Exploring the Book of Ya’aqov, Pt. 12
Many of you should not become teachers, my brothers—having known that we who teach will receive greater judgment—for we all make many stumbles. (יַעֲקֹב Ya’aqov 3:1-2a, mjlt)
It can be an exhilarating experience to see something new in the Scriptures—to be reading through or studying a familiar passage, and then suddenly have the words leap off the page and grab our attention, as if for the first time. It is a stirring reminder that the Word of God is alive—that the Scriptures are a thoroughly spiritual document—and that through it, God is actively speaking to us, engaging us, and interacting with our daily lives.
But sometimes, some of us will make a dire mistake.
When we see that new thing, instead of simply being thrilled at finding something we had totally missed before, we literally start to see it as a completely “new” thing… something no one has seen before. As it unspools within our creative mind, this newly revealed “hidden truth” distorts, and warps, and becomes a filter for us—a key—by which all Scripture can now be “truly” discerned.
Some of us, then, will take to the internet (or our study groups, or congregations) to spread our new discovery…
…and others of us will gleefully repeat it.
It’s an alarming phenomenon, for sure—and, unfortunately, one that is all too prevalent among Messianic, “Jewish roots,” and “Hebraic roots” believers. Since the prevailing approach in such circles is already to go against the grain of traditional Christianity, this naturally fosters a susceptibility to debatable ideas. Indeed, it can be quite exciting (and often a relief) to discover that there are biblical answers to the myriad of unbiblical Christian doctrines and practices. But in our zeal over newfound truths, some of us turn our backs on “old” truths—even real truth embedded at the core of Christianity—and ironically open ourselves up to new kinds of errors (or new versions of old ones). In realizing that there is truth beyond the four walls of the church, we become willing to entertain any “new” idea we can get our hands on.
This is very much like the attitude of the Athenians Paul was addressing in Acts 17, who “were spending their time on nothing else but to say something novel, or to hear some newer thing.” In what hopefully began as a legitimate search for the truth, some of us have instead overreached—we stopped accepting the plain teachings of Scripture in lieu of more “novel” ideas allegedly still based in Scripture. For too many of us, the simple Word no longer satisfies, as we have developed stranger appetites. In the unending quest for answers, we have ended up calling our entire faith into question.
To be clear, there is nothing wrong with questioning what we have been taught—and, oftentimes, even questioning those who taught us. What is wrong is being reckless with the Scriptures—unintentionally or not—and allowing our own clever ideas and imaginations to impose themselves on the Word.
It’s time to reevaluate the unorthodox teachings (and teachers) we are listening to. When we hear of new theologies or new ways of looking at Scripture, we need to be wary—not excited. We should be slow to embrace unconventional teachings, no matter how much sense they make to our hearts and minds. We also need to consider the source of such teachings and the ramifications they have on long-held beliefs: does the teaching truly right an interpretive wrong, or does it serve an underlying agenda? We should beware of doctrines that cause division or confusion. We must be careful of theologies that foster militant or negative attitudes. We need to be on guard against teachings that challenge the plain, logical sense of Scripture.
The warning of greater judgment to would-be teachers is a warning to us all, since we don’t have to be “teachers” in order to propagate bad teachings. Let us be mindful, then, of our tendency to believe a good-sounding idea over good, sound teaching—”for we all make many stumbles.”
What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments below!