James 3:1- Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers and sisters, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.
One of my on-line colleagues lamented that this was NOT the text to have come up when you’re in the middle of lining up Sunday school teachers!Who would want to teach Sunday school after hearing this text? It sounds like the safe thing to do is not teach. After all, if you chose not to teach you avoid the ‘greater strictness’ come judgment day. Right?
I’m pretty sure it’s not that simple.
Yes, without a doubt, teachers are held to a higher standard. While the old joke may go, “Those who can, do. Those who cannot, teach,” we expect anyone who teaches to be knowledgeable in the area they are teaching.And that can seem daunting when you’re thinking about teaching about God.
“Me? I don’t know that much. I’m not a pastor. I’m not trained in teaching. What if I don’t know an answer? What if I teach something wrong? That whole judgment thing sounds bad.”
One way to think about this text is to look at who James means by “teachers.” Is he talking about everyone who ever taught a week of VBS? Everyone who ever lead one Bible study session when the regular leader was gone?We get a clue from James himself. He says “we who are teachers.” James includes himself in that group. As a rule, in the New Testament letters, teachers are people in leadership positions. They are called to the role of teachers of the church and gifted by the Holy Spirit for the job.
So, there are teachers, and then there are teachers!
When you’re talking about those who are in charge of teaching and leading the church, James is right – there are higher standards. These are people in leadership, people who are called to be teachers of the church. (Yes, pastors fall into this category.)
You may think, “Whew! That leaves me out. No teaching for me!”
Not so fast.Since much of James’s letter comes straight from Jesus’ teachings, I thought it would be wise to look at what Jesus has to say about teachers. I came up with the following:
1. When we welcome children, we welcome Jesus. (Matthew 8:5-6)
2. We are to practice what we teach. (Matthew 5:19, 23:2)
3. We are all students of the Great Teacher. (Matthew 23:8-11)
4. We are all called to do some form of teaching – that is part of Jesus’ charge to the church. (Matthew 28:18-20)
The thing is, we all teach. We teach by our actions. We teach by our words. We learn from each other. Our children and young people learn from the adults. Like it or not, we serve as examples to our brothers and sisters in Christ. We model Jesus to the world around us. That’s just part of being a community of believers. It’s just part of being the body of Christ.Think of it this way. We’re all students of the Great Teacher.
As students, we help each other with our homework.You’ve been asked to lead an adult Bible study? That’s just one student mentoring others. In fact, you could say that Bible study groups are working on a group project., figuring out the difficult stuff together.
Maybe you’ve been asked to Sunday school or volunteer for VBS? As an older student, you’ve been asked to help younger students learn their lessons, lessons you have already learned.
And the cool thing is, when you work together on a group project (Bible study), or help the younger ones learn a lesson you already know, you almost always end up learning something new yourself!
Some thoughts to ponder:Who taught you the faith – was it primarily your pastor? Or do you remember a grandmother, or Sunday school teacher, or youth group leader?
Might God be calling you to the role of teacher?Not all are called to be teachers, but all are called to be students. As a student of the Great Teacher, how can you help your fellow students learn more about the story of God’s love?