If you look up the world’s most dangerous jobs you’ll find fascinating things. Usually jobs such as mechanics, couriers, street sweepers, miners, body guards, astronauts, firefighters, police officers, and mountaineer guides are on the list and we’re not caught off guard with these jobs because they’re ones we’d all expect to be on lists like this. But, one list I found had 3 jobs of that stuck out to me as especially dangerous, so much so that I was surprised to see that these were even real jobs people can have: alligator wrestler, lion tamer, and land-mine remover. I’m not quite sure what goes through the mind of a person when they sign up for this kind of work, or even what the life expectancy of one these careers has, it can’t be very long at all!
But then I’m reminded by James 3:1 that there’s another profession just as dangerous. You know what it is? The New Testament elder. James 3:1 says, “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.” Lion tamers, alligator wrestlers, land-mine removers, and elders; wouldn’t normally go together on any list would it? James says otherwise. Why? Because those who teach the Word of God will be judged with greater strictness.
I do think James 3:1 refers to the office of elder as the New Testament describes it and not merely the pastor. I say this because among the Biblical qualifications for elder we find that they must be “able to teach.” 1 Timothy 3:2 says, “Therefore an overseer (synonymous with elder) must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach…” 2 Tim. 2:24, “The Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach…” Likewise 2 Tim. 2:2 Paul reminds Timothy it is these men you want to disciple so they can pass it onto others, “What you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” Lastly in Titus 1:9 Paul instructs young Titus to put elders in the Church on the island of Crete that “…hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.” So we see it is the calling of the elder to not only be “able to teach” but to be able to “rebuke those who contradict sound teaching.” Therefore, I conclude, and you should conclude this person in view here in James 3:1 is not merely the pastor, but the elders, because we elders are the ones God has called and equipped to teach His Church.
This is indeed a dangerous calling is it not? Sure we may not be sticking our heads into the mouths of alligators, taming lions, or removing land mines, but week in and week out it is the elders of the Church who bear the burden of the people; their joys, their sorrows, their sins, their failings, their victories, their triumphs, and then bringing the Word to bear on our hearts in the midst of all these seasons. The elders bear the weight of the people of God, instruct with the Word of God, and are held accountable to God for this activity. I want to spend the whole of our week on James 3:1. I want to do this for a variety of reasons.
First, it is telling that in the Bible God gives us, as His people, a window into what life looks like as an elder. It is good to see such things.
Second, I pastor an elder led church, meaning that SonRise Community Church is led by a plurality of elders who together with much discussion and prayer discern where God yearns to take us as a body. Did you know this? SonRise is not led by an independent, ungoverned, Maverick lead pastor who goes wherever he wishes. There are 4 of us elders here at SonRise and we all have one vote each.
Third, in a very real sense James 3:1 doesn’t merely have elders in view either, but all of you because you are all teachers to some extent aren’t you? Either you’re teaching or discipling your children, teaching or discipling your spiritual children, or (and you must be aware of this) your teaching everyone who watches you day in and day out. If someone knows you’re a Christian they’ll watch you, to see if you really are what you say you are. So do not be fooled, that this is only for those who’ve officially been called to serve the Church as an elder, it is for all of you, because whether you like or not, all of you teach.
Fourth, and most importantly, the weight of James 3:1 must fall on us, and chase us to the cross so that we all become more dependent of Christ, and less dependent of ourselves.
to be continued…