“You Ought to Be Teachers”
‘A slave of the Lord needs to be qualified to teach.’—2 TIMOTHY 2:24.
1, 2. In what outstanding way are Christians to imitate Jesus?
ONE spring day in 31 C.E., Jesus gave an open-air talk to a large, mixed crowd that had gathered to hear him teach. He spoke without the benefit of modern microphones, using the natural acoustics of a mountainside to make himself heard. And what he said was amazing. After he had finished, his listeners agreed that they had never heard anything like it before. The record tells us: “The crowds were astounded at his way of teaching.” (Matthew 7:28) On this and many other occasions, Jesus demonstrated that he was truly a master teacher.
2 Furthermore, he told his followers that they, too, would be teachers. He said: “Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations . . . teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19, 20) The apostle Paul also stressed that Christians had a responsibility to teach. “You ought to be teachers in view of the time,” he told the Hebrew Christians. (Hebrews 5:12) He also told Timothy: “A slave of the Lord does not need to fight, but needs to be gentle toward all, qualified to teach.”—2 Timothy 2:24.
3. In what areas may a Christian be called upon to teach?
3 Why this emphasis on teaching? Well, Christians must know how to teach when they preach from house to house and in the streets, or when they return to visit and conduct Bible studies with interested ones. They try to use all their contacts with others as opportunities to teach. (See John 4:7-15.) In addition, a Christian minister needs to teach when he addresses the congregation at the Kingdom Hall, or when he gives counsel on a personal basis. And mature women are counseled to teach younger women “what is good.” (Titus 2:3-5) Christian parents, too, try to bring their children up in “the discipline and mental-regulating of Jehovah”—something that demands much teaching ability. (Ephesians 6:4; Deuteronomy 6:6-8) No wonder the apostle Paul said that a Christian has to be “qualified to teach”!
4, 5. What help do we have to become good teachers?
4 But teaching is not easy. It is an art. (2 Timothy 4:2) How can Christians, not many of whom are “wise in a fleshly way,” develop the art? (1 Corinthians 1:26) It can be done only with Jehovah’s help. (Matthew 19:26) Jehovah gives wisdom to those who ask for it. (James 1:5) His holy spirit supports those who seek to do his will, and he has given us the Bible, which is “beneficial for teaching,” and able to help us to be “equipped for every good work,” including teaching.—2 Timothy 3:16, 17.
5 The Bible aids us in becoming better teachers. It does this especially by faithfully reporting the ministry of Jesus, whose teaching abilities caused such astonishment among his contemporaries. (Mark 1:22) If we learn what made him such a good teacher, we can try to imitate him. The fact is, there are two aspects to consider in the matter of teaching: the teacher’s own qualities and the way he teaches. Let us see how this was true in the case of Jesus, and what we can learn from his example.
The Teacher . . .
6. What is one aspect of Jesus’ teaching that is vital for us to imitate? Why?
6 On one occasion Jesus said: “What I teach is not mine, but belongs to him that sent me.” (John 7:16) Another time he said: “I do nothing of my own initiative; but just as the Father taught me I speak these things.” (John 8:28) Thus, Jesus directed attention to his heavenly Father. Although he was the Messiah, his motive was the glorification of Jehovah’s name, not his own. (Matthew 6:9; John 17:26) This humble attitude helped to make Jesus outstanding as a teacher. Christian teachers today should have similar humility. Their motive is to bring praise, not to themselves as teachers, but to Jehovah as the Author of what they are teaching. Their students thus become God’s servants, not disciples of some human.—Compare Acts 20:30.
7, 8. (a) What fine attitude toward the truth did Jesus have? (Psalm 119:97) (b) How will a similar attitude improve our teaching ability?
7 Then consider that Jesus came in order to “bear witness to the truth,” and that he had a thorough knowledge of his subject. (John 17:17; 18:37) Even at the age of 12, he was deeply interested in Scriptural matters. (Luke 2:46, 47) Clearly, Jesus loved the truth. (Psalm 40:8) This deep understanding and love of truth convinced Jesus that others needed to hear his message, and he was determined to teach it as effectively as possible.—John 1:14; 12:49, 50.
