Facing Stricter Judgment
“Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. 2 We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check.” James 3:1-2 NIV
As we continue through the book of James, the brother of Jesus turns his attention to Bible teachers. The more a person shares, the greater his or her chances of offending others. There are many preachers in the Bible who offended people when they spoke. Jeremiah ticked off the religious leaders of his day because he told them that God was about the judge them. John the Baptist wasn’t being a “seeker sensitive” preacher called his hearers a “brood of vipers.” Jesus didn’t gain any votes of popularity when He called His hearers “whitewashed tombs…”
An important word that James uses in this part of the Scripture when he speaks of Bible teachers is “we”. He includes himself in the verse. James is a teacher. James is a preacher. James knows that he will face stricter judgment. “We who teach will be judged more strictly.” Although James acknowledges being a part of the group that will receive a stricter judgment, as a teacher of the Word, I find it comforting that he also includes himself in the group that stumbles – because I sure do. “We all stumble in many ways…”
Though we stumble and though we are imperfect, James reminds us that those who are teachers of the Word will face stricter judgment than those who are listeners. The responsibility of teaching the Word is a serious business. The accountability is great. Be careful, James warns. He urges that if we are teachers, we need to take our responsibility seriously. To those who teach the Word, he warns, you will receive greater condemnation because there is greater accountability. Don’t teach the Word because you just want to share your testimony and let people hear your story. Don’t teach the Word because you like getting attention from people. Don’t teach the Word because you think it is a place of honor or position.”
Teach the Word, but know that your accountability before God increases. It is important to be wary of new or immature Christians becoming teachers of the Word before they are ready. If they become teachers, they might think they have received a place of honor, but James tells us that they will actually face a more severe and stricter judgment from God. Teachers of the Word are accountable for their doctrine and their example. Teachers are accountable for both sound theology in the classroom and for practical application in their lives. Teachers are expected to use their speech to equip and encourage the church and to equip and encourage their own family. Teach the Word knowing that when you do, you are representing the King of Kings. So teach the Word, but don’t be deceived as to why you do it.
Teach the Word because it burns in your bones. Teach the Word because it has saturated your life and transformed who you are. Teach the Word because, though you may not fully be who God wants you to be, you are no longer who you used to be. Teach the Word because though you stumble, the grace of Jesus is greater than your sin. Teach the Word because you cannot, not do it. The words of the Prophet Jeremiah resound with me.
“But if I say, “I will not mention his word
or speak anymore in his name,”
his word is in my heart like a fire,
a fire shut up in my bones.
I am weary of holding it in;
indeed, I cannot.” Jeremiah 20:9 NIV
Teach the Word, but don’t be deceived into taking it too lightly. Teach the Word knowing that God is good, and you are repseneting Him… not only in the classroom or pulpit, but in your workplace… in your home… with your family… and everywhere else you may be found.
Your Word dear Jesus is precious and though I cannot speak for others, I know that it must not remain in me. It needs to come out. Whether at work… in a small group… with my family… or anywhere else. Lead me to be a faithful representative of You. In Your strong name, amen.