Negative Purposes in Teaching
Having observed the positive aspects of teaching in an earlier writing, we now direct your attention to some negative approaches to teaching.1
There are negative purposes as well as positive purposes in teaching. God has definitely enjoined man to teach. "And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also" (2 Tim. 2:2). God has not left it up to man to teach what man wants to teach. In teaching, one must hold to the pattern of sound words (2 Tim. 1: 13).
It is the obligation of the teacher to see that the right purpose in teaching the