8 What about us? Probably we know quite a lot about the truth, but do we love it? Do we spend time studying to become more skilled in using it? Do we enjoy talking about it to others? As our knowledge of the truth deepens, our love for it will grow and so will our enthusiasm about sharing it with others. The psalmist pronounced happy the man whose “delight is in the law of Jehovah, and in his law he reads in an undertone day and night.” For such a man, the Bible says, “everything he does will succeed,” and that includes teaching.—Psalm 1:1-3.
9. What other quality of Jesus contributed to his fine teaching ability?
9 However, merely being knowledgeable about a subject will not necessarily make us expert teachers. When you were in school you may have had a teacher who knew his subject well but was a poor teacher. Why was that? It may be he lacked a quality that Jesus had in abundance: a deep love and concern for others. The record tells us of this occasion: “On seeing the crowds [Jesus] felt pity for them, because they were skinned and thrown about like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9:36) He was never too tired or preoccupied to help others. (John 4:6-26) He was kind, gentle and patient with their weaknesses. He wanted to help. (Luke 5:12, 13) The Christian teacher today needs these same qualities if he, too, is to be successful.
10. Why is a good example a vital part of successful teaching?
10 Notice, also, a fourth thing that marked Jesus as a teacher. “He committed no sin, nor was deception found in his mouth.” (1 Peter 2:22) He did nothing that would detract from his teaching. Is this also true of us? Paul wrote to the Romans: ‘Do you, however, the one teaching someone else “do not steal,” do you steal?’ (Romans 2:21) Similarly, is the elder teaching the congregation the importance of field service himself active in field service? Does the one giving a talk encouraging Bible reading himself have a program of Bible reading? In some situations conduct alone can, without any words, ‘win’ an opposer. (1 Peter 3:1) Actions can speak louder than words. Certainly, if our actions contradict our words, a student will quickly spot the difference, and our teaching is likely to be in vain.
11. What further aspect of teaching is here discussed?
11 The teacher’s desire to praise Jehovah, his understanding and love of the truth, his kind concern for others and his good example are all vital parts of being a good teacher. Sincere students warm to such qualities even if the teacher is not particularly skilled in teaching style and techniques. Nevertheless, teaching is an art, and consideration of teaching styles and techniques can improve our teaching. Consider some of the technical aspects of Jesus’ teaching and see if they can help you to be a better teacher.
. . . and His Teaching
12. (a) What feature of Jesus’ teaching stands out in Matthew 5:3-12? (b) How could you apply this feature in improving your own teaching ability?
12 To get the flavor of Jesus’ teaching, read to yourself the first few verses of his Sermon on the Mount. (Matthew 5:3-12) What immediately strikes you? Well, Jesus chose his words carefully. The series of short sentences introduced by the phrase, “Happy are . . .” makes a memorable introduction. But notice too: He does not use complicated, high-sounding words or sentences. The truths expressed are profound, but they are expressed simply. Here is a secret of effective teaching: SIMPLICITY. Read through the rest of Jesus’ discourse and notice some other examples of profound truths expressed simply and clearly. (Matthew 5:23, 24, 31, 32; 6:14; 7:12) Then give thought to how you could explain simply some profound truths, such as, perhaps, the Gentile Times, or why the Bible holds out both a heavenly and an earthly hope.
13, 14. How did illustrations breathe life into Jesus’ words?
13 Now read Matthew 5:14-16. Jesus encourages his humble listeners to spread the truth abroad by their fine words and deeds. Perhaps this idea startled them. In those days the scribes and Pharisees were looked to as the teachers of the Jewish nation. But Jesus made the point stand out, so as to sound very reasonable. How? By using a masterly illustration. Here is a valuable teaching aid that Jesus often used: ILLUSTRATIONS.
14 Why illustrations? Because our mind thinks best in pictures. And, by drawing on familiar things, illustrations can make spiritual things easier to grasp. Thus, Jesus compared Jehovah, the Hearer of prayer, to a father who gives good things to his children. The difficult path to life was described as a narrow gate opening onto a cramped road. False prophets were likened to wolves that disguise themselves as sheep or to trees that produce rotten fruit. (Matthew 7:7-11, 13-21) These true-to-life illustrations breathed life into Jesus’ words. His lessons became memorable, unforgettable.
