World English Bible translation
3:1Let not many of you be teachers, my brothers, knowing that we will receive heavier judgment. 3:2 For in many things we all stumble. If anyone doesn't stumble in word, the same is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body also.
It seems odd to us that James jumps directly into the conversation about the dangers of the tongue when he seemed to have been speaking first to the issue of pure religion and inevitably the balance in Christian life between faith and works. But, James had been responding to an imaginary questioner, "Show me your faith from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith." For James, the great work of his life was teaching, instructing fellow Jews on the revelation of God that was in Jesus Christ. So, he naturally switches from the discussion of faith and works to the work of his own life, teaching: specifically the oral instruction of a church elder to those who would follow.
Teaching others in the word of Christ is a noble calling. But, one must always understand the spiritual principle that to those whom much has been given, much is expected. The closer we draw to the Lord, the more wisdom of God that we achieve, the greater will be the weight of our own sins and inadequacies. Applying biblical principles to our lives is not easy work. It requires heavy lifting.
No one can truly convey the truth of God unless it has been lived out in their own lives. Every teacher has experienced this. We will teach on a given subject because it is required and we think that we understand God's meaning. Then, God will bring the true meaning of the passage into our lives through trial and adversity and we will understand that we did not truly understand what God meant at all until just now. Those who accept the blessings of being a teacher of God's word also must accept the heavier judgment and the chastisement of God.
The same can be said for those who would seek to be preachers, evangelist and leaders of the church. When you place yourself in a position of responsibility for other Christians, you must be willing to bear the full scrutiny of God in every aspect of your life. You must be willing to be open and honest about the faults within your own life, because however clever you may think that you are, the sins of your soul will be brought out for all to see. "For in many things we all stumble." Christian leaders are not men and women who have never stumbled. They are those who have stumbled, and by God's power, have the courage to regain their feet and lead again.
There is a saying that every Christian teacher and leader learns rather early, "We shoot our wounded." It is a rare Christian assembly that allows its leaders to stumble and then regain their feet to lead again. We tend to make idols of our leaders and then when they fall from grace, we discard them as being worthless. Christian leaders are men and women of faith just like you and I. They are children of God who sometimes make mistakes. Often, when those mistakes are made, they can be devastating, to their own faith and to the faith of their congregations.
And so, we usually get two types of leaders. The most common is the leader who fears to admit any weakness. These leaders attempt to struggle with their sin and weaknesses in isolation. Eventually though, something happens that brings that weakness to the light and then everyone is surprised. If the shame of the discovery is bad enough, the fallen leader is sent away. In any case, he or she is severely weakened in moral authority and effectiveness. The other type, more rare than the first, is the leader who, through false humility, admits to every fault known to man hoping to inoculate themselves from their true sins and weaknesses. While this type of leader may seem preferable, those who follow them still do not see the example of a moral leader dealing with their own weaknesses appropriately.
And that is the purpose of all of this. God wants teachers, preachers and leaders to model proper Christian conduct. This does not mean hiding one's sins nor does it mean reveling in weakness. Leaders should be given the freedom to admit weakness in specific areas and be allowed to adopt methods that God would use to protect them from their own private sins. A leader who has a problem with lust should never counsel or work alone with a brother or sister where that temptation may overwhelm them. A leader who has a problem with greed should never be in control of the finances of the church. These are just two examples out of many where temptation should be addressed in an open, charitable manner.
Leaders must be willing to accept the heavier judgments that come with authority. Congregations must be willing to extend the mercy that God has given to them to their leadership as well. In this way, we all grow into the image of Christ that has been implanted within us by the Father.
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