James 3:1 states - "My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment." This statement was not intended to discourage teachers or to cause Christians to waste their opportunities to teach. How do we know? For the simple fact that the Bible doesn't contradict itself, and there are other verses that do teach the need for Christians to become teachers. For example, Hebrews 5:12 declares - "For by this time you ought to be teachers..."
I believe James is simply exhorting teachers to do their work from a pure motivation and with careful restraint over their tongues. The role of the teacher was very important and highly respected in the early church. Today, it is still an exceedingly important job, and those who are diligent and faithful teachers should be respected. However, because of the respect and honor that came with being a teacher, some in James' day were seemingly becoming teachers for the wrong reasons. They became teachers because they loved to be preeminent. They loved to be respected and in charge of a class. They loved to win personal loyalty by flattering others. They loved to display their worldly wisdom. But, these are the wrong kinds of motivation for being a teacher of the gospel! One should be motivated to teach out of love for the truth and love for souls--not out of love for self! Teaching the gospel is a serious responsibility. It is something that shouldn't be considered trivial. It is something that must be adequately prepared for.
The Scripture here declares that those who teach will be held to a higher standard of judgment by God. Why, you ask? I believe that the main reason is because of the influence teachers have. Yes, everyone will be judged for their own lives, but teachers will also be judged for the influence they've had on others through their teachings. For instance, if I preach things contrary to God's word and you believe it and practice it, then on the Day of Judgment we're both going to be in trouble with the Lord. You'll be in trouble for being so foolish as to just take my word for it without investigating everything carefully for yourself, and I'll be in trouble for misleading you, whether I did it intentionally or not.
Teachers must be studious! I spend many hours each week trying to prepare lessons that will be true and accurate according to God's word because I realize how serious the responsibility of a teacher is. My aim is not to entertain you; I'm here to preach and teach the word of God faithfully.
I am confident that some of you are also teachers and preachers of the gospel. When you teach others, it is a serious matter. Don't ever be pressured into it if you're not comfortable teaching. Embrace the responsibility if you're ready, but if you're still a babe in Christ, then you probably shouldn't be teaching yet. Work diligently to grow and become knowledgeable first and then become a teacher. And, teachers, make sure that when you're before the class that you're there for the right reason. You shouldn't teach to pursue personal glory and honor. You should teach so that you can bring glory to God by helping to guide others into a better understanding and application of His word.
So, being a teacher of God's word is a tremendous responsibility, especially when we consider how difficult it is to control one's tongue. We'll begin expounding upon that theme tomorrow.