior that helps people comes from God. It comes from righteousness and love of God and people. James spoke of it in James 1:5 when he explained believers could ask God for wisdom while going through trials so they could endure the trials and become more Christlike – grow toward perfection - because of it. The wisdom from God is not self-serving, but serves God and other people. It does not come from a teacher who seeks to build his or her influence or increase his or her wealth. That teacher does not show God’s wisdom and understanding.

Wisdom not from God.

James said the teacher who seeks to build his or her influence or wealth is of the world and is lead by wickedness – selfish ambition and jealousy. It comes from an unstable tongue and heart, one of restless evil and deadly poison as James said in verse eight. That kind of tongue cannot lead to selfless service and love. James counseled in verses fourteen and fifteen, “If you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic.” He meant do not be so self-absorbed to presume you have a greater knowledge and wisdom than God gives. That would be a lie against truth – moral and religious. Remember, God gives wisdom to His people to overcome trials and to serve Him and other people. Nothing needs to be added to God’s truth to make it perfect, complete, right, and worthy of glorifying God.  No man or woman can make God’s truth any better by adding to what God proclaims in His Word.

This kind of wisdom bears these characteristics:
·         Selfish ambition
·         Self-centeredness
·         Jealousy
·         Arrogance
·         Unloving
·         Lies against the truth
·         Glorifies self

Wisdom from God.

From the earlier verses and especially verses seventeen and eighteen, James gave his hearers guidelines on how to know when a person spoke truth. He said the person who speaks God’s truth - His wisdom - would bring God glory, would not be motivated by selfish ambition or jealousy, would seek to serve God and other people with meekness and love, and bring about righteousness. Besides these, he said a person who spoke truth and wisdom from God would show godly characteristics. This speaker would be pure, peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering (stable and constant), without hypocrisy, and produce the fruit of righteousness. How do we define these godly characteristics so we know them when we see them?

·         Purity of person shows a person who is modest, chaste, and free from sin. A person clean from sin is pure and can enter the presence of God, James taught in James 4:8.
·         A peaceable person is one who loves and brings peace and who is free from internal and external conflict, which sin brings. Jesus proclaimed blessing on the peacemaker in the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:9).
·         A gentle person is one who is fair, mild, and shows consideration for other people.
·         A person who is reasonable easily obeys and is compliant.
·         When a person is full of mercy, he or she shows care, kindness, and love with a desire to help people, including the destitute, downtrodden, and afflicted. That person shows mercy because God showed him or her mercy like Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount (Luke 6:36). James encouraged a merciful character in James 2:13.
·         When someone shows by word and action God’s goodness and reflects Him, he or she has good fruits.
·         To be unwavering, the person must be stable and constant, without uncertainty, ambiguity, or doubt. James spoke of this kind of person in James 2:3-4. He said when someone judges the value of one person over another to give preferential treatment to the one who can help him or her in the future that person wavers in righteous.
·         For someone to be without hypocrisy, he or she must live life with sincerity and genuine and fair consideration for every person. Paul spoke taught the Corinthians to love without hypocrisy, abhor evil, and cling to goodness in Romans 12:9.

The most important point James taught in this section of the chapter comes from verse eighteen. He said, “And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” The leader who teaches in peace with the wisdom and understanding of God bridles the tongue, is not jealous, does not have selfish ambition, and bears the characteristics mentioned in verse seventeen. Paul told the Galatian Christians in Galatians 6:8, “The one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.”

                                
                                          Teaching from and sowing peace
                                            by wisdom and understanding
                                                  as servants of the Lord seeking His glory
                                              brings a harvest of righteousness.

 
 






Righteousness is the fruit of the seed sown by any Christian who speaks for God, more so for teachers and pastors who teach and lead in church because they will affect many more people inside and outside the church. The growth of that seed is amplified for teachers, just as the growth of untruths are amplified and bring stricter judgment.

Recap

In this chapter of James, we learned God judges teachers more strictly than non-teachers. Through the metaphors James used, we understand the teaching about speaking righteousness and truth applies to teachers and individuals. The metaphors of horses and bits, ships and rudder, and flame and forest fire provide a way for hearers and readers to understand the magnitude of the impact from unrighteous speaking by a teacher. It leads to amplified chaos, discord, and untruth. Because of the great possibility of leading many people to confusion and away from God, God judges teachers more strictly. For wickedness not to happen with either what individuals or unrighteous teachers say, James taught people to bridle their tongues. He added that if they could do that, then they could bridle their whole bodies.

In later verses, James explained “no one” can bridle their tongue. Because of sin, the righteousness God gave Adam and Eve no longer rested in them or gave them power over their sinful bodies. Sin removed the power of humans to do anything righteous of their own accord. God prepared a way for righteousness to be available through the life, death, and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ. Through the power of Jesus’ indwelling Holy Spirit, Christians can bridle their tongues and overcome every temptation.

Still, Christians must act upon the power available to them. They must call on God for wisdom (James 1:5) and believe without doubting. These followers must will to use the power the Holy Spirit makes available to them by claiming it and living with that power.

By living in the Spirit, a person or teacher will show good behavior in meekness, kindness, and care. People will bring God glory, not be motivated by selfish ambition or jealousy, seek to serve God and other people, and bring about righteousness. Because of living in the Spirit’s power, the person will show godly characteristics and spiritual fruit - be pure, peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy, and produce the fruit of righteousness. The people who show these godly characteristics are people to be trusted and followed.

Relevance and Conclusion

This leads us to personal consideration of James’ teaching. He implied in verse eight only God can give the power needed to bridle a person’s tongue or any part of his body. That power comes by accepting Jesus Christ as Savior, allowing the Holy Spirit to prompt and guide your thoughts, words, and actions, and seeking God’s wisdom without doubting. With these directing your life, you will grow more and more Christlike - toward maturity and perfection - and will reflect God’s glory and characteristics in and to the world. Selfish ambition and jealousy along with other evil, worldly desires will have less sway in you each day as you live life to glorify God and care for people. For teachers or pastors within the body of Christ, James stated God would judge them more strictly because their position of influence, when ungodly truths were taught, could lead more people away from God than non-teachers could.

Today, if you are a Christian, you need to come to a place where you seek God to determine whether you are a noisy gong and clanging cymbal. You need God to shed light on whether the words you speak come from Him and reveal His Word, truth, love, and righteousness. Will you obey the promptings of the Holy Spirit in your heart and mind?

James wrote this chapter for every Christian, but he purposely pointed to teachers challenging them to look at their reflection in God’s mirror to see if they reflect Him and His glory. As one called to teach, preach, or minister by teaching for the Lord, are you reflecting God and His righteousness? James gave us a stark reminder in verse one; God will judge teachers, pastors, evangelists, etc. more strictly than non-teachers. What you say and do has an amplified impact because more people listen to you. Do you need to give Him the keys to your life again and let Him be the Master?

If you are not a follower of Jesus Christ, but want to know more or feel yourselves wanting to have the peace and righteousness of God in your life, today is your day. Take the time right now. Accept in your mind and heart that Jesus Christ is God’s Son. Believe that Jesus Christ hung and died on the cross to pay the death penalty for your sins. Confess to God your sins, wrongdoings, and selfish desires and actions. God promises He will forgive your sins. John the disciple of Jesus said in 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He [God] is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Will you come to God today and let Him fill you, lead you, and show His love?
We each have decisions to make today after James’ lesson.