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James 3:1-2

A Higher Standard

1 My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation. 2 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.


Arrogance is not a very becoming characteristic for a Christian to have. In this passage, James lovingly warned his Christian brothers and sisters against being openly critical of others.

The word "masters" is used here in the sense of "school masters." The Greek word, "didaskalos," means, "teacher or instructor." In Jewish society, it was a common passion of the people to become a religious teacher or Rabbi. This attitude may have carried over into the Christian church. There is nothing wrong with that. However, we are reminded of the old saying that a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing.

James was saying that not everyone is properly trained or called by God to be a teacher. Yet, people then, and even now, want to think of themselves more highly than they ought. We all have a tendency to lord over those whom we think are not as well educated as we are and to speak down or harshly to them. Some people think that they are they only ones who know the truth. Such false teachers often begin some of the worst heresies and cults.

Thus, those who are not called into the office of a teacher should remember that "we," i.e. those of us who teach, will receive a greater judgment. The word "condemnation" is not a good choice of words. "[There is] therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." (Romans 8:1) However, Christian teachers, prophets, pastors, evangelists etc. will be held to a higher standard and judged according to the veracity and kindness of their words.

"In reference to many things, we all stumble." We are all imperfect and will often sin or misunderstand the word of God. We all have the tendency to say something that would offend someone else. In today's society, everyone seems to be offended by everything. It is even more important, then, that we watch what we say.

James said that, if we can resist erring in what we say, we are perfect. That does not mean that we are without faults, but that we are mature in Christ and are able to "bridle," ie. guide, or control the rest of our body.

Words are a reflection of our thoughts. Our thoughts usually lead to actions. Therefore, we can know a mature Christian by the words he speaks, especially when we see his works backing up those words.

Before The Throne:

Are you called to be a teacher? Pray about that. In a certain sense, we are all called to be teachers, because we are called to make disciples. However, ask the Lord to make your calling clear to you so that you do not exceed the bounds of your qualifications. Pray that He will give you understanding as you study His word. Pray that He will keep you from becoming arrogant and self-serving as you grow in knowledge. Ask Him to help you control your tongue. Thank Him for the gift of faith given through the sacrifice of His beloved Son Jesus Christ.

For Further Study:

(v.1)
** be. Mal 2:12; Matt 9:11; Matt 10:24; Matt 23:8-10, 14; John 3:10; Acts 13:1; Rom 2:20-21; 1Cor 12:28; Eph 4:11; 1Tim 2:7; 2Tim 1:11; 1Pe 5:3; ** knowing. Lev 10:3; Ezek 3:17-18; Ezek 33:7-9; Luke 6:37; Luke 12:47-48; Luke 16:2; Acts 20:26-27; 1Cor 4:2-5; 2Cor 5:10; Heb 13:17; ** condemnation. Matt 7:1-2; Matt 23:14; 1Cor 11:29-32;

(v.2) ** in. 1Kgs 8:46; 2Chr 6:36; Prov 20:9; Eccl 7:20; Isa 64:6; Rom 3:10; Rom 7:21; Gal 3:22; Gal 5:17; 1John 1:8-10; ** If. Jas 1:26; Ps 34:13; Prov 13:3; 1Pet 3:10; ** a perfect. Jas 1:4; Matt 12:37; Col 1:28; Col 4:12; Heb 13:21; 1Pet 5:10; ** to bridle. 1Co 9:27;

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