“Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers and sisters, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.” (James 3:1)
I am finding myself, at times, at odds with the writer of the letter/book of James. I do not think being judged with greater strictness is a a reason not to teach/preach. Although, I remember several people with whom I went through seminary with not achieving the degree and/or accreditation they sought. They had gifts that were valuable and contributed to the overall goals of ministry. That they did not come away with the designation of office that they hoped does not/did not diminish their called. Would the writer of the letter of James tell one not to testify to what the Divine has done in their lives?
“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.” (Verses 2 – 4)
The intent of the writer becomes more clear – at least to me. Teaching/preaching is the use of words to instruct and direct, and of course to educate. If one can speak without misspeaking or misrepresenting the teaching of Jesus Christ and the Divine, the likelihood is that this same person will not commit deeds or actions that will be seen as sin. However, who of us have NEVER spoken in error or misinformation or any other lapse in communication.
“So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great exploits. How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire!” (Verse 5)
Here is caution! (And I think the author of this letter/book, in warming up to his subject is winning me over.) A small misstep has the potential to cause a great catastrophe.
“And the tongue is a fire. The tongue is placed among our members as a world of iniquity; it stains the whole body, sets on fire the cycle of nature, and is itself set on fire by hell. For every species of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by the human species, but no one can tame the tongue–a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” (Verses 6 – 8)
Setting aside the writer/author’s boast of what the human species can tame, it is true – the tongue can be an untamed beast. And set free and given authority, it can bring done nations and civilizations.
“With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse those who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and brackish water? Can a fig tree, my brothers and sisters, yield olives, or a grapevine figs? No more can salt water yield fresh.” (Verses 9 – 12)
How can the tongue has such dual natures, the writer of the letter from James asks. It is because, beloved reader, of the duality of human nature. Created to seek out the Divine we seek, the good and kind things to do and be. Our natures are helpful and caring. But the other side of human nature – the side that aligns with the “powers that be” which have fallen or strayed from the Divine’s grace and will – seek out evil and sin, (Wow, don’t I sound like some fiery prophet from the past!) and will lead us away from the better nature of humanity. Yes, writer of the letter from James, it is this way. The tongue receives its instruction from our spirit, soul, and psyche. That entity can be good or evil, or even mixed. That is why we need the intervention of the Holy Presence to teach our spirit, soul, and psyche – and to teach our tongue! Shalom & Selah!