II JAMES 18
Chapters 2 & 3
THE DANGER OF BEING A TEACHER
At this point James warns those who would be teachers. In those days the title “teacher” was very close to the most important roles in the church. They were listed alongside apostles and prophets. However, James aims his warning at the tongue. His warning is very simple. “You cannot ever tame the tongue, so you must always work to keep it under control”. This means one never gets so smart that they do not have to carefully consider anything they teach. The teacher should always be learning, and always be aware of his human fallibility. There is no degree high enough to exempt you from error.
This simply means that if you intend to teach, you must spend much time thinking and examining your own conclusions, before giving voice to them as instruction to others. No matter where your information came from, when you propose to teach it to others, it becomes your own responsibility, and James warns here that you will be held accountable for its veracity and results.
Very briefly, James is saying you should never be a reactor. Never give vent to your opinion, or your reaction to the immediate situation you are in, or the statement of others, until you have carefully considered your words. Are your words helpful? Are they really true? Are they a carefully drawn conclusion or simply a reaction to the words and/or actions of others? This is control of the tongue, and it is one of the most difficult of all human activities.
All good teachers spend time in research to gain insight into various points of view and to get information to help in the understanding and validity of their teaching. However, for the Bible teacher, the final conclusions must always be found in the Biblical text and how that applies to the people he is teaching and the current situations that are being addressed by the Scriptures. This means that a good teacher never allows his resources to be the last word in his lessons. That must be what his conclusions are after he has personally thought long and hard about the text and has reached what he earnestly believes the Biblical writer is saying to him in what he is reading.
When you propose to teach, what you say is never simply the second-hand words of some expert. What you say to your students is your words, and your convictions. This is what the students hear. You alone are responsible for the conclusions they draw from the lesson. If it does not reflect your heartfelt belief as a result of your personal study of the Biblical text, then you are, according to many statements in the Bible, a false teacher. This is why James warns in such serious words that one should think very carefully before he takes upon himself the role of “teacher”.
You are not a teacher when you simply quote scriptures. You are a teacher when you can say, with your own tongue, this is what I believe God is saying to us. God preserved His will across twenty centuries of time to bring a message to us. It is important that we
hear it in the here and now, not in terms of the distant past or in terms of people and times that are only history. The Bible is the living and active word of God, and should be read and taught that way.