James 3:1-2 (Lent Readings)
KJV below (Link to NIV)
My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation.
2 For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body.
James begins his well known discussion of the tongue in today’s verses. It begins with a warning to those who would want to become teachers (the KJV rendering “masters” dates to a time when a masters degree was, in essence, a teaching degree, and so teachers were called “masters” (from this evolved the term “headmaster” still in use)). A teacher is someone who uses words as his or her profession. They are the stock and trade of educators. Given that, there is a greater chance that they will, eventually, slip up. Also, since words are the stock and trade, the actions, behaviors, and beliefs of teachers are constantly being scrutinized. Thus, James gives a very practical warning, amounting to saying that you shouldn’t be a teacher for the fame or the sense of superiority, because it is hard and weighty. His statement about taming the tongue is one who is perfect may be taken as hyperbole, but considering how difficult it is to do, need not necessarily mean that. James wants to focus on the importance of the words we choose over the next few sentences.
If you have a desire to teach is because you believe this is the genuine calling on your heart, or do you desire the things that go along with teaching? Have you ever met someone who was perfect in what they said? In light of James’s previous focus on action related to faith, how do we take his claim here that all of us mess up frequently?