“Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body.” (James 3:1–2, ESV)
When I planted a church on a college campus in Savannah Georgia, I immediately ran into young believers with a lot of zeal. One of the things I discovered was that many wanted to be teachers of the Bible. I mean, they immediately wanted to start a Bible study and get going. I have to admit that their zeal was impressive. However, in the back of my mind, I questioned two things. First, I had a concern regarding their motives. Did this desire come from the Lord or was it so they would be seen in a prominent way by others? My second question was also pertinent. Were they truly ready for the responsibility? In other words, did they understand how important this responsibility of a teacher was?
As I considered this, I did not want to quench their spirit, but I also did not want to engage them prematurely. They needed to understand the importance of teaching and they also needed to be equipped to teach properly. So, I began a series of classes for these on how to study the Bible and prepare for teaching. I begam by looking at this first verse of James Chapter 3. As I got into this course of instruction, many of these dropped out of the course.
James states that many should not aspire to become teachers. The reason is that teachers will experience a stricter judgment, based upon what they teach. The point is that the position of a teacher is seen as one of authority and expertise. Students generally trust the teacher to get it right without challenging the facts. The reason they do not challenge the facts is that they are students and sit under one’s teaching because they are trying to learn that which they do not know. Thus, there is a degree of trust established. This can be a dangerous situation if the teacher does not teach things correctly.
We see a perfect example of this problem in the New Testament with the Sadducees and the Pharisees. Jesus called them “blind guides” (Matt 15:14; 23:16, 24). They ultimately led people astray. These would occur a stricter judgment because not only were they going in the wrong direction regarding justification, they were leading multitudes down the same path to eternal peril.
Now, James included himself in this grave responsibility when he stated, “For we all stumble in many ways.” Yes, even we teachers will get it wrong on occasion. Sometimes we will misquote the Scripture or misinterpret a point. It is sad, but it does happen. Most of these are minor and inconsequential. Yet they are still significant and the good teacher will take steps to be humble and admit the mistake so the students will get the information correctly. After all, every word of the Bible came from God and thus, even if we think our faux-pas are not important, they do represent God’s word. Accuracy is important.
The point I am making for teachers is to understand the gravity of our responsibility. We must realize that we are leading people in a direction. We must understand how precious the word of God is and how vital it is to get it right. We must be diligent to study the word before we teach it. We also must be humble enough to admit when we have inadvertently erred in our teaching and take steps to rectify things. The accurate teaching of God’s word is of paramount importance.