The Epistle of James - Godly Values
Part 18 - Don't be a teacher!
31st August 2018
You may know your Bible very well. It doesn't make you a teacher. You may be very eloquent. It doesn't make you a teacher. You may be very godly. It doesn't make you a teacher. You may be the best teacher in the church. It doesn't make you a teacher. What makes you a teacher is God calls you to be a teacher.
What makes you a pastor is God calls you to be a pastor. What makes you a prophet is God calls you to be a prophet. And so on. The election of God, the sovereign choice of God, is our only qualification to do anything in His holy name.
God does not call the equipped; He equips the called. If God calls you to be a teacher or anything else, he will equip you to do it. But just because he's already equipped you to do it, that doesn't mean he's called you.
The only reason I'm my church's pastor is that I honestly believe that God called me to do it, and they believe that God called me to do it.
Leadership in any flavour is not a long-service award. It's not a good behaviour award. It doesn't go to the holiest Christian. It goes to whomsoever God has chosen to lead, and quite often he chooses fools to lead:
1 Corinthians 1v27-28
What God requires in a leader is humility and integrity. He'll provide the gift, but He requires the repentance. And the first thing he requires of a leader is don't presume to be a leader. Don't presume to be a preacher or teacher just because you're good at it. Let God lead. Let God choose. Don't presume to be anything. Accept the sovereign choice of God.
1 Peter 5v6
Let God lead. Let God do what God wants to do, in God's timing. Sometimes He calls someone stupider than you to teach you. Deal with it. Let Him do it. God has the right to choose who lead and teaches His church.
But the reason James gives for us not presuming to be a teacher is that being a teacher comes with greater judgement. It's not a bonus to be a teacher. It's a burden to be a teacher, and it's a burden to a pastor. one of the burdens of being a teacher is that we who teach will be judged more strictly.
Everybody will be judged, including Christians. On the Day of Judgement, if you're a Christian, you will be judged as a sheep and not a goat. You will still have your ticket. But the degree of treasure in heaven you have will be subject to judgement. And we who teach who will be judged more strictly. Our treasure in heaven will go down quicker on the day of judgement than others' will.
They're be less treasure for we who teach because although God requires integrity from every Christian, He requires it more from we who teach. God requires honesty from every Christian, but He requires more it when you're standing in front of the church, telling your brothers and sisters what the Bible says and calling them to obey it. God requires purity of heart from us all, but particularly from we who presume to teach others.
Who is any one of us to teach anyone anything? If I ever forget that the only reason I teach is that God wants me to, then my friends should tell me so, and I should stop doing it. It's not my ego trip; it's God's election.
And I must do it with integrity or I will be severely judged. If I teach in a way that is proud, or careless with the holy Word of God, or judgemental, if I teach in a way that tears down and doesn't build up, then I will be judged. If I teach the awfulness of sins without acknowledging that I too am a sinner, if I teach while imagining in my heart that my hearers have problems but I haven't, I will be judged. If I get the Word of God wrong, I will be judged.
Don't presume to be a teacher. Give thanks to God that you're not one. Seriously. There is a joy in teaching, and there's a joy in listening. But there is a great judgement for we who teach.
1 Peter 4:11
Does anybody who's never preached have any idea how heavy a burden that is? If we don't speak as if the pages of the bible contains the very words – or in some translations, the very oracles - of God, then we will be judged. When we stand up to explain a passage of the Bible, we're speaking about the holiest thing on earth. We must treat it with as much sensitivity, respect and submission as we possibly can.
And what is God's judgement going to be for those brothers of ours who dare to teach that parts of the Bible aren't really true?
As well as judgement on the Day of Judgement, there will also be judgement on earth. If you or I are behaving badly in any way, God loves us enough, and He loves our neighbours enough, to give us powerful reasons to behave better. He will judge us for every unkind word, to encourage us not to speak unkindly. He will judge us for every unkind act to encourage us not to act unkindly. Of course He will, because he's interested in perfecting our characters to make us ready for heaven, so that we get treasure in heaven.
And He will also judge us because He wants us to function as the light of the world. How can do that if we're no more kind, gentle and godly than the lost? We don't reach the lost by having better theology than them – of course we have better theology than them – but by being loving, holy people.
Because God cares about our witness, and because God cares about our treasure in heaven, and because God cares about our neighbours and our brothers' wellbeing, He will judge us when we misbehave. And He will do so more strictly if we're teachers. How much more severely will God judge those who presume to be teachers, who tell others the importance of godly living, when we fail to live up to our own teaching? If we're living bad lives, if we're preaching with a bad attitude, God will judge us severely. So don't presume to be a teacher. You're better off out of it. But if you are called to be a teacher, submit to God and serve as well as you can, with purity and humility.
And, finally, let me say this: pray for your preachers. They carry a heavy burden. If they're not very good, pray for them to be better. You've got to listen to them. Pray for them to be interesting. Pray for them to be right. You don't want to learn heresy. They need your prayers.