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In this blog, there will be a variety of material: thoughts on Bible books, book reviews, historical characters, aspects of Scottish church history and other things.

Saturday, 8 October 2016

James 3:1 - Do You Really Want to Teach?

James was obviously concerned about the way some of his readers were speaking to and about one another. His section on the misuse of the tongue extends into chapter 4 and there he writes about quarrelling (v. 1), wrong prayers (v. 3), evil speaking about one another (v. 11) and about making assumptions about future intentions (v. 13).

James has already spoken about the tongue in this letter. In 1:19, he had told his readers that they should be ‘slow to speak’, and in 1:26 he had said that a person who could not control his tongue was deceiving himself about being a true Christian, which is a very startling statement. Such a warning clearly shows the danger of wrong speech and it is obvious that James wanted to look at it in depth, probably because as a pastor he wanted to help his readers in a spiritual way. If it was possible to deceive yourself, it would mean that the individual had a faith that was dead, the topic that James had dealt with just before he spoke here about the wrong use of the tongue.

Which group does James begin with? Those who teach in the church. It is very possible for such to say things that are wrong, even if they said them unwittingly. Some could even tell the truth for wrong motives, as Paul says of some teachers in Rome that he mentions in Philippians 1.

Maybe James had a difficult dilemma here. He mentions that he is aware of the fact that he and all other teachers will be judged with greater strictness than other Christians. He knows also that the judge will be Jesus with whom he once lived in the family home. We can imagine that it would be difficult for family members to imagine themselves appearing before a relative who happened to be the judge of a case in which they were involved. Perhaps they might be before him on a minor matter and may assume that he would let them off. James however knew that would not be the case with Jesus. Instead, James knew that Jesus will do what is right when the judgement comes. This reality may have been one reason why James does not mention that Jesus was his brother. Although he had grown up in the same home as Jesus, James knew it would be a different matter when he appeared at the judgement seat.

Of course, this particular activity of teaching goes beyond those who are described as pastors. Anyone who has a teaching role in a church will face this reality. The obvious response should be one of carefulness about what one teaches, and also to make sure that one is doing it for the right motives. Those so engaged should always remember the reality of the judgement seat of Christ.

Some commentators suggest that people wanted to be teachers in the church because it carried with it a certain prestige and the possibility of influence. All they imagined that was necessary was the ability to talk. James wanted to deter unsuitable volunteers from taking on this role. Of course, he would have encouraged suitable people to engage in it. But such have to remember the judgement seat.

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