Saturday, August 13, 2011


"Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly."
--James 3:1

This verse has always haunted me. I have no idea what it means, except this: If you are going to teach about the Word then you had better take it seriously. Like really seriously.

I have always admired the Jews. Both ancient and modern. Their discipline of study just amazes me. They would not only memorize most, if not all, of the Old Testament, but would also memorize huge tracts of the rabbinic commentaries on those passages. Amazing. I look at them and think that of all the things they may have gotten wrong they got this right: the Word is central--and they took that seriously.

I came to the realization the other day that our faith is one based primarily on texts. Oh sure there is a whole grand spectrum of Christianity that cannot be simply encompassed in "text" but if you throw out the Word you are on the path of heresy.

I also came to the realization that I consider myself someone who is called to teach the Word. And if that is true, I really need to start taking it seriously. Why do I let myself get away with having just a cursory knowledge of the Word? Why am I ok with being only a little engaged with the history of interpreting it? How can I settle for being merely "knowledgeable" about Scripture? If I am to teach, I cannot be content with passing along "truth" that I "heard from someone, sometime". Thats not going to cut it. James tells me so.

I must be absurdly, ridiculously, outlandishly familiar with the Word. I must be stewed in it, steeped in it, nourished and grown and swimming in it if I am to take all this seriously. I used to gawp at hearing about the way the Jews would study for hours and hours and hours to the exclusion of most everything else, and wonder how they could do it. But now I think I get it.

I really just don't have time for other things. I only have time to master one thing, and I choose the Word. I will never be a concert pianist. I will never be able to watch all the T.V. I want to. I will never be a master cook or engineer or architect. I don't have time. I have one singular thing upon which to focus: the Word. And in seeking to master it, maybe, just maybe I will find myself mastered by the Master along the way.

~J.L. Smith

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