Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.
We can use words to bless, words to harm, words to boast, words to give instruction, and words to deceive. Through words we can tell a person that we love them, or that we hate them. Through words we can compliment or tear a person down.
When the Prophet Isaiah had a heavenly vision of the throne room of God, and beheld the holiness of God, he said in Isaiah 6:5: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”
Words were part of the original sin. In the garden, the serpent, twisting God’s words: “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?”
God had never said that. He said they could eat of any tree except for the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
“We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die” (Genesis 3:2-3).
Eve also gets it wrong. God had never said they couldn’t touch the tree. Twisting God’s words. Further provoked into sin by the devil In Genesis 3:4-5, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
When Adam and Eve are confronted with their sin, they use words to blame in Genesis 3:12, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.”
In the first part of James 3, James zeroes in on teachers. He gives a warning to teachers that they will be judged with greater strictness. The reason why carries into verse 2 that we all sin in many ways, but one of the ways common to us all is that we stumble and sin in what we say.
There is danger in bad Biblical teaching. It can lead people astray. It can teach people falsities, because the God who is revealed in scripture is the eternal, immortal, wise God. He’s the King of the universe, the creator of all things, he spoke the universe into being.
There’s not a canvas where we are painting and where we can make something look however we want it to look.
God is God. He has revealed himself in his scripture, his nature, his holiness. And so sound teaching about God matters. Teaching truth about God matters. Understanding God -in terms of how he has revealed himself in the Bible – matters.
And not all churches do that. And not all teachers do that.
Not many should be teachers because teaching necessarily involves words. Teaching about God’s word, teaching about God’s gospel necessarily involves words and language, and in talking, it makes it easy to say things that are untrue.
We can’t be fast and loose with God’s gospel. We can’t make God who we want God to be if that’s not true about how God reveals himself in scripture.
Unbiblical teachings that resort more to our feelings than to truth.
Doesn’t God just want me to be happy? Not at the expense of sin!
Words matter. How we approach the word of God matters. Like the serpent in the garden, twisting the very words of God.
So it is true that there is a warning given to those who teach. And anyone who does teach from the word of God should question his motives, should be humble before God, and prayerful about the text. It should be taken seriously.
We should be careful in our approach to God’s word.
But regardless of if someone is a teacher or not, all of us should still use discernment in listening to what our teachers say. In listening to that which is in accordance with scripture. Of being fed by sound Biblical preaching. And that’s true here, and thats’ true if you ever move to a new community. And that’s true of any teacher who you might watch on tv or who you might podcast. We should be discerning with the Bible teachers we listen to.
Josh Benner is the associate pastor at Cornerstone Evangelical Free Church in Fergus Falls, Minnesota and has a Master of Divinity from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He enjoys writing about faith and culture. He lives with his wife Kari in Minnesota.