It is James’s conviction that teaching is a dangerous profession and failure is always met with greater condemnation because it is chosen not imposed and far greater is expected of those who chose to teach. In the early church the teachers had the awesome responsibility of receiving the converts and instructing them in the New Way and educating them in the Christian faith. The apostles and the prophets were constantly traveling, they did not have a particular congregation to minister to, to these teachers they handed over the converts. Just think of how inspiring it was to know that you had the opportunity to instill your faith values on those who were entering the Church for the first time. This was a huge responsibility and with it came a problem.This system, for lack of a better word, was fraught with teachers who sought to simply make Christianity just another form of Judaism. There were those whose lives were a contradiction of what they taught and they only brought dishonor to the faith. Then there were those who sought to teach without the knowledge needed and of course those who pandered to the desires of the crowd. All of the aforementioned problems are still to this day present in the church.
Today’s blog is meant to enlighten not to condemn teachers or those who are considering such a calling. Those who follow that call set out on a perilous journey because of the temptations that challenges our character. James has much to say about Christian teachers in these first few words in chapter three. As stated above you will find many examples in the NT writings of teachers that failed their responsibilities, James laying much of that on the fact that speech was the instrument they had to use, a dangerous thing in itself, powered by of course, the tongue. Let’s look at other distractions, while subtle, are very much are at play. Many of these teachers took the place of the Rabbis in Judaism. Many of these were saintly men but like the Rabbis were treated with such respect and awe that it was possible to ruin a man’s character, to give them an overwhelming sense of importance brought about by the treatment of the people around them. There is the danger of spiritual and intellectual pride. They would be teaching young people and those new to the faith and James lists two other things that could be cause of failure.
-They must teach the truth, free of their own opinions or even their own prejudices.
A couple of things here to be considered. We are in a period in the church today where the way we look at things is being driven by societal needs and the heightened awareness of social justice. It is a Christian attribute to love your neighbor as yourself, no argument here but there should be concern when the intent of scripture as written is debated and marginalized to include those agendas that contradict its intent. I will follow that up with an opinion of my own. To use truth to marginalize another person is also not right. I know you can’t have it both ways but it seems to me that truth without compassion is not a Godly thing.
-When what you say is overpowered by what you do, you have failed. Never get into the position where those you are teaching cannot hear you because they are listening to what you are. Do not say one thing and then do another. James leaves us with two thoughts in verse 2 that are woven into Jewish thought and literature.
-we all sin at one time or another, we are sometimes caught off guard, we mess up and we lose our focus on living a Holy Life.
-It is made plain that sin is made easy and consequences greater through carless spoken words.
In the next set of verses James speaks to the issues of the tongue. That is another blog in itself. I just simply wanted to share a view from the pew of how important a role those who teach and lead need to realize the importance of their work in the Church. People have been playing loose with the word forever but it is more important now than ever that we welcome those new to the faith, those struggling with their faith, those living in the faith and those just watching God’s people in everyday life, are told the truth.
I close the blog today with another personal opinion. There are many great teachers, commentaries and books and of course the Bible itself but there is only one truth.
14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
Pray, seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit and be faithful to your God. As always thanks for coming by the Pew this week.
God Bless, Life is Good
Resource Material for this blog…..DBS, William Barclay