James 3:1 – A Warning for Teachers

By Wayne Jackson

In the Greek New Testament there is a negative particle which is quite expressive as it is employed with different grammatical constructions. For example, the particle me (pronounced “may”), when used with a verb that is in the present tense and imperative mood (command), suggests that one is to stop the progressive action that is reflected by the verb.

On the other hand, if me is employed with a verb that is aorist tense and subjunctive mood (mood of possibility or contingency), the emphasis is that the subject is not to start whatever action may be contemplated in the verb.

With this principle in view, consider the following passage.

The inspired James writes:

“Be not [me] many of you teachers, my brothers, knowing that we shall receive the heavier judgment” (3:1).

In this case, the verb is a present, imperative form. Hence, the thought is: “Stop being teachers….” Thus, circle “not,” and marginally note: Command to stop action in progress.

In view of the fact that Christians are commanded to be teachers (Mt. 28:20), why would James tell some teachers to, in effect, “get out of the teaching business”? Think on this:

  1. If one does not respect the inspiration and authority of the Bible, he should quit teaching. He has no business corrupting the minds of his students.
  2. If one is desirous of a teaching position merely for the honor that attaches to the role, and is not genuinely dedicated to his students, he should stop teaching.
  3. If a teacher is lazy and does not really spend time in preparation, he is a disservice to the cause of Christ.
  4. If a teacher has no real enthusiasm for the Word, he should abandon the role. It is a teaching-crime of great magnitude when one conveys the impression that the sacred Scriptures are boring.

Good teachers will be wonderfully blessed in heaven; bad teachers will be judged with severity. This is a sobering truth. Let every teacher, therefore, teach with great gravity.

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About the Author

Wayne Jackson has written for and edited the Christian Courier since its inception in 1965. He has also written several books on a variety of biblical topics including The Bible and Science, Creation, Evolution, and the Age of the Earth, The Bible on Trial, and a number of commentaries. He lives in Stockton, California with his dear wife, and life-long partner, Betty.