I started teaching when I was a camp counselor during college. I took my kids on a hike, then sat them down in a convenient spot by the trail and told them a Bible story. After that it was church clubs, Sunday school and ladies Bible studies. Now I teach college students.
James says that teachers will be judged more strictly than others. That sometimes makes me wonder why I dare teach. I have to be particularly sure that what I’m teaching is correct and meaningful. I have to prepare carefully to make sure I know what I’m doing.
But then James continues with the famous passage about the tongue. I’ve heard sermons about it and discussed it in Bible studies, but I’ve never spent much time thinking about what it means to teachers.
Teaching is verbal. My words not only convey information, they also tell my students about me – what I think about the subject, the students and, often, my life. My tongue is like a rudder or a bit that controls me. I go where it goes, so what I say determines the direction of my teaching and my relationships. That’s why I’ll be judged harder because I’m a teacher. If I’m not careful, I may teach something wrong or say something hurtful that will damage the Kingdom of God.
James also says we praise God and curse those made in His image with the same tongue. As a teacher I need to be especially careful to never say anything bad about anyone. I need to be sensitive to the needs of my students, not just to the message I’m trying to get across.
One of the metaphors he uses is a spring of water. A spring will not produce both sweet and bitter water. I want to be a sweet spring. I want my words to be refreshing. But no man can tame the tongue, so I need God to tame it for me.
Before I teach, I need to submit my tongue to Him. That means the most important part of preparing to teach is prayer. I not only need to ask Him to make me wise and prepare my students to learn what He wants them to, I’ve got to offer Him my tongue. I need to ask Him to control every word that comes out of my mouth, even the ones that aren’t about the lesson.