This week let’s look at a concept that perhaps some of us may not have thought of with reference to our words.
In the book of James, the apostle writes: Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, before you who that we who teach will be judged more strictly. James. 3:1
It is easy to dismiss this verse as applicable only to Pastors or Bible teachers and if you are neither one, you may breathe a sigh of relief.
Not so fast!
First of all, notice that James makes no reference to ‘words’ in the verse. Of course, pastors and teachers do a great deal of teaching with words but the broader meaning of this verse includes not only our words but our behavior. You’re familiar, I’m sure, with the concept that children learn more by observing their parents’ behavior than by listening to their words.
There is a notable difference between a ‘believer’ and a ‘disciple’. The word ‘disciple’ means ‘one who is a follower, one who is ‘under discipline of a teacher.’ The devils believe and they tremble, the Word says. Jesus never commanded that we should make ‘believers’ but ‘Go, make disciples…’
It follows then that if you are a devoted follower of the Lord, eager to do His will and obey His word, you are a disciple, which carries with it the responsibility to represent the Lord in everything you do and say. The truth is we are ‘teaching’ all the time, whether we realize it or not. They way you and I live our daily lives is a constant journey of ‘teaching’ to those around us – good or bad.
Once you have accepted the call to be a disciple of the Lord, like it or not, people will perceive you differently and they will expect better behavior, particularly in your manner of speech. If you used coarse or harsh language before you gave your life to the Lord, those around you will expect your language to change. By refusing to use inappropriate words, you are “teaching” those around you that you have changed and you invite them by your behavior to do the same.
Not only will those around you expect to see a higher standard, but so does the Lord. Our highest calling – and this applies to every single disciple of the Lord – is to be conformed into His image and likeness. This should be our most fervent prayer for ourselves and our most demanding goal – to consistently change how we think, speak and act so that we become more like Jesus every day.
A lofty goal, you ask? Yes, it is, but God never calls us to do something without giving us the grace to accomplish it. There IS grace for you on a daily basis to make the choices that will change you into a ‘little Christ’. That in fact is the meaning of the word ‘Christian’. You are a ‘little Christ.’
So… are you? Are you more like Him today than you were yesterday? Is your manner of speaking improving? Are you even aware of how important your manner of speech is to your testimony for Christ? To go to church on Sunday and use nasty, sarcastic or impatient words on Monday with your spouse, your children or your co-workers is a contradiction.
James goes on to say that ‘If anyone can control his tongue, it proves he has perfect control over himself in every other way.’ (TLB) That’s a pretty big statement and yanks our chain, doesn’t it? James makes clear how vitally important it is to control our speech for it affects our entire life and the lives of those around us.
Every disciple of the Lord – that’s every person who is born again – is called to Christ-likeness in order to inspire others to want to know the Lord.
Therefore every disciple of the Lord is automatically a “teacher” by word and deed.
Disciplining our tongue is a lifelong commitment which the Lord expects and for which we will be responsible when we stand before Him.
Therefore let us resolve, for our own sake, and for the sake of those we know and love, to exercise control over our tongues that God may be glorified and we may be changed into the likeness of His dear Son.