Let me state the obvious. Bible teachers use words, lots of them. They verbally communicate truth from God’s Word. Even in facilitating discussion, they guide the process with words. They relate with students both in and out of the classroom using words.
Connection Between a Bible Teacher’s Words & Accountability
Is it any wonder, then, that James 3:1 about Bible teachers being “judged more strictly” is written in the context of how we use our tongues?
Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.
If we read on we learn the following truths about why words tie into a teacher’s accountability.
1) Words can be a source of stumbling or a sign of maturity.
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. (James 3:2)
Certainly we want mature Bible teachers, the meaning of the word “perfect” in the above verse. How we handle, or control, our words could be an indication of how reliable we might be in all we do. Our words can betray what truly resides in our hearts.
2) Words contain power.
Notice the comparisons James 3 uses for the power of words:
- like how a horse can be turned by putting bits in their mouths
- like how a large ship can be steered by a very small rudder
- like how a forest fire can be set on fire by a small spark
A teacher’s words can change the course students take in their lives. Consequently, teachers will be held accountable for exercising control over their words so they accurately represent God’s truth. That requires adequate preparation to arrive at God’s intent. — “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” (2 Tim. 2:15) Words that align with what God truly says in His Word change lives for the good. Words that don’t align with God’s Word lose their positive impact and can actually be poisonous instead (vs. 8).
3) Words said to students and about students both matter.
With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. (James 3:9-10)
Bible teachers, accountable for accurately speaking truth to students, must also understand God’s desire for them to love students as well seen in how they speak about them to others. How easy it can be to talk negatively about certain students to fellow teachers, a spouse, friend, or to whomever you might unload frustrations. God says, “this should not be.”