Do As I Say, Not As I Do

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Sunday, May 5, 2019 0 comments

by Logan Ames

You may have heard of the old saying, “Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach." It’s probably accurate in some situations in the world, but the saying simply is not compatible with being a Christian, especially a Christian leader or teacher. Nobody is perfect, but there is a certain type of moral character that must be present in the life of someone who wants to teach others about Christ and His way of life. When it comes to following Jesus, those who cannot do simply cannot teach!

I remember having an amazing professor when I was in seminary by the name of Dr. George Fry. He taught church history and other subjects, and he was by far my favorite professor and teacher during my three years of working toward a Master of Divinity degree. One day, he made a rather abrupt decision to leave his position as professor at the end of that trimester. I was close enough with Dr. Fry to ask him what was behind his decision to leave. I’ll never forget the heartbreak and frustration with which he told me that he had caught one of his students plagiarizing someone else’s work, presented the evidence right in front of the student, and then the student maintained that it was not plagiarism. Dr. Fry was dumbfounded that someone would try to cheat their way through seminary, and that others in that same class simply were not willing to do the necessary work to learn and get through the course. He shared with me that it was a pattern he was seeing and that he couldn’t give his heart and effort to students who were willing to find any shortcuts they could to get the degree.

Dr. Fry had spent many years not only teaching but also pastoring churches. He knew how incredibly difficult the work is and believed that anyone who was willing to cheat their way through seminary had no business teaching, preaching, or leading in the Church in any way. He would often say, somewhat jokingly but somewhat truthfully, that the work of a pastor is so difficult that people should be doing anything they can to get out of it! In his eyes, someone who would take shortcuts wouldn’t cut it in the real world where ministry is hard. Charles Spurgeon famously said in his lecture “The Call to Ministry," “Do not enter the ministry if you can help it." He would go on to suggest that if a person can be content doing literally anything else, he is not called to the ministry.

Being a Christian teacher is not as easy as it may seem from time to time. This is the basic sentiment of James in James 3:1-2. Apparently, some of the earliest believers to whom James wrote viewed teaching in the Church as a very prestigious position. It is only one department of church work, but it was the department that became the most popular. It seems that people were aspiring to be teachers without factoring in the counting of the cost that would be required of them. So, James is clear that those who want to be teachers should approach it with at least some level of trepidation. He writes, “Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly” (v. 1). In other words, for myself, any other pastor, and even those who write and speak and lead for Worldview Warriors, we had better take the responsibility very seriously.

We are accountable to God first and foremost, and He happens to see every single thing we do behind the scenes. We can put on a show and fool a lot of people, but there is no fooling God. People can assume that we are living according to Christ’s commands because we are so brilliant in conveying them to others, but God knows the truth and will judge us accordingly. Being a teacher of the Word is an honor and a calling, but it’s also a commitment to walk the walk rather than just “talk the walk." That’s not a typo either. Teachers do more than talk the talk; they actually talk the walk. True followers of Jesus walk the walk.

James then gives the best example to show how easily we fail to walk the walk, and strikingly, he includes HIMSELF. He says, “We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check” (v. 2). Even though James includes himself among those who stumble (which is everyone), he doesn’t excuse the stumbling. He instead uses this reality to explain why being a teacher is so difficult. Not only are we judged more strictly, but we have far more opportunities to sin with words than those who are not called to be teachers. Think about the ways we can sin with words as teachers. We can use words to boast and be prideful. We can selectively report what God’s Word says and only give people a portion of the truth because we’re either scared to offend or scared that someone will take advantage of the grace we offer. Teachers, like all human beings, can also sin against others with words. We might slander, gossip, lie, harm, name-call, or insincerely flatter others for a purpose. It happens so easily that we must be careful and be cognizant of how easily we fall into sin as teachers.

Sinning with the tongue is so easily done that James goes so far as to say that conquering this sin means one is perfect. In other words, James feels that even those who are able to resist every other temptation and avoid sinning in any other way are still susceptible to sinning with words. Personally, I know the damage I have done with words and the damage I can still do with words. The sins of the tongue are possibly the most unrecognizable to us; we often do it without even realizing we are sinning. This is all the more reason to avoid becoming a teacher of God’s Word unless you are absolutely certain it is your calling and absolutely certain that you will strive for the rest of your life to do all that you can to make sure you are not a hypocrite when your words are measured against your actions.

With all of this being said, being a teacher of God’s Word is still an amazingly blessed calling. It may be difficult to always live out what we teach, but at the same time, we have even more motivation to live a Christ-like life than others. If I wasn’t a teacher, I probably wouldn’t care as much about my actions or be as bothered by my mistakes as I am now. Jesus said, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked” (Luke 12:48). I know that I am blessed and have been given much. In fact, I was told by Worldview Warriors that this is my 300th blog post for this ministry! It’s crazy to think that God has allowed me to do that much even though He alone knows every sin I’ve carried and every misstep I’ve made over those years. His grace is surely enough, yet it motivates me to constantly strive to do better. If you want to be someone who teaches and shares God’s Word with the world, then hopefully it will motivate you as well.

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