My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation. 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. Behold, we put bits in the horses’ mouths, that they may obey us; and we turn about their whole body. Behold also the ships, which though they be so great, and are driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small helm, whithersoever the governor listeth.
Several in their assembly wanted to teach and lead
James had to warn them: “Be not many masters.” They were impressed with the authority and prestige of the office and forgot about the tremendous responsibility. Those who teach the Word face the stricter judgment. Teachers must use their tongue to share God’s truth, and it is easy to commit sins of the tongue. Teachers must practice what they teach, or their teaching is hypocrisy. Much damage can be done when a teacher misleads in word or deed.
Some in these assemblies would teach trying to re-introduce keeping the law and circumcision. Others taught truth but wouldn’t live it. Some tried to teach before they knew anything themselves. There were false teachers who would thrive off of the false desires of the crowd. So James writes in regards to the dangers of becoming a teacher within an assembly.
But teachers are not the only ones who are tempted and sin
Every Christian must admit that “in many things we offend all.” Sins of the tongue seem to head the list. We fancy it up today and call it “sticking our foot in our mouth.” It is sin no matter what we call it. James writes that the person who is able to discipline his tongue gives evidence that he can control his whole body. He proves that he is a mature (perfect) man. Words lead to deeds, control words, then control deeds.
Writing about the bit and the helm, James presented two items that are small of themselves, yet exercise great power, just like the tongue.
A small bit enables the rider to control the great horse, with a small rudder the captain steers the huge ship
The tongue is a small member of the body, and yet it has the power to accomplish great things. The bit and the rudder must overcome contrary forces. The bit must overcome the wild nature of the horse. The rudder must fight the winds and currents that would drive the ship off its course. The human tongue also must overcome contrary forces.
We have an old nature that wants to control us and make us sin. There are circumstances around us that would make us say things we shouldn’t say. This means that both the bit and the rudder must be under the control of a strong hand. The rider keeps the mighty power of his horse under control. The captain steers the ship even through storms.
When Jesus Christ controls the tongue: We need not fear to say the wrong things or saying the right things in a wrong way! “When Jesus is the Lord of the heart, He is Lord of the lips.” The words we speak affect the lives of others. A judge says “Guilty!” or “Not Guilty!” and those words affect the destiny of the prisoner, his family, and his friends. The President of the United States speaks a few words and signs some papers and the nation is at war.
Even a simple yes or no from the lips of a parent can greatly affect the direction of a child’s life. Never underestimate the guidance you give by the words you speak or do not speak.
Pastor Chance Strickland
Harpeth Baptist Church
Kingston Springs, TN