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James 3:1-2: A Warning to Teachers

Don’t be in any rush to become a teacher, my friends. Teaching is highly responsible work. Teachers are held to the strictest standards. And none of us is perfectly qualified. We get it wrong nearly every time we open our mouths. If you could find someone whose speech was perfectly true, you’d have a perfect person, in perfect control of life.

James 3:1-2 MSG

In James’ letter, the third chapter begins with a warning. Not everyone should teach the scripture or be eager to reprove and correct others in the church. According to James, those who teach will be judged more strictly.

Teachers are the surgeons of the mind and heart. A single word can leave a permanent scar. … No wonder James offers his brief exhortation as a warning. To hold wrong doctrine is one thing; to teach and influence others to hold wrong doctrine is another. Those who do are judged harshly.

Nelson, T. (2018). NKJV Vines Expository Bible. United States: Thomas Nelson Incorporated.

Examples of False Teaching

The New Testament provides a few examples of false teaching:

  • Acts 15:24-25 NLT: We understand that some men from here have troubled you and upset you with their teaching, but we did not send them! So we decided, having come to complete agreement, to send you official representatives …
  • Romans 2:17-29 NLT: You are convinced that you are a guide for the blind and a light for people who are lost in darkness. … Well then, if you teach others, why don’t you teach yourself? … You are so proud of knowing the law, but you dishonor God by breaking it. …
  • 1 Timothy 1:6-7 NLT: … “Some people have missed this whole point. They have turned away from these things and spend their time in meaningless discussions. They want to be known as teachers of the law of Moses, but they don’t know what they are talking about, even though they speak so confidently.”
  • 2 Timothy 4:3-4 NLT: “For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. They will reject the truth and chase after myths.”

Entrusted with Teaching

Some have a natural ability to teach, to sort through truths, explaining, illuminating, and helping others to comprehend. God also gifts some by His Spirit with the gift of teaching for the building up of the church. Our churches entrust some of us with a specific task of teaching.

Let’s look at what the scripture says about teachers …

  • 1 Corinthians 12:28 NIV: “And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues.” This verse lists teaching as one of the gifts given by the spirit of God to build up the church.
  • 2 Timothy 2:2 NIV: “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.” This verse emphasizes the importance of passing on knowledge to future generations through teaching.
  • Colossians 3:16 NIV: “Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.” The Apostle Paul writes this command to everyone in the church at Colosse. And it applies to all of us. In our corporate worship, we teach, admonish, and build one another up as we read scripture and sing the hymns of our faith. In that way, in particular, we are all teachers!

We all teach!

But in many ways, we are all called to teach and admonish one another, just as that verse in Colossians highlighted. I don’t think you can say that you cannot or are not a teacher just because you don’t have a natural talent or a gift of the Spirit. How do we share our faith and unleash the kingdom of our God?

  • Matthew 5:14-16 NLT: “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.”
  • 2 Corinthians 5:20 NLT: “So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!”
  • 1 Peter 3:15 NLT: “Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it.”

Here are two introspective questions to consider:

  • If you are teaching the Word of God, why? What is your motivation?
  • And if not specifically teaching, in what ways does your life illustrate the truths of God?


Make every effort to present yourself before God as a proven worker who does not need to be ashamed,
teaching the message of truth accurately.

2 Timothy 2:15 NET

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