Jump Start # 2286
James 3:1 “Let not many of your become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment.”
Well, it finally happened. I’m not shocked, but I am disappointed. After some twenty-two hundred Jump Starts, I made a technical blunder. On Friday, I wrote about marriage and love. It was a pretty good article if I say so myself. It was shared by several people. It was based upon Titus 2 where older wives were to teach younger wives to love their husbands. In that article, I compared that with how God loves us. Love is a choice, not a feeling. Love is a decision, not a reaction. Great principles. Good thoughts. Only one problem. The word love in Titus is not the same word as used in John 3:16. It’s not the Greek word Agape, which is a choice and a decision. The word used in Titus is the concept of friendship. Paul does use the word agape in marriage. It’s not Titus, but in Ephesians five. What happened was I just assumed that the word love in Titus was the same as in Ephesians. Seems logical. I didn’t look the words up. I didn’t do my homework. And, all of that leads to our thoughts today.
First, Mistakes happen. If you preach, teach and write enough, those things happen. What you quote doesn’t match up with the numbers on the screen or on the printed page. Your memory falters. That “ready recollection” that we are always praying about some days just doesn’t recollect very well.
This really bothers me. I may mess up names, forget dates, but I hate with a passion making a mistake when it comes to God’s word. I teach young preachers to be thorough. Do your homework. Look things up. Go over it and then go over it again. Get it right. And, when it’s not right, learn.
Second, we must be humble enough to recognize that we made a mistake. I’m thankful to a good reader who pointed this out to me. He knew. I didn’t. I do now. I won’t mess up that word ’love’ in Titus again. Don’t try to be a big shot and hide your mistake by something beyond you. Now, I could have said, “I did that just to see if any of our readers were sharp enough to catch that.” Nice try, but that’s not what happened. Or, I could have kept all of this to myself and most of you would have never known. However, that may make me look good, but it doesn’t change the fact that the assumption I made was not correct. If you made a mistake, be big enough to admit it and learn from it. There are greater lessons than just the mistake that was made. There is a lesson about how you handle mistakes. We want our children to be honest and admit when they made a mistake. Do we?
Third, assumptions, even innocently, can be the cause of much trouble. This is where our passage comes in. James was reminding the brethren that one is responsible for the what and even how he teaches. One can’t be so careless or so indifferent that he misleads, misrepresents, or mishandles the word of God. Especially in public settings, it is rare to have the exact same audience back. Now, where this often trips us is when reading the writings of others, including these Jump Starts. We read something in a commentary and it sounds really good. Check it out. Do your homework. There are many things that have been written that are not accurate, complete, nor representative of what God actually says. Just repeating what you read in a commentary, can be dangerous. You and I assume it’s right, but it may not be. We make that assumption even stronger when it is written by someone in our fellowship. Years ago, preachers use to say at the beginning of a lesson, “If I say anything untrue, you will be my friend by pointing these things out to me.” You don’t hear that much anymore. I don’t know if preachers today feel like they don’t make mistakes, or if it is because they don’t want to hear what others have to say.
The introduction of error most often is innocently. Peter talked about false teachers introducing heresies secretly. The Ephesian elders were warned about some who would speak perverse things. There is just a small step from what I think and how I feel, to making that what God says. Our opinions gel into becoming God’s statements. As Jesus said about the Pharisees, “teaching as doctrine the commandments of men”. Those that teach error can appear to be nice, kind and truthful. They do not have the word “False teacher” written across their foreheads. You can’t tell. Some look like sheep, but they are actually wolves. Words must be measured by and with the word of God.
The stricter judgment that our passage talks about is because of the teaching. Not only is one responsible for their own faith, but in teaching, you are responsible for what you have taught others. Carelessness, indifference, assumptions can lead to things that are not true Biblically. Teachers must be accurate with God’s word. This is why just “winging” it doesn’t work when dealing with God’s word. Our memories get fuzzy. We get things jumbled up and crisscrossed in our minds. We say things that just aren’t so. Do your homework. Check the facts. Be certain.
Finally, I’m reminded of the wonderful work of Priscilla and Aquila, when they first heard Apollos preach. Apollos was impressive, yet he didn’t know about the baptism in Christ. They did not write him letters. They did not run and tell Paul. They did not threaten to destroy him, cancel his meetings or brand him as a false teacher. None of those things happened. The passage states that they took him aside and taught him the word of God more accurately. They helped him. They showed him. Not only did he get that lesson, but he also saw a lesson in what to do when others are not completely accurate.
I’m thankful for our good reader who pointed these things out to me. So kind. So helpful. So much in the spirit of this Acts couple. So much the way I want to be when I encounter someone who made a mistake with Scriptures.
Mistakes will make us be more careful. Mistakes can be corrected. Mistakes, in the end, can lead us to being better people.
I’m sorry that made this mistake. I must be more careful. I’m thankful for great readers like Barry who cared enough to point this out. He wants to help, and he did.
Handling accurately the word of truth—that has a special meaning to me these days.