Thus says the Lord,
your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel:
I am the Lord your God,
who teaches you for your own good,
who leads you in the way you should go.
O that you had paid attention to my commandments!
Then your prosperity would have been like a river,
and your success like the waves of the sea;
your offspring would have been like the sand,
and your descendants like its grains;
their name would never be cut off
or destroyed from before me.
Go out from Babylon, flee from Chaldea,
declare this with a shout of joy, proclaim it,
send it forth to the end of the earth;
say, “The Lord has redeemed his servant Jacob!”
They did not thirst when he led them through the deserts;
he made water flow for them from the rock;
he split open the rock and the water gushed out.
Warning against Judging Another
Do not speak evil against one another, brothers and sisters. Whoever speaks evil against another or judges another, speaks evil against the law and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is one lawgiver and judge who is able to save and to destroy. So who, then, are you to judge your neighbor?
Boasting about Tomorrow
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a town and spend a year there, doing business and making money.” Yet you do not even know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wishes, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil.
The Lord is the Good Teacher, not just because He knows everything but because He teaches us for our good. He desires our success and well-being, and He wants to teach us what true success really means. This should be one of the easiest concepts to grasp and apply in the Christian life. However, many of us have come to see the role of Jesus as mainly a sacrifice for our sins with some good teaching if we have the time/energy/desire to seek, learn, and live out that teaching. Most of us do not.
Some church leaders get a bit itchy when we focus on Jesus as teacher, as if that somehow takes away from His atoning sacrifice for our sins. I have not been able to follow that logic myself. To me it is one and the same. Jesus lived out (sacrificially) what He taught, and He taught what He lived instead of keeping it selfishly to Himself. To be truly Loving and truly God, He really needed to be both Sacrifice and Teacher.
So, how do we compensate for our acknowledgement of Jesus as teacher and our failure to be His student? We try to supersede His authority by taking on the role of teacher ourselves. We “fulfill our Christian duty” by passing the teaching on to others, often before we ourselves have learned to live it out. We teach fellow church members. We try to teach non-Christians in our lives. We do a lot of teaching our children about what Jesus wants us to do – sometimes for our own purposes. But we do not teach them to learn from Jesus directly. We become the priest figures in their lives, not interceding for their sin, but interceding between Jesus and them.
I’ve experienced both sides of this under the guise of what we sometimes refer to as the gift of prophecy. “God has given me a message for you… He wants you to…” I believe in the gift and power of prophecy, but when we come to lean on that gift as if it were the gift of teaching, we become unbalanced and cease to come to Jesus as teacher.
James taught from a position that had a strong respect for teaching and wisdom. Wisdom stands apart from prophecy because it is teaching that is built to last, rather than the temporary word of the prophet for a specific time and place. Teaching, and teaching wisdom specifically requires greater commitment and greater life transformation. It does not just give us the next direction. It tells us where we are going and what it will look like, so that we begin to be open to the smaller directions ourselves, without relying on a person to be that constant guide for us.
Where do you experience Jesus as the Good Teacher in your life?
What areas of your life are not being actively shaped by Jesus teaching you?