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This is a continuation of Applying James 2.
In Chapter 1, James made us all feel bad for the many ways we are falling short of Yahweh’s demands. In Chapter 2, James hammered the point that merely responding well to God in our souls is garbage—we have to also come up with a constant stream of righteous behaviors. There’s no room for depraved flesh in James’ theology—we Christians are supposed to just rid ourselves of all our moral filth. It’s very simple to James: just stop sinning. Just be perfect. And when we take his teaching to heart, we end up just wanting to cry because we’re such worms in God’s eyes.
Happily for us, James is totally wrong about God judging us by our earthsuits. God judges us by our souls, for He knows that our souls are the only part of our beings that He gave us total control over. Certainly we’d all like to please God with our flesh as well, but far too often God withholds this option from us by not giving us the empowerment we need to choose the higher road. In this world, we crash and burn in temptation A LOT. We do nasty things to other people. We think nasty thoughts. Our souls groan in their cages of depravity, but there is hope on the horizon. God says that when we die, we’ll leave these earthsuits behind for good. We won’t have to battle with fallen flesh in Heaven. And while we’re looking forward to that glorious day, there is much joy and freedom to be had on this earth as the Holy Spirit reveals to us how easy it is to succeed with God. Because God judges us by our soul’s response to Him, and ONLY by our soul’s response to Him, we can all succeed at greatly pleasing Him no matter what kinds of struggles we’re having. God evens the field for us—putting spiritual excellence well within the grasp of every soul. The more we understand the truth about how God judges, the more encouraged we become.
But if we want to know truth, we shouldn’t be reading the book of James. James is a theological train wreck. There are a few kernels of useful teaching here and there, but the lies in this book are far too dangerous to spend time focusing on. By the time we get to Chapter 3, we’re feeling hopelessly condemned, yet James still has a lot more to say on the subject of our failures.
Not many should become teachers, my brothers, knowing that we will receive a stricter judgment, for we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a mature man who is also able to control his whole body. (Jam. 3:1-2)
One minute James is telling us to be perfect and live up to all of those Old Covenant commands, now here he finally acknowledges that we all stumble in many ways. What a bunch of doubletalk.
Now is it true that not many should become teachers? Absolutely. To teach spiritual truths to people is to represent God. You shouldn’t be daring to step into such a position without His express permission. When men elevate men into positions of leadership for carnal reasons, we end up with letters like the book of James. With his lack of understanding of how the New Covenant works, James has no business functioning as a leader in the Church. So why is he? Because he was Jesus’ brother. Nothing’s changed in 2,000 years: the Church has always chosen leaders for really stupid reasons. Who a man knows, how attractive he is, how much money he has, where he used to work before—what do such things have to do with being authorized by God to represent Him to the flock? Today we pass out ordination certificates like popcorn at the movies. Any moron can buy himself the title of reverend, priest or pastor if he grinds through seminary and kisses up to the right people. But when a man steps into a leadership role through such carnal means, is he going to be a help or a hindrance to the flock? So far this letter of James’ has been a minefield of condemnation. It certainly isn’t the Holy Spirit telling James to teach Christians that God views their souls’ dedication to Him like some rotting corpse unless they come across with constant good deeds. It isn’t the Holy Spirit authorizing James to paint Yahweh out as such a merciless Taskmaster. It isn’t the Holy Spirit telling James to teach people to deny their own depravity and believe that they can do good works apart from God’s empowerment. Satan is the one who has been speaking through this famous apostle, and when Satan speaks, souls end up discouraged, beat down, and hopeless in their walks with God. We’d all be much better off if every demon led leader in the Church were to suddenly vanish.
So what’s with this bit about leaders receiving a harsher judgment? We need to be careful here. God judges leaders the same way that He judges everyone else: by their souls’ response to Him. But that said, leaders who grab at the pulpit without the Authorization of the Holy Spirit and start abusing the flock for their own selfish gain are going to end up in big trouble with God in eternity because of their continuous defiance. It’s one thing when a pastor who is sincerely seeking God puts out wrong theology because he honestly doesn’t know better. Such a man will be rewarded for his soul’s devotion to God, not condemned for his ignorance. But there are many leaders in the Church today who are very aware of what the truth is, and they are intentionally deceiving people in order to line their own pockets. Take this business about tithing. Tithing is an OLD COVENANT requirement. It is NOT required under the New Covenant, and any scholar of Scriptures would have to have the intelligence of a turnip to really think God is talking to Christians in Malachi 3:10. Yet today you’ll find scores of “prophets” who claim to have received visions from God of Christians burning in Hell because they failed to tithe. These people are lying their faces off and they know it. All you have to do is read Malachi 3 to realize what a complete crock this tithing argument is, and yet we have scores of teachers intentionally LYING to the flock and trying to terrorize souls with the threat of eternal damnation just to make themselves rich. Tithing has become the Christian leader’s version of back alley mugging. Instead of pointing a gun at their victims, they wave the threat of roasting in Hell, but the bottom line is the same: “Give me your money or else.”
