My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment. For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body.
What we say and how we say it matters to God. This is the main point James is making in chapter three. And James begins his discussion of taming the tongue with speaking about the role of the pastor/teacher. We should point out that James in these passages is using a common Jewish literary device which is to blame a specific part of the body as if it were a person. And James has done well to pick out the tongue. Because it’s the tongue which we use to spread gossip and slanderous speech. The tongue helps to spread the wicked behavior which is stored within the hearts of men. In addition, we must understand the context. James is speaking to a group of Jewish believers. These were people raised in Judaism and now have come to faith in Jesus. Moreover, this group still held onto many of the Jewish traditions and social customs, including the role of the Rabbi. In everyday Jewish life the Rabbi held power and influence within the community.
In addition, within Jewish society the Rabbi was highly respected and therefore many of these new Christians were seeking to quickly take on this role. They wanted to do so, because they saw it as a new opportunity for themselves. And because of all these factors, many of the men were seeking to fill this role within the new religion of Christianity. However, James is warning them against such behavior and against striving so quickly for the role of teacher. Not because this was necessarily a bad thing, but rather it had to be done for the right motives. And unlike other religions, this was a role in which people were directly called by God to fill. Every believer is given a different blend of spiritual gifts, given directly by the Lord with which to edify the body of Christ, which is the church. And not all people are called to be teachers and not all teachers are called to be pastors. Moreover, all believers are to be placed within the body by Jesus Himself. We work to fulfill the duties of the role in which He has placed us. And Christians are not to seek out roles which Jesus has not called them to, for personal gain and recognition.