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.
Why does James lead off a passage detailing the misuse of the tongue, and our speech, with an opening sentence about masters, or teachers? That is a good question, so let’s explore it briefly. There are several possible applications of this teaching.
Teachers shall receive the greater condemnation. Teachers should be persons of great Christian maturity, and the ability to speak proper things in a proper way is a sign of that maturity. Anyone who places themselves in that position will be held to a high standard of judgment for the things they say while in that position. Here is a good illustration of this principle.
Luke 12:48 But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.
Why then, this initial mention of the responsibilities of those who teach to bridle the tongue? It seems pretty straightforward. If the tongue in and of itself has great power when used just by one person to another, how much more powerful is a misused tongue in the mouth of a person influencing many?
Does this teaching apply to all of us? Primarily, this is directed to those holding positions of responsibility, such as pastors, evangelists, preachers, and teachers. But, on the other hand, don’t we all teach somebody? Parents teach their children. Believers teach nonbelievers. Mature believers teach newer believers. Every single one of us has a circle of influence, whether large or small. We need to ensure that we mature in Christian behavior in such a way that our use of our tongue causes no harm, but only good.