How is it that so many centuries have gone by and there are still so few Christians who understand the truth about tithing under the New Covenant? What is this grand conspiracy that all of our leaders have joined in on by lying their faces off about Melchizedek and the meaning of Malachi 3:10? As soon as our shepherds see a chance to profit off of us, out come the intentional deceptions (see All About Tithing). This is exactly the sort of thing that outrages God: when shepherds who know better deceive the flock about truth in order to keep them pinned down in bondage. Such people certainly will receive discipline in eternity. ALL souls will have to answer for their rebellion to God, but rebellion is a SOUL issue.
Now when we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we also guide the whole animal. And consider ships: Though very large and driven by fierce winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So too, though the tongue is a small part of the body, it boasts great things. Consider how large a forest a small fire ignites. And the tongue is a fire. The tongue, a world of unrighteousness, is placed among the parts of our bodies. It pollutes the whole body, sets the course of life on fire, and is set on fire by Hell. (Jam. 3:3-6)
What do teachers do? They speak. After warning that we shouldn’t be rushing into the role of teaching, James launches into a discussion of how impossible it is for us to restrain our tongues. This is more doubletalk. Before now, James has been beating us over the head with the need to do good works. If we can’t control our tongues, that means we’re going to be doing a lot of sinning—gossiping, lying, judging, etc.. In Chapter 1 James told us to rid ourselves of all moral filth. Now he tells us that we can’t. Running us around in circles like this is a favorite ploy of demons.
Every sea creature, reptile, bird, or animal is tamed and has been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. (Jam. 3:7-8)
This language is ridiculously extreme. Man hasn’t come anywhere close to taming all of the animals. Go wander through a prairie, and when a hungry lion comes after you, you’ll find out how much taming power you don’t have. Call a bird in the forest to come to you and you’ll be completely ignored. Speak to a fish in the sea, and he won’t pay you any mind. Let’s not get carried away with some arrogant view that we’re the lords of this creation because we’re so not. We’re the impotent beings who end up hospitalized and traumatized when our pet dog suddenly attacks us for no discernible reason. James’ description of our awesome taming powers is utterly ridiculous.
We praise our Lord and Father with it, and we curse men who are made in Yahweh’s likeness with it. Praising and cursing come out of the same mouth. My brothers, these things should not be this way. Does a spring pour out sweet and bitter water from the same opening? Can a fig tree produce olives, my brothers, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a saltwater spring yield fresh water. (Jam. 3:9-12)
Right: the tongue is out of control. We get it. And James is a fool if he thinks the tongue is the only problematic element of our earthsuits. How about our dirty minds? How about our hands—they’re good for getting us into trouble as well. How about our feet that carry us into lairs of sin? We’re depraved disasters from head to toe—this is no duh obvious. We don’t need James to go on and on about what messes we are, we need him to point us to truths that will give us hope in our relationships with God. But when we come to James looking for hope, we’re going to be sorely disappointed.
Who is wise and has understanding among you? He should show his works by good conduct with wisdom’s gentleness. But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your heart, don’t brag and deny the truth. Such wisdom does not come from above but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where envy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every kind of evil. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peace-loving, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without favoritism and hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who cultivate peace. (Jam. 3:13-18)
Remember that James is railing about the evils of the tongue in the context of Christian leaders in the Church. Teachers are supposed to be putting out the wisdom of God. James tells us that false wisdom will be marked by envy, selfishness, boasting and the denial of truth. False teachings promote favoritism and hypocrisy. But true wisdom promotes peace, gentleness, mercy and good fruits.
Well this is rather amusing, for according to James’ own test, his wisdom is demonic. He’s been blatantly denying truths about our depravity by telling us to simply rid ourselves of moral filth. He’s denying the truth of how God judges us by saying God will reject our faith unless we also have righteous behaviors. He has shown great favoritism of the poor and hatred of the rich. He’s been a complete hypocrite by teaching that our salvation will be revoked unless we do things that are humanly impossible—things which James himself can’t accomplish, yet he clearly believes himself to be saved. He claims that wisdom from God will promote mercy while he condemns all rich people and those who fail to keep their fallen flesh in check. Here James is strictly warning leaders not to run their mouths and put out a bunch of wrong teaching. Yet that is exactly what he is doing. There is NO WAY that Yahweh is smiling on James’ ugly portrayal of Him as merciless and impossible to please. There is no way that the Holy Spirit is authorizing James to so grossly misrepresent the New Covenant. We’d all be better off if James had never written this nasty little letter, and yet he did. Later on, more undiscerning fools voted to put this letter into our collection of sacred Scriptures, and in church you’re taught to call this demonic teaching “the inspired words of God.” To argue with James is to argue with the Holy Spirit Himself—this is what you’ll be taught in church by more guys who are just like James: spiritual fools who have set themselves up as theological experts in the Church.
UP NEXT: Applying James 4: Railing at Rebels