While reading the prohibition to “stop becoming many teachers” in James 3:1, we probably think of Bible-class teachers. If we think about the reason for the prohibition, we normally discuss it in terms of doctrinal fidelity. That is, we need our teachers to answer a list of questions correctly in order to ensure that their message will match the Scriptures. I completely support such an outlook on Bible teachers, but we might assign too much power to that list of questions. We assume that if they correctly answer the questions on the list, they will teach the rest of the Bible correctly. We also assume that if they answer correctly, they prove themselves wise instructors. We might fail to consider whether they can take the Word and find meaningful applications to life.
The rest of James 3 is often seen as a separate discussion. We tend to think that James was shifting his point from teachers to the personal use of the tongue. But the rest of this chapter relates to the discussion of teachers. It is about the “stories” we tell ourselves. When we face decisions, the things we say to ourselves will determine our pathway and our actions. Those “things” we say, those “stories” we tell ourselves–if we want to build a life of faith, they must be ideas taken from God’s word. And this certainly relates to teachers.
It relates to the growth and development of the body of Christ.
A Word To Elders and Church Leaders
Are you an elder or church leader? Do you want peace in the church that is self-sustaining? Make sure the teachers in the church understand how to approach the Scriptures and apply them to their lives so that their every decision is based upon the principles and ideas of the word of God. Make sure those people of God are telling themselves the right stories about life, and that when they face temptations they accept with meekness the implanted word that is able to save their souls. These people will teach and instruct others in the way they themselves have found and walked, and this will lead others to choose the path of life, leading to peace within and among those of the faith.
Be sure that the teachers you appoint understand the difference between being moral and being godly. Be sure that they can teach others the pathway of righteous living and not just the pathway of moral purity–that they understand how to face a situation and make decisions that will pro-actively build their faith. Remember that even an atheist can meet a list of moral criteria, but a man of God is one who strives to add to his faith, not simply avoid sinful activities.
A Word To Teachers
Do you want to become a better Bible-class teacher? Learn to apply the word into the “trenches” of life. Understand the nature, desires, and needs of human beings and how to make decisions that lead to greater godliness. Creatively seek that pathway to joy and eternal reward at all costs, seeking it as a precious jewel. Bring forth the stamina and determination to find that “way of escape” from temptation that was promised us. And most of all, desire not just morality, but that godly path that will build and nurture faith within. Then go and teach us how to take the Bible and use it to make those healthy choices ourselves. Teach us to love more fully. Teach us how to face decisions and add that new dimension so instead of thinking about how to avoid sin, we start thinking about how to add godliness.
A Word To Students
Do you want to find the best Bible-class teacher to teach you? If you have a choice of teachers, find the one who understands how life works and teaches you to make those choices to accept God’s instructions with meekness and use them.
That last paragraph hurt this Bible-class teacher, but it is a lesson I need to accept.
We can look at this chapter and make excellent lessons about the individual responsibility we have for using our tongues properly. We must not miss that application. But let’s apply it not just to the things we say to others, but to the things we say to ourselves. And let us be sure to apply it to the main idea of the context: teachers.
To interpret this chapter in such a way moves to the next point so completely and so well that it proves to me its genius. James 4:1 begins the most powerful discussion in this book.
For a long time I saw James 4:1 as a bullet point separated from James 3 by a chapter heading pointing to a change of topic. It was related to the previous chapter, but a separate point altogether. I was wrong. Chapter 3 builds a foundation for chapter 4.
Far too long have I have seen James as a simplistic book of proverbs. To see these passages and ideas come alive, challenges my capability of explaining it fully and completely. What a powerful book!
Tomorrow, if the Lord allows it, we will dive into James 4. See you then!