At Gages Lake Bible Church, we’re going through the book of James, in a series we’ve entitled, Authentic Faith. (You can listen/download the sermons here.) James is a section of Scripture that really makes you sit up and listen. And it’s written specifically to Christians in the church. There is no way to dance around it and maybe pass off James words as something not applicable to our culture or something we can ignore because it was written to the Israelites.
We’re going to start chapter three on Sunday, which is a chapter that deals with the tongue. Now most of us have read this chapter and know this chapter and come away feeling very convicted about the work God must do in us through the Spirit. Or we come away thinking that this passage would be great for someone else to hear. You know, that person we know who has a caustic tongue?
But here’s something about James 3 that I didn’t really notice until now. It begins with a very sober warning to Bible teachers. James basically says that the calling to teaching the Word is so sober that few should entertain the idea. He’s not saying, I don’t think, that to be a pastor or Sunday School teacher or small group leader is something we shouldn’t aspire to, but that before you get all excited about teaching and preaching others, consider the consequences.
Then James goes right to the tongue and stays there for the rest of the chapter. Here’s a lesson I think we often miss about this Scripture and one you can only get when you study the entire context. Yes, the passage on the tongue is for every Christian, but it’s especially pertinent for Christian leaders. What we say matters. The words we say when we speak in that pulpit or in that classroom or on that blog or Facebook post or Twitter feed matter. And they matter more because of our position.
The words of Christian leaders matter because people follow Christian leaders. People assume that what they say comes from God, that their quoting of Scripture and their exegesis and application are accurate. This is why we as pastors must be careful to study, to know the Bible, and to only say what the Bible says, nothing more or nothing less. This is so vitally important.
Quite often we are tempted to preach against stuff. To stretch the text as to fit a specific cultural sin. But if we do this and we preach something that is not in the text, we are adding to the Word of God, are we not? So for me to get up on Sunday and give a list of what TV shows people should watch or what music should be on their iPods, to give a list, is that not adding to the Scripture?
I think James is telling us Christian leaders that we would a truly spiritual mature Christian only says what God has said in his word. He clearly separates his own opinion from God’s opinion, making sure his readers know the difference. And he’s under no assumption that he’s perfect all the time. James reminds us that we all “stumble in many ways” (James 3:2).
I pray that when I preach, my people hear only the words of God and that when I do stumble in my speech, they realize that those are the words of a sinful man, that they don’t confuse my human speech with God’s authoritative, unchanging revelation.