Questions From Readers
● What does the scripture at James 3:1 mean when it says: “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, knowing that we shall receive heavier judgment”?—M. W., United States.
The word “teacher” is used in various senses. Jehovah is the Great Teacher of his people, and at Isaiah 54:13 it is stated: “All your sons will be persons taught by Jehovah, and the peace of your sons will be abundant.” His position is exclusive; he is the Source of all truth. He has associated his Son Christ Jesus with himself as an instructor, and Jesus said to his disciples: “You address me, ‘Teacher,’ and, ‘Master,’ and you speak rightly, for I am such.” (John 13:13) But no one else is authorized to occupy that role as teacher, claiming to be his successor, for he said: “But you, do not you be called ‘Rabbi’, for one is your teacher, whereas all you are brothers.”—Matt. 23:8.
However, there are those in the visible organization who are teachers in official capacities. The Master has designated the “faithful and discreet slave” to see that spiritual “food at the proper time” is provided for his servants. (Matt. 24:45-47) Those associated with that slave class in such a role bear a heavy load of responsibility before Jehovah God. They must exercise prayerful vigilance to adhere closely to the inspired Word of God and not to “teach commands of men as doctrines.” (Matt. 15:9) They must be on guard that they never abuse their office by “teaching things they ought not for the sake of dishonest gain.” (Titus 1:11) And they must take heed to the responsibility that is theirs of living in harmony with the righteous requirements of God’s Word that they teach, as is emphasized in Romans 2:21-23.
It is because of this heavy responsibility that rests upon such teachers that James counsels: “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, knowing that we shall receive heavier judgment.” (Jas. 3:1) Not that anyone who receives such a theocratic assignment would refuse it. He should properly show appreciation for the theocratic arrangement outlined in Ephesians 4:11, which says: “He gave some as apostles, some as prophets, some as missionaries, some as shepherds and teachers, with a view to the training of the holy ones for ministerial work, for the building up of the body of the Christ.” So he will humbly carry out his assignment, looking to Jehovah for his direction. But, in harmony with the counsel of the Scriptures on the point, no one should be overly eager or try to work himself into such a position of responsibility.
While no Christian would want to try to take God’s role as instructor or that of Christ Jesus or to usurp the responsibility of the “faithful and discreet slave, yet we can take the things we learn through the theocratic organization and relay them to others, helping them to understand and appreciate them, and in that sense we are teachers. It is with such teaching in mind that Jesus addressed the command to his disciples: “Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations, . . . teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you.” (Matt. 28:19, 20) And to those who were slow about taking hold of their privileges of service in this regard, Paul said: “Although you ought to be teachers in view of the time, you again need someone to teach you from the beginning the first principles of the sacred pronouncements of God, and you have become such as need milk, not solid food.” (Heb. 5:12) All of Jehovah’s people should apply themselves so as to qualify as teachers, doing so in their proper place in the theocratic arrangement of things.