By Richard Lim
I believe many of us during our school days had teachers who made an impact in our lives. Somehow these teachers have influenced and inspired us to make decisions that we never dreamt of. However, to be a teacher of God’s Word has greater graveness and responsibility because you are a spokesperson of God. 1 Peter 4:11 says that anyone who speaks for the Lord needs to “speak as it were the oracles of God” or “let him speak as it were the utterances of God” in the NASB version. This means that we need to faithfully proclaim what the Word of God says.
James chapter 3 says that not many should become teachers. This seems counterintuitive and contradicting to the Hebrew writer who says that many of the Christians ought to become teachers and not stay stagnant as babes in Christ. In fact, Paul said that God gave shepherds, evangelists, and teachers for the equipping of the saints. God wants teachers. I believe He is not prohibiting or discouraging Christians to become teachers but rather offers a warning to those who teach. They must take the job of teaching seriously because teachers will receive a stricter judgement.
James explains in verse 2 with the sentence that begins with the word, “for,” showing us the reason we need to be serious as a teacher. It is because we all stumble in many ways. One of the ways we stumble is in our words. How true it is! As teachers, we speak more than those who do not teach and therefore there are more words to be judged by God.
In Matthew 12:36-37, Jesus said, “But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. 37 For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” James also reveals the attitude of the tongue. “If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body.” His point is that controlling the tongue is difficult and the person who can control the tongue is a complete, mature Christian. It is not enough for a teacher to possess “the gift of gab” and then think that they are qualified in the eyes of God to teach his precious word. The teacher must be able to control the tongue and must be sure to say the things that are necessary, right, and helpful to others.
The teacher must practise what they teach and preach! In teaching we must never teach what we ourselves will not live and obey. Romans 2:21 says, “You, therefore, who teach another, do younot teach yourself? You who preach that a man should not steal, do you steal? 22 You who say, “Do not commit adultery,” do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples?
The bible warns us not to teach just to be exalted and honored. Perhaps there were Christians who were saying, “Why don’t I get my turn to be a teacher? I should be a teacher.” I believe there were people then, as there can be today, who see teachers as having a glorious position, with the opportunity to stand in front of the group, as if there is personal glory in that.
In Matthew 23:8-12, Jesus warns against those who aspire to be teachers and want the position due to the honour and prestige. “But you, do not be called ‘Rabbi’; for One is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren. 9 Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. 10 And do not be called teachers; for One is your Teacher, the Christ. 11 But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. 12 And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Jesus was a great master teacher that showed us humility. In the account of John 13:13-16, Jesus said, “13 You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. 16 Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him.”
Paul gave the instructions to Titus on the qualifications of the elders in Tit. 1:5-9 and in verses 10-11, he instructed that one of the tasks for the elders of local congregations was to put a stop to those who were teaching just for the money that they could obtain. “10 For there are many insubordinate, both idle talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, 11 whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole households, teaching things which they ought not, for the sake of dishonest gain. “ These kinds of teachers are like what Jesus mentioned in John 10:1-18 about the difference between a hireling and the shepherd. The true shepherd will lay down his life for the sheep but the hireling will flee when the wolves comes. A good teacher is one that will go the extra mile to show concern and care towards their students.
As a teacher of God’s word, we must not only guard against teaching things that are false but also not neglect to teach all of what we should teach. Paul, when speaking to the elders of the church in Ephesus did not hold back but said, “Therefore I testify to you this day that I aminnocent of the blood of all men. 27 For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God.”
Ezekiel mentioned that as a watchman of God we must warn whenever we can and if don’t, we will be guilty. Ezekiel 3:17-21 17 “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; therefore hear a word from My mouth, and give them warning from Me: 18 When I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life, that same wicked manshall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand. 19 Yet, if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered your soul.
20 “Again, when a righteous man turns from his righteousness and commits iniquity, and I lay a stumbling block before him, he shall die; because you did not give him warning, he shall die in his sin, and his righteousness which he has done shall not be remembered; but his blood I will require at your hand. 21 Nevertheless if you warn the righteous man that the righteous should not sin, and he does not sin, he shall surely live because he took warning; also you will have delivered your soul.”
Let us all remember that everyone who becomes a Christian has the responsibility of becoming involved in doing their best to teach and convert others. Matthew 28:19-20 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Amen.”