Near his treatise on the misuse of the tongue James stated, “For we all stumble in many things” ( Jas. 3:2 ). Boy, do we ever! The devil is our adversary- enemy- ( 1 Pet. 5:8 ), and he’s very skilled at leading us into sin and away from God. It’s obvious that James is, referring, primarily, to sinning by his use of the word “stumble.” The phrase “in many things” points to the fact that we find ourselves sinning in many different ways.
As noted, James makes this statement near the beginning of a lengthy context on our difficulty at keeping our tongue in check ( Jas. 3:1-12 ). Certainly, there are many ways that we can sin through the misuse of the ability to speak, with which God has blessed us.
One sin of speech would be teaching false doctrine ( 2 Jn. 1:9-11 ). James warned to be careful when we find ourselves in a position to teach others from God’s word. We should always remember that it is the “truth” that will make us free ( Jn. 8:32 ). God’s word that bears that truth ( Jn. 17:17 ). We need to be careful to teach only the truth, and we should always strive to teach it effectively and in the right spirit.
But there are other sins of the tongue of which we need to always be aware and against which we need to be on guard. Lying is condemned repeatedly in scripture ( Prov. 6:16-19; 12:22; Rev. 21:8 ). Gossip is another misuse of the tongue that can quickly develop into sin ( Prov. 6:19 ). Contentions, dissensions, outbursts of anger are also sins of the tongue ( 1 Cor. 1:10-13; Gal. 5:20 ). Even grumbling and complaining can become sinful ( Jude 1:16 ).
But there are many other ways in which we will stumble, if we’re not careful. Any act that could be identified as being wicked is sin ( Prov. 4:19 ). Many stumble through drunkenness and find themselves subsequently stumbling in judgment ( Isa. 28:7 ). Some stumble in the face of persecution and tribulation ( Mk. 4:17; Jn. 16:1-4 ). In that regard, the apostles stumbled when Jesus was taken prisoner and crucified ( Matt. 26:31 ).
A lack of understanding, spiritual immaturity can lead to stumbling, and poor discretion on the part of more knowledgeable, more mature Christians can cause weaker brothers and sisters to stumble ( 1 Cor. 8:13 ). Many stumble by simply choosing to be disobedient ( 1 Pet. 2:8). Many others fail to be as diligent as they need to be in developing and nurturing their faith and consequently stumble into unfaithfulness ( 2 Pet. 1:5-11 ).
As James emphasized, “we all stumble in many things.” We need to be aware and alert. The devil is always probing for our weaknesses, and he continually presents opportunities for us to stumble. If we feel secure in our personal strength, we’d better take heed, for that could be an indication that we’ve actually let down our guard and are on the verge of stumbling ( 1 Cor. 10:12 ). Some stumble in judgment, thinking they can do without the teaching, edification and fellowship that comes by worshipping God with the church on a regular, continual basis ( Heb. 10:23-25 ).
We can effectively resist the devil only by walking faithfully with God ( Jas. 4:7-8 ). Are you walking with God, diligent in your faithfulness to Him???
Gary L. Hutchens