Excerpt From “God’s Gift of Perfection” Series
Chapter 25—Part 1
"In many things we all stumble. If anyone does not stumble in word, the same is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body also." James. 3: 2.
There can be no perfection in art or science without attention to little things. One of the truest marks of genius is the power, in the presence of the highest ideal, to attend to even the smallest of details. No chain is stronger than its feeblest link. The weakest point in the character of a Christian is the measure of his nearness to perfection. It is in the little things of daily life that perfection is attained and proved.
The tongue is a little member. A word of the tongue is, oh! such a little thing in the eyes of many. And yet we are told by none less than our blessed Lord: "By your words you will be justified (Matthew 12:37)." When the Son of man comes in the glory of His Father to repay to every man according to his deeds, every word will be taken into account. In the light of the great day of God, if any man stumble not in words, the same is a perfect man. This is the full-grown man, who has attained maturity, who has reached unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.
But is it possible for any man to be thus perfect, and not to stumble in a single word? Has not James just said, "In many things we all stumble?" Just think of all the foolish words one hears among Christians—the sharp words, the hasty, thoughtless, unloving words—the words that are only half honest and not spoken from the heart. Think of all the sins of the tongue against the law of perfect love and perfect truth, and we must admit the terrible force of James’ statement: "In many things we all stumble." When he adds, "If any stumble not in word, the same is a perfect man," can he really mean that God expects that we should live so, and that we must seek and expect it too?
Let us think. With what objective does he use these words? In the beginning of his Epistle he had spoken of patience having its perfect work, that we may be perfect and entire, lacking in nothing. There, entire perfection, with nothing lacking, is set before us as a definite promise to those who let patience have its perfect work. His Epistle is written, as all the Epistles are, under the painful impression of how far ordinary Christian experience is from such perfection. But they are also written in the faith that it is no hopeless task to teach God’s people that they ought to be, that they can be, perfect and entire, lacking in nothing. Where James begins to speak of the tongue, the two sides of the truth again rise up before him. He expresses the ordinary experience in the general statement: "In many things we all stumble." He sets forth the will of God and the power of grace in the blessed and not impossible ideal of all who seek to be perfect and entire: "If any man stumble not in word, the same is a perfect man." James speaks of it in all simplicity as a condition just as real as the other one of stumbling.
Previously Perfect Patience—Part 2