LET NOT MANY BECOME TEACHERS
Look at verse 1 again. I believe this is a verse that, in a very subtle way, is misused and let me tell you why I say that.
So, some who have the opportunity to teach…who have the ability to teach… use this verse to excuse themselves from teaching; perhaps from even trying to teach.
The only problem with that kind of thinking is the Parable of the Talents.
And remember the Great Commission: “Go and make disciples of all nations…teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”
So, I do not believe this passage here in James was meant to contradict our Lord or to give Christians an excuse not to teach.
I believe what James says here in vs. 1 has a completely different purpose…I believe it is intended to tell those who do teach…and who aspire to teach…to take their teaching responsibilities seriously.
Let me explain.
To begin, turn with me to Matthew 23: 1-7.
As we read this you are going to see one of the primary reasons some wanted to be “teachers.” Watch what Jesus says:
Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, 2 saying, “The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; 3 therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things, and do not do them. 4 “And they tie up heavy loads, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger. 5 “But they do all their deeds to be noticed by men; for they broaden their phylacteries, and lengthen the tassels of their garments. 6 “And they love the place of honor at banquets, and the chief seats in the synagogues, 7 and respectful greetings in the market places, and being called by men, Rabbi.
Here is the motive that many had for becoming a teacher.
Listen, in Jewish society teachers were “somebody.”
So, out of this background James says, “Let not many of you become teachers.”
And, there are some tremendous ramifications that goes with being a teacher.
Look again at vs. 1: Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we shall incur a stricter judgment.
James makes this statement to tell us, “When you teach, take your teaching seriously because God does.
Some of the old Jewish Rabbi’s taught and never gave any thought about accountability for what they were teaching.
So, what James says here is not intended to excuse us from teaching; it is a statement that says, “When you teach, teach the right things for the right reasons.”
Now, look at verse 2. James continues to speak in the context of teachers and teaching.
And James uses several illustrations to emphasize the influence and power of the tougue.
And as powerful and influential as bit is to a horse; and a rudder is to a ship; so also is the tongue! Look at vs. 5:
So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things.
Behold, how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire!
6 And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity (James is not saying here that nothing good comes from the tongue. Many good things come from what is said. But at the same time it contains a world of iniquity. It voices every evil feeling and every sinful act. Nothing evil is beyond its power of accomplishment); the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell.
7 For every species of beasts and birds, of reptiles and creatures of the sea, is tamed, and has been tamed by the human race. 8 But no one can tame the tongue (as hard as we try; because we are not perfect; vs. 2); it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless our Lord and Father; and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; 10 from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way. 11 Does a fountain send out from the same opening both fresh and bitter water? 12 Can a fig tree, my brethren, produce olives, or a vine produce figs? Neither can salt water produce fresh.
Listen, because of the tongue…and the difficulty of controlling the tongue…and because of the inconsistencies we manifest through the tongue…teachers, but not only teachers but each of us, have great potential to do damage.
Teaching for the Lord is not a trivial thing…
But still we need and must have teachers…and so in verses 13-18 James gives instructions to those who, in spite of the accountability…and the potential to do damage, have opportunity to teach.
Look at this. Vs. 13: Who among you is wise and understanding?
He says: Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom.
Those Old Jewish Rabbis… many of them weren’t morally or doctrinally sound.
Well, here James says that a teacher should show “by his good behavior…by his conduct that he is guided by wisdom…and thus qualified to be a teacher.
You/I may want to teach…but understand, our life style must manifest that we are credible enough to teach….because if our walk doesn’t agree with our talk we will destroy the credibility of what we are trying to teach. .
Look at verse 14: But if you have bitter jealousy (Pharisees and Sadducees were extremely jealous of one another) and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth.
15 This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing.
And sadly, today, many congregations have failed to learn this.
So, what is a teacher for God supposed to look like? James 3:17
17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. 18 And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.
Look at a man’s life….and if this is what you see…then he is a good candidate to be a teacher.
This is not a passage that gives us excuse to not teach. This is a passage that tells us to teach for the right things for the right reasons.
For all of us: There are many good ways to use our tongues; prayer, praise; encouragement; instruction. Let us all make a point to use our tongues with wisdom.