September 14, 2020
Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. 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.
In the time period which James was writing, there were already synagogues across the Roman world. Many were small gatherings of Jews in far flung villages, or communities of Jews who had been exiled and remained in the nations surrounding Israel. Jesus and Paul both taught at many synagogues throughout their ministries. In the first century, there were probably many, many “teachers” who taught regularly in their local synagogue, or who traveled to teach. We can assume that James is speaking to both local and traveling teachers in his warning above.
James warns that those who teach will be judged more strictly. In other words, if you or I put a lot of instruction, opinion, or teachings out there, we will be held accountable, both by God and by other people, for living according to those opinions. In a modern example, how many celebrities have had old tweets or interviews come back to haunt them, sometimes years down the road? How often do political ads feature an opponent’s own words against them? Easy answer. All the time.
Here’s the warning for you and I. For better or worse, social media has turned all of us into teachers of one sort or another. Your political opinion, broadcast on Facebook, will cause you to be judged more harshly. Many famous comedians have seen a poorly worded joke (or one done in extremely poor taste) bring judgement out of every corner of the internet. And rightfully so. If we are going to teach, we can expect to be judged.
Do you see your social media posts or dinner table conversations as teaching? How might you adjust your tone or zeal in light of James’s warning? Because, as it says in verse 2, we all stumble in many ways. It’s not a matter of if your actions will contradict your teaching, it’s a matter of when. It’s not a matter of if someone will point out your poor choices or thoughtless words, it’s a matter of when. Don’t be discouraged or dissuaded from speaking up or speaking out. But do so thoughtfully, with the knowledge that as harshly as you teach, so harshly will you be judged. Try to teach with tenderness, respect and compassion because of this reality.