According to Scripture, the first requirement to become a bishop, elder, or pastor is not a sense of a special call, but a strong desire to do the work of a “bishoping,” or overseeing others (1 Tim 3:1). Why would anyone desire this ministry?
James considered himself a teacher (notice how James changes from “you” to “we”). The highest honor is to be in this class of service, but the risks are great. He has several reasons for cautioning us to think twice about wanting to become a teacher.
First, you will be subject to a more severe scrutiny of your personal appearance before the judgment seat of Christ.
Second, it is also implied that the church will strictly review your every teaching and doctrine.
The primary means of communication during that time was oral, so it was vital for teachers to control what they said. From such a position, they could easily introduce false concepts, mistaken ideas, divisive issues, or exaggerations, all of which would discredit the church ministry.
The churches tended to have “itching ears”—-they wanted to hear what made them feel good (2 Tim 4:3). There was no shortage of deceptive teachers who yielded to pleasing their audiences.
The idea that those who teach will be judged more severely is derived from Luke 12:48: “To whom much is given from him much is required.” Paul commented on how he would discipline his “body and bring it into subjection, lest when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified” (1 Cor 9:27)—-that is, God would remove him from the ministry.
Teaching authority includes great responsibility. Works demonstrate the depths of a person’s faith, so words reveal the depth of a person’s maturity and wisdom.
James’s warning is meant to limit those whose motives may be influenced by the desire for the spotlight or by enthusiasm for a new doctrine (however divisive); it is not meant to discourage those who seek to help others mature in unity, obedience, and love for one another.
Beware the lust for position and prestige. A teacher always helps everyone know God’s word and walk in its light. The singular motive should be to help others understand the word of God and to delight in helping others live out its truths. Is this what motivates you?
“Lord, my secret ambition to feel important too often overshadows Your plan for my life. Teach me to be useful to You.”
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