15. Give some examples of how Christians today can use illustrations to improve their teaching.
15 Christian teachers today similarly use illustrations to make new ideas more acceptable to others. Some have illustrated the unreasonableness of the hellfire doctrine by asking what the listener would think of a parent who punished his disobedient child by holding his hand in a fire. The truth that relatively few of mankind go to heaven, while most have the hope of living on earth forever, can be illustrated by a nation where only a few belong to the government, while most enjoy the benefits of that government. But an illustration should usually be drawn from things that are familiar to the listener. It should not have to be explained at length, or be so long that the point being taught is overshadowed.
16. What kind of illustrations are particularly vivid?
16 Do not forget that illustrations can also be visual. When Jesus was asked whether it was proper to pay taxes to Caesar, he called for a coin, a denarius, and used it to illustrate his answer. (Matthew 22:17-22) When stressing the need for humility, he illustrated the point by calling over a young child. (Matthew 18:1-6) And when speaking of 100-percent devotion, he pointed to an actual widow who was giving her all—two small coins—to the temple treasury. (Mark 12:41-44) Similarly, some speakers at Christian meetings at the Kingdom Hall find blackboards, pictures, charts and slides very helpful, while in home Bible studies, printed illustrations or other aids can be used. Visual illustrations are much more effective than mere words.
17. Name another teaching method that Jesus used very frequently.
17 Finally, read how Jesus handled the Pharisees on the occasion reported in Matthew 12:10-12. Notice how skillfully he answered a very tricky question. Yes, he used an illustration, but did you notice how he phrased it? As a question. He thus skillfully guided his hearers to view the Sabbath in a more balanced way. Thus, QUESTIONS are a further invaluable teaching aid that Jesus used. Notice how Jesus used questions to make his listeners stop and think and to force opposers to reconsider their position.—Matthew 17:24-27; 21:23-27; 22:41-46.
18. Give some examples of how Christians today can use questions in doctrinal discussions.
18 Christians today can use questions similarly. Thus, when a believer in the Trinity uses Matthew 28:18 to prove that Jesus is all-powerful, and therefore equal to God, experienced teachers have found it good to use questions to help him reason. We could perhaps ask: ‘If all authority was given to Jesus, as the verse says, who gave it to him? And what was Jesus’ position before it was given to him?’ Thus, the Trinitarian is helped to view that scripture in a new light. Similarly, a believer in hellfire may use the parable of the rich man and Lazarus to try to prove that a fiery hell exists. (Luke 16:19-31) Questions such as this may help him: Where did the poor man go when he died? If it was heaven, does that mean that everyone in heaven lies in the bosom of Abraham? Besides, what was Abraham doing there, since Jesus said that up to His time no man had ascended to heaven? (John 3:13) Such questions would help to show that the poor man’s state after death as described in the parable must be symbolic. Therefore, the rich man’s state after he “died” was symbolic, too, and not to be understood literally—especially in view of what other scriptures say about hell.—Ecclesiastes 9:10.*
19. Why are questions so valuable in all teaching situations?
19 Questions make a student a participant in the teaching process. Even rhetorical questions (where the speaker does not expect his listeners to answer) prod the thinking of the listener. Notice Jesus’ use of rhetorical questions in Matthew 11:7-11. Questions have another use too. Often we have to know what is on a person’s mind before we can help him. Since, unlike Jesus, we cannot read hearts, there is only one way to obtain this information: by asking well-thought-out questions.—Proverbs 18:13; 20:5.
20. What are the rewards if we ‘pay constant attention to ourselves and our teaching’? (1 Timothy 4:16)
20 Yes, teaching is an art. To cultivate it, the teacher must develop qualities in himself and apply himself to learning how to teach. It is not easy, but it can be cultivated. Yet, to be a Christian is to be a teacher. The fulfillment of so many Christian obligations involves teaching. Hence, we do well to apply Paul’s counsel: “Pay constant attention to yourself and to your teaching.” True, some are more naturally gifted in this than are others. But all can teach successfully if they apply themselves and look to Jehovah for help. If they do, the rewards are incalculable. As Paul went on to say: “Stay by these things, for by doing this you will save both yourself and those who listen to you.”—1 Timothy 4:16.
See New World Translation Reference Bible, footnote; also Appendix 4 B.
Can You Explain?
□ What qualities helped Jesus to be a good teacher?
□ How will these qualities help us?
□ Why is simplicity vital for a teacher?
□ Why will the use of illustrations and questions enhance our teaching?
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Jesus differed from the religious leaders in his way of teaching
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Like Jesus, Christians today use all opportunities to teach