The most important tool any teacher, preacher, or church member has in their box is the tongue. It is the chief implement for speaking encouragement, catechizing students, preaching the Word, as well as in informal conversations when giving advice or counsel. The tongue is powerful. Since it carries so much might, the tongue is a tool which is to be holy and set apart for God’s use.
Untruthful, unproductive, negative, and sinful words are not meant for the Christian’s tongue any more than an electric razor is meant to shave one’s tongue. Our words and our speech are meant to be used in such a way as to build up the Body of Christ and bless the world. Therefore we need to be quite careful about what and why words come out of our mouths.
In the Greek and Roman society of which the church was founded within, philosophers and persons adept at rhetoric and speech were the celebrities and mega-stars of the ancient world. People didn’t watch TV, listen to talk radio, or go to movies. For entertainment as well as education they went to the town square and listened to those trained to speak talk about the latest ideas and often debate with one another.
What is more, the early church grew out of a synagogue tradition in which rabbis (the Hebrew word for “teacher”) were highly respected figures. In addition, the way early believers did church gatherings was an open discussion forum where people gave a word of encouragement, exposition, or exhortation.
In our world, ambitious young people move to LA or New York and wait tables in order to work on getting their dream job in the theater or in the move business. In the ancient world, young people dreamed of moving to cities like Athens or Rome in order to try and become a student of a great teacher and be a famous philosopher and rhetorician. This is why the Apostle James gave a warning about not rushing into the role of becoming a teacher (James 3:1-2). Teachers were highly respected individuals, wielding much power, and made the most money in the ancient world.
The role of teacher tended to attract people with the desire to become wealthy and influential. Pride and ambition were the twin sins always crouching at the door of the church teacher. The danger with talking, no matter if it is in a formal setting or informal gathering, as fallen people we have a tendency to be slow to listen, and quick to give advice and counsel. In other words, we too often run into a teaching role without considering what we are really doing. A fool in the role of teacher is both dangerous and damaging because they delight in airing their own opinions and disdain listening to others. The more that we listen to ourselves talk, the less we are able to be taught from someone else.
A teacher who does not have a teachable-spirit has no business being a teacher and they must keep their mouths shut (at least for a while) and take a humble position of listening and learning. Teachers need to teach for the right reasons – to provide sound instruction, offer wise counsel, and build up others.
Your tongue is a precious gift from God to be used with a great amount of discretion. You have in your mouth the power of life and death – the power to promote life and influence others in a godly direction; to build up others according to their needs; and, to nurture others with the grace and truth of Jesus Christ. No one ought ever to walk away from our fellowships discouraged and beat down from rancorous tongues that lacked mercy.
“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:15-17). Amen, and amen.