My brothers and sisters, not many of you should become teachers, because we know that we teachers will be judged more strictly. (James 3:1 CEB)
That statement almost sounds defiant of sound reasoning, don’t you think? After all, if the whole world needs to be filled with the teaching of Jesus, how will the world come to know his teaching without many who teach? Wouldn’t it be like “the more the merrier?”
And doesn’t that statement sound a bit contradictory to that which the Christ called us to pray? “… plead with the Lord of the harvest to send out workers for his harvest.” (Matthew 9:38) Lord, aren’t we just agreeing with your will?
So why then shouldn’t a great many Christians aspire to teach others about the Lord? Because of one overriding reason: “… teachers will be judged more strictly.” But why ought God sift teachers more finely or measure them most closely of all?
Think about this passage from all possible perspectives – the Lord, others, and teachers – and the answer becomes more obvious.
The Lord doesn’t want just anyone or everyone to teach others about him because:
- his person and work is what they describe;
- his reputation and honor is what’s on the line;
- and the accurate conveyance of his word and will is at stake.
Not everyone needs just anyone teaching them about the Lord because:
- the community’s unity is often at their mercy;
- they determine, to a large degree, the spirit of a great many;
- and the guidance they offer determines who just might join, or continue with, the journey.
And from a personal perspective, not all need to teach because teachers:
- are naturally scrutinized more closely by all people;
- must be able to stand the heat that comes from every quarter;
- and are expected to thrive in all circumstances, especially the most trying.
You see, this statement:
- isn’t so much of a cut off, as it is a challenge;
- doesn’t ask, “Why bother?” so much as it asks “Are you up to the task?;”
- and it isn’t an encouragement to back off or quit so much as it is to grow up and out.
Think of it this way. There’s something of a parallel in logic with this statement and the old marketing slogan for the Unites States Marine Corp: “We’re looking for a few good men.” The Marines weren’t trying to diminish the number of potential Marine recruits; quite the opposite actually or else they wouldn’t have been advertising. We all understand the psychology at work in that marketing; they were challenging people, as many as possible to step up to the plate, so that the best of the best could, and would, be selected to serve as, Marines.
Similarly, in saying “not many of you should become teachers,” James is saying: “Only authentic, vibrant, working faith is what’s truly worthy of sharing. God will use only the faith and action of healthy, growing, maturing believers to fill the earth with his Son’s good name. Others need not apply.”
All of which makes me ask myself often, as it should you, whether you teach or not: “Am I growing in the grace of my Lord today or just growing in danger of his judgment?”
My brothers and sisters, not many of you should become teachers, because it’s clear we who teach expose ourselves to the greater danger of judgment. (James 3:1 DSV)
In the name of Jesus, holy Father, let me ever be teachable of you, that I might be taught by you, and so, truly teach others of you, the only true Teacher. Still my tongue and take my life before I could or would do otherwise. Amen.