Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers and sisters, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For all of us make many mistakes.
My concern always rises when I read that verse. Pleasantly though. It is a warning that bolsters me with its clear-eyed view of teaching, and its encouragement to humility.
It is bold to instruct another. There are some basics we can easily advocate. "You shall not kill." "You shall not bear false witness (that is, lie!)." But the farther we get from the basics, the more subjective our convictions. And perhaps that makes the question not whether to teach, but in what way to teach. Again I hear a call to humility.
And it seems to me as I hear James this week that the call is not just upon preachers, professors, and instructors, but upon us all. For who among us does not offer a word of instruction now and then? (In my case, they flow minute-by-minute to my children at home.)
James' encouragement is to remember the same self that teaches is the self that stumbles, and to let the teaching embody both our hope for goodness, truth, rightness, and our knowledge of our own fallibility.
I do not think that in an election week, and with the confirmation hearings for Judge Kavanaugh that I need to connect the dots too closely to how this has profound meaning for our common life. Tweets from both the presidential candidates of 2016, one of whom is now president, have scorned James' instruction this week, and they are a shadow over our common work of community. The Gospel is needed so much, my friends. This precious lens that we hold in our fragile hands. Let us pair boldness with humility, and share what we know of both.