Held to a Higher Standard
Read James 3:1-2 (ESV)
Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body.
Why do you think James said that teachers will be judged with greater strictness?
“With great power comes great responsibility.” This old adage has, in various forms, been attributed to many great leaders, such as Winston Churchill, Theodore Roosevelt, FDR, and many more. It is even found in an old Spiderman Comic book from the 1960’s. But this wise proverb didn’t originate with any of these famous figures. The idea is as old as the Bible itself.
Jesus Himself taught this principle when He said, “Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more” (Luke 12:48). The principle here is that we are called to be faithful stewards of everything God has given to us. The more responsibility we have, the more we will be held accountable before God for the way we use what He has given to us.
James’ teaching today is in the same vein. He says that those who teach will be judged with greater strictness. We might be tempted to think that’s unfair. After all, we are all only human. We all fall short of God’s glory. Even James himself said that “we all stumble in many ways.” Why will teachers be judged with greater strictness? Because there is so much more at stake!
When James was writing this, there must have been a large number of Christians who wanted to be teachers and leaders in the church. I see something similar going on today in the media. Many people want to create huge platforms of followers. In fact, Influencer has become a title for people who have thousands of followers on social media, “influencing” them to do as they do or think the way that they think. Sometimes the behaviors they promote aren’t very consequential. They might try to get you to buy certain products or wear certain clothes. But other Influencers will try to change your ideology and your worldview. This can have tremendous consequences, for better or for worse, especially for young people who are more impressionable!
Now, consider just how much influence and responsibility preachers of the Word of God have! They are teaching others to understand and put into practice the very words of God! Think of the potential consequences when teachers and pastors get it wrong or abuse their positions. Leading others astray can have eternally detrimental consequences! James wasn’t trying to discourage anyone who feels called by God to teach and preach His Word. Rather, he was trying to impress upon them the seriousness of the job. It is not a calling to take lightly!
He says that the best candidates for the job of teaching are those who are able to control their tongues. We’ll talk more about this over the next few days. But James’s main point is that being able to tame our tongues is a mark of spiritual maturity. He doesn’t mean that the spiritually mature never sin when they speak. But it shouldn’t be a pattern in our lives because the words we say (or type) reveal what is in our hearts. If we are truly spiritually mature, the words that flow from our hearts out of our mouths should demonstrate what we believe.
Friends, those of us who are called to be pastors, teachers, and leaders in the church have a great responsibility because we are in a position to have a powerful influence on the spiritual lives of others. We should always take that responsibility seriously. But whether you are in a position of leadership or not, we should always consider the way we speak and the potential influence we have on others with our words. All of us have been called to control our tongues because we are His ambassadors. May we represent Him well.
Father, please forgive me for the times that I have sinned against You or misrepresented You with my words. Please help me control my mouth for Your glory and honor. You have given me so much. Help me to take my responsibility to serve and reflect You to the world seriously. Amen.