The tragedy of the ditch
In a blog at Jesus.org Ray Prichard reminds us of Jesus the teacher. "Of the 90 times Jesus was directly addressed in the Gospels, 60 times he was called teacher." Jesus said, "You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am" (John 13:13, ESV). In history many of us have been called, and some spiritually endowed for this role. But, it is a hazardous calling.
Practical James provided wise counsel for those answering the call to teach spiritual truth. He wrote---
Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we
who teach will be judged with greater strictness.
James 3:1, ESV
Paul echoed a similar truth when he wrote to Timothy---
Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so
doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.
1 Timothy 4:16, ESV
He emphasized the importance of teaching when he wrote to Titus---
But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine.
Titus 2:1, ESV
And, of course, there are many other references to the significant responsibility of the teaching ministry in the local church. That teachers are held to a higher accountability is an extension of many of Christ's lessons, the weight of entrusting to others kingdom truth. Every teacher, I pray, is sensitive to these warnings, and diligent in preparing for the role and being life-long learners in the process.
Now for the morning rant. Last weekend I followed a thread on Twitter that saddened and troubled me. I don't know the individuals involved in this back and forth discussion beyond the fact that they are spiritual leaders of congregations. The circumstances that occasioned the thread are not fully known either. But, the participants obviously held very divergent positions on mission, ministry, and teaching. One side was openly critical of the other, perhaps evidence of actual differences or maybe even admixed with some envy. There was defensiveness too. To air them in such a public venue with the 140 character limitations of Twitter was awkward as well.
It reminded me of Jesus' teaching about blind guides. When the Pharisees complained that Jesus' disciples didn't observe the tradition of the elders, Jesus said---
Let them alone; they are blind guides. And if the blind lead the blind, both
will fall into a pit.
Matthew 15:14, ESV
Obviously the blind guides in this passage were Pharisees, religious experts who rejected the person and teaching of Jesus. They were unbelievers. The truth of Jesus' words, however, have application beyond belief of the gospel or acceptance of Jesus as Messiah, Matthew's orientation. The truth is a universal: teachers influence many people. Their teaching impacts those who are following them.
The Twitter thread the other day was a public display of opinions, prejudices, and biases, with little reference to truth. There were no Scripture quotations but rather a good bit of innuendo, accusation, and critique. It reminded me of notes passed in a fourth grade class between playground rivals. The entire Twitter world, believers and unbelievers alike, held front row seats to their staging. Immediately I thought of Jesus, the blind guides, and the ditch.
Paul referenced the high or upward calling of Christ (Philippians 3:14). To answer his call to spiritual leadership and teaching places his servants on an important life platform. Our own spiritual growth and maturity, as well as the spiritual welfare of those who follow us, is often gauged by what and how we teach. This is why Scripture places such responsibility on those who teach and warns about being frivolous in fulfilling that calling. Teachers must be diligently studious and seriously prepared.
Scripture also warns of future times when false prophets and teachers will find a ready audience. That time may be nearer than we think. Paul's note to Timothy is appropriate in every generation, including right now---
For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having
itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own
passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into
2 Timothy 4:3, ESV
Which brings me to the tragedy of the ditch. What does that mean, "...both will fall into a pit"? Eternal damnation? The fire pit surrounding Jerusalem? Or, perhaps more generically, losing their way, or being without guidance? Whichever, it is a tragedy on the shoulders of teachers, the tragedy of the ditch.
Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who
Galatians 6:6, ESV