“My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment” (James 3:1).
Christianity is taught, not caught. Unlike a Jew, no one becomes a Christian by birth or pedigree. You can only become a Christian by the new (or second) birth (John 3:3). To have an active obedient faith which justifies, you must be taught God’s word (Romans 10:17).
In light of these truths, James’ words above seem most puzzling. If teaching is so paramount to Christianity, why seek to discourage anyone from being a teacher?
The context of this verse points to several practical reasons why James’ inspired pen gave this counsel.
Teaching God’s truth is not for those whose faith is clearly flawed. If a teacher is not already practicing what he preaches, his faith has serious defects (James 2:14-26) which need to be addressed first. It is impossible to help another with a speck in his eye when a beam is in yours (Matthew 7:2-5). Jesus’ most stern condemnation came upon teachers whose approach was “Don’t do as I do; do as I say” (Matthew 23:3).
Teaching God’s truth increases your accountability to God (James 3:1). Being a teacher increases your potential for good and for evil. Believing falsehood directly impacts only you; teaching falsehood impacts others. Thus, there is greater accountability. Taking heed to yourself and your teaching (1 Timothy 4:16) is the only wise course of action to take.
Teaching God’s truth requires the use of your tongue, a powerful tool for good and an equally powerful force for evil (James 3:2-12). Except for Christ, no one uses his tongue perfectly. Much damage and devastation can be done by the tongue in a short period of time. This powerful member of the body is an essential component of teaching. Beware and be wise.
Like a man who prudently calculates his construction costs prior to beginning a building project (Luke 14:28-30), a wise person soberly contemplates the increased visibility, responsibility, and potentials involved in before he begins instructing others.