There is a cyclical desire to hold the latest, greatest position in the church. For example, thirty years ago, the evangelist was the desired position, they got to travel. Then prophets became glamorous, they were influential. After a while pastoring became a coveted position because it was thought to be lucrative. In the last ten years or so, however, the ministry of music has become so important to the success of the worship service that their weekly salary is often equal to or more than the accumulative salaries of the pastor and all other staff. I want to add for your consideration that not everyone who desired and functioned in these positions were called or equipped by God.
In First Church, people coveted the position of “teacher.” Today we begin a series on the power of the tongue with the focus on the position of “teacher” because James has an abundance of advice to those who would teach God’s people. Let’s examine just one verse: James 3:1 (Amplified Bible) – Not many [of you] should become teachers [serving in an official teaching capacity], my brothers and sisters, for you know that we [who are teachers] will be judged by a higher standard [because we have assumed greater accountability and more condemnation if we teach incorrectly].
In First Church the teacher was held in honor and named in the list of gifts from God to the church: And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: (Ephesians 4:11-12).
James gave a warning to those who said God called them to the office of “teacher” because teachers will be judged by God Himself by a higher standard. Consider this:
- “The teacher places himself in greater danger of judgment because the main tool of his ministry is also the part of the body most difficult to control: the tongue” (Moo).
- “They must take care that they are teaching the truth and not their own opinions or even their own prejudices” (Barclay).
- They must never get into the position where their scholars and students cannot hear what they say for listening to what they are” (Barclay).
- “Heaven notices what you say” (Evans).
- “A ready tongue without an informed mind, a devout character, and a holy life will hinder rather than advance the cause of Christ” (Vaughan, editors Anders & Lea).
- This statement is about false teachers: “…they shall receive greater condemnation than common sinners; they have not only sinned in thrusting themselves into that office to which God has never called them, but through their insufficiency the flocks over whom they have assumed the mastery perish for lack of knowledge, and their blood will God require at the watchman’s hand. A man may have this mastery according to the law of the land, and yet not have it according to the Gospel; another may affect to have it according to the Gospel, because he dissents from the religion of the state, and not have it according to Christ. Blockheads are common, and knaves and hypocrites may be found everywhere” (Clarke, accessed June 12, 2020).
- “To whomever much is given, of him will much be required; and to whom much was entrusted, of him more will be asked” (Luke 12:48).
The ministry of teacher is serious heavenly business. My gifting is teacher. I do not take the gift for granted. I am not a perfect teacher, but I try to be the best teacher I can be by equipping myself through prayer and study and living what I teach.
But I want to point out that even though James’ warning is for the office of “teacher” we all teach. Parents, co-workers, friends, managers, neighbors, pastors, prophets, evangelists all teach. We teach each other each time we speak.
If your lips would keep from slips,
Five things to observe with care:
To whom you speak, of whom you speak,
And how, and when, and where. -Author Unknown
Considering the scary truth of James 3:1, ask yourself the following:
- Do I accept the truth that I am teaching those around me even if my spiritual gift is not “teacher.”
- Do I need to be more careful with my words?
- Do I need to spend more time in Scripture so that my conversation reflects the heart of God?
- Am I building people up or am I tearing them down with my tongue?
- Based on my recent conversations, how would God judge me?
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