This fall I had a health scare: incoherent speech, drooling and numbness. I felt that I was having a stroke. Esther quickly drove me to the hospital and I was wired up. Being somewhat a private person I was suddenly the center of attention and felt not only the discomfort of the event but the hovering of the emergency staff. As I sought to give my spin on what I thought was happening they seemed to not care what my opinion was; they just wanted the facts. Later in speaking to the specialist he also seemed to “just not care” what I thought. Since I am a bit verbose anyways he kept redirecting me back to the facts. His pointed questions kept me to the script and as such arrived at a conclusion. I am thankful he did.
I’ve thought about my experience, especially as it relates to my love of opinion. In fact as it relates to all of our opinions. We all have a certain spin on many things in life that may or may not be based on facts. Some sound like experts on every and any given topic until someone else, who is knowledgeable in those areas, asks a few pointed questions. How I had egg on my face many a time. Even when I think I know much I have to give way to those who truly do. At times I have resembled the phrase, “full of sound and fury signifying nothing”.
The writer James says “let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing we will receive greater judgement” (James 3:1). The classical Greek understanding of a teacher was one who systematically instructed others. A teacher tended to be a specialist in a particular subject who taught his students his knowledge. His knowledge would pertain to the facts relating to that subject. He may have had many opinions, as all of us do, but his role as teacher was to relay facts in his area of expertise.
The Bible doesn’t vary from that understanding but for one significant addition. The role of a teacher in the Bible, whether an elder or as one in the five-fold ministry, is to instruct others in the doctrinal facts of the Bible and to relay them accurately. The teacher is accountable for accurately “dividing the word of truth” and teaching those to others. That person may have viewpoints or opinions on many things but they must be germane to the subject matter in order to teach the material at hand.
Yet the Bible broadens the role of teacher from simply being one who imparts facts to a tutoring or mentoring relationship. The goal is not to squeeze the head full of facts as much as shaping the heart and life, As the author of Ephesians writes: “To equip the saints for the work of ministry, for the building up of the body of Christ, till we all come to unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect or mature man, to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ”.
A teacher who only seeks to imparts facts (teach the Bible) without assuming responsibility for the equipping, building and maturing of others may have followers but are they disciples of Christ or simply followers of the teacher?
So why the caution about being a teacher and what does judgement have to do with anything? As with everything there must be a standard by which we measure results. What will the teacher be measured against? Knowledge? Skill level? Anointing (as usually defined by the teacher)? Followers? Finances? Why not the standard of equipping for works of ministry, not by how many attended a meeting or bought books. Are the facts there to substantiate the often quoted claims that they are being effective or is it just opinion?
Opinionated people love to gather people around themselves and tout their viewpoints. A wise teacher loves to create thinkers who are able to give a reasoned answer for the hope that lies within them. It is refreshing to have a conversation with someone who doesn’t need to quote others to validate one’s viewpoint but can think for oneself.
At least this is my opinion, based on how I see it.