Jump Start # 2843
1 Timothy 1:7 “wanting to be teachers of the Law, even though they do not understand either what they are saying or the matters about which they make confident assertions.”
Paul had several things for Timothy to do. Near the top of the list was to “instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines” (1:3). These strange doctrines were fruitless. We’d say, “a waste of time.” They don’t do any good. These thoughts flow into our verse today. Those that were wanting to teach, didn’t understand the message that they were trying to teach. How can you teach if you don’t know?
Others phrase this as:
NIV: “They do not know what they are talking about”
Peterson: “They haven’t the remotest idea…”
For those who are not strong in faith, this is a real danger. Error can have just enough Scripture and truth sprinkled on top that it seems not only reasonable, and possible, but even believable. Taking things out of context and presenting it to those who allow others to do most of the thinking for them and that’s one sure way to mess up a church, kill the unity and start a good ole’ fashioned split. Error thrives among those who do not know.
No one is ever helped by telling them the wrong thing. It may comfort them, but error can sure be a soft and warm blanket of comfort if a person doesn’t know. And a sure way to spread that kind of error is for a congregation to allow anyone and everyone to teach. That may seem like a noble idea, getting more people involved, however, the damage that can result from that may take a long time to recover from.
In our verse, there were those who wanted to teach. They were eager. They’d volunteer. Got a sign up sheet, their names would be first on that sheet. What a wonderful spirit that is. Who could ever turn them away, especially when it is so hard to find teachers in a congregation. These folks were willing and ready to go. But our verse also reminds us that eagerness is not the only quality a teacher needs to have. They best understand the word of God. They need to know what they are teaching. As they teach, they need to teach accurately.
I was reading a Masters dissertation the other day. It was about a restoration preacher. This paper was written in 1938. I’m so glad I wasn’t on that Master board who reviewed that paper. My red pen would have ran out of ink. Over and over the author made conjectures, saying, perhaps, possibly, or maybe. Do your homework, man! Don’t guess. Research. Document. Be factual. That’s the way a dissertation ought to be. But the same spirit can leak into the way one teaches. Perhaps. Possible. Maybe. Not absolute. Not definitive. Not sure. Speculation can lead to all sorts of ideas and conclusions and many of them will not be based upon the Word of God.
So, some thoughts:
First, it is better to say, “I don’t know,” than it is to guess. A question is raised and you are not sure. State that. No one has all the answers, except the Lord. But when you say, “I don’t know,” go and find the answer. Do your homework. Research. Dig. Look. Find. Then, report back what you found. Don’t leave it unanswered. Don’t leave people guessing. Don’t allow people to think, it doesn’t matter. It does.
Second, James reminds us that not everyone should teach. Not everyone is cut out to be a teacher. The point James is making is that of responsibility and accountability. What you say matters. You can’t just say things and not be sure. To teach takes a lot of study, looking, writing and thinking. One anticipates questions. One chases rabbits of thought. One brings all of that together in a nice, flowing lesson that makes sense. Not everyone can do that. Not everyone has the patience to be a teacher. Not everyone has the time to be a teacher. Not everyone can deal with all the things that come with teaching.
Third, shepherds of the congregation are responsible for feeding the church. The task falls upon them to know who can teach and who can not. And, that decision must not be based solely upon who wants to. In our verse, those folks wanted to teach, but they shouldn’t. They didn’t know what they were teaching. So, before a problem blows up by having the wrong person teaching, some time needs to be spent talking, listening and seeing someone grow in faith. This is shepherding at the core. It’s developing people. Little avenues of opportunity lead to larger ones, if one becomes trustworthy and dependable.
Finally, great things are accomplished with an honest and good heart intersects with the Word of God. Conversion takes place. Growth happens. Change follows. Blessings flow. Getting the right folks to teach the right things is important. It’s hard work, but when it’s right, beautiful things happen.
They don’t understand what they are saying…we must make sure that we do. We understand, whether we are teaching, singing a hymn, or in conversation with a friend. Know first, then teach. That’s an important order that we should follow.