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James 3:1 and the Trembling Teacher

James 3:1 and the Trembling Teacher

Every Sunday I gather with a group of about twenty or so women and I teach them the Bible. Even writing that here feels strange because I know that there are better Bible teachers out there. I am a trembling teacher. I know that there are women and men with more knowledge, more spiritual discipline, more wisdom, more polish, a better prayer life, a more consistent study routine. I know there are times when I try to teach things that are out of my depth.

I know that I don’t always communicate as clearly as I should, and there is an ever-present gnawing in my spirit that wonders whether my teaching is doing good or harm. Whether I have spoken out of turn about things that I don’t fully understand. Whether I have stated the absolute truth or unwittingly said something that isn’t consistent with the whole counsel of God’s word. And I often leave my class concerned about something I did or didn’t say. Something that I forgot to explain. Something that I wish I had brought up, or something that I wish I hadn’t delved into.

The truth is that when you talk for almost an hour, you use a lot of words. You say a lot of stuff. And afterward I usually wrestle with the fear that my words didn’t communicate. Or that they communicated something untrue or discouraging or useless.

I think that most Bible teachers feel this way, and I don’t necessarily think it’s a bad thing. It’s important for those of us who have been called to teach God’s word to approach the job with humility and, yes, trembling. Our confidence in the Bible shouldn’t necessarily translate into confidence in our own abilities and giftings. We get into dangerous territory as teachers when we let pride and self-assurance rule our work. After all, we can’t forget that James warned that not many should even attempt this job because we will be held accountable for what comes out of our mouths. It seems unconscionable to approach the sacred job of teaching the Bible with flippancy or an over-inflated sense of our own competence.

That being said, I think as a trembling teacher I often forget that God can use my willingness and my effort, even if the result is imperfect. Even if my presentation could have been smoother or my explanations clearer. I’m guilty of subtracting the power of the Holy Spirit when I am figuring how things went in a particular lesson, and that in itself is a sign that I have become too focused on myself: my own weaknesses and failings. In truth, if I have prepared to the best of my ability, prayerfully presented God’s word to my class with a sincere desire to glorify the Lord, then when I walk away I should trust that He can do something with even my imperfect efforts. And He has proven that’s true. Many times when I am agonizing over something that I wish I hadn’t brought up in the moment, I’ll get a text or an email from one of my class members, telling me it was exactly what they needed to hear. Could it be that the Holy Spirit inspired that couple of sentences when I thought I was just chasing rabbits? Maybe so. What I do know is that God tells us clearly in scripture that when His word goes out, it won’t return empty. There is power in the inspired words of our Lord, and when we approach our job with a little bit of trembling, just because of the honor of it, the precious calling of being entrusted with it, I believe that He will use that for His own glory.

So, trembling teacher, it’s good to feel the weight of your responsibility. It’s good to realize that this work shouldn’t be taken lightly. Preparing to teach should be a careful and diligent process, one that is steeped in prayer and study and conscientiousness. But it’s also essential to remember that God can and does work through our weaknesses. In this way, teaching can lead us to a greater reliance on Christ and His strength, and anything in our lives that leads us toward more dependence on His power and greatness is a good thing. Striking that balance between our responsibility and God’s perfection is where our souls can find rest in His sufficiency and His ability to teach and empower us to help others know Him more.

This article about James 3:1 and the trembling teacher originally appeared here.