“Be not many of you teachers, my brethren, knowing that we shall receive heavier judgment” (Jas. 3:1).
Surely we know James is not discouraging teaching, but seeks to impress us with the serious responsibilities of teaching. A careless remark, misuse of scripture or the like, uttered in private conversation, may have a devastating result when repeated, multiplied, and applied in a way you may never have dreamed. How much more when the teaching is done from the pulpit, or written, to be embalmed for generations unborn.
Yes, we can take ourselves too seriously — imagine we have influence totally unreal; but better this than irresponsible scattering of tares.
Yet, teaching must be done; and as none of us are infallible but are subject to err in teaching, a second safeguard must be employed. We must develop an attitude toward our work that promotes humility rather than “editorial arrogance”; that permits speaking or writing with conviction without feeling that all who differ with us are Satanic ogres, bent on corrupting the brotherhood. If our motives are right we can teach truth and correct error without leaving the impression we think we are savior of the church.
If we truly love souls, and our purposes to lead people out of darkness into light, all the more reason to cultivate their confidence and impress them with our fairness and good will. We defeat these noble purposes when we pounce upon every conceived missed word or wrong judgment as grist for our mill. A teacher assists hearers and readers to know and understand more perfectly, and encourages them to live a better life. Reproof and rebukes are made with a heavy heart, not as haughty ego trips.
So, there are two requirements of the godly teacher. The content of his teaching must be pure a right; but he must also do his job in the right way, with the right spirit. Our text seems pointed more toward the latter. Bitter envy and strife must give way to wisdom from above — that is pure, peaceable, gentle, etc. (Jas. 3:17-f).
Robert F. Turner