A warning to pastors like me

March 20, 2014

What if I woke up every morning and re-read this paragraph, from Douglas Moo’s commentary on James? Here he’s referring to James 3:1: “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.” God knows I’ve already blown it a thousand times over—for which I will face our Lord’s judgment. By God’s grace, however, I’m getting better all the time!

Teachers, because they bear so much responsibility for the spiritual welfare of those to whom they minister, will be scrutinized by the Lord more carefully than others. Jesus warned: “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). God has given to teachers a great gift and entrusted to them “the deposit” of the faith (cf. 2 Tim 1:14). He will expect a careful account of the stewardship. Paul reflects just this sense of responsibility as he addresses the elders of the church at Ephesus. He stressed that he had been faithful to his task as a herald of the gospel: “I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of all men. For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God” (Acts 20:26-27)… Those of us who teach God’s word regularly need to follow James’s example and apply the warning of this verse to ourselves. When we undertake to guide others in the faith, we must be especially careful to exhibit the fruit of that faith by the way we live. Our greater knowledge brings with it a greater responsibility to live  according to that knowledge. Of course, James is not trying to talk people who have the appropriate call and the gift out of becoming teachers. But he does want to impress upon us the seriousness of this calling and to warn us about entering into the ministry with insincere or cavalier motivations.[†]

I would only add that we can enter into the ministry sincerely and sober-mindedly. The problem is what happens next: we have an enemy, the devil, who “prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).

I can count on one hand the number of times the topic of spiritual warfare came up either in seminary or throughout the United Methodist ordination process. That, my friends, is a problem!

Douglas Moo, The Letter of James (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2000), 150.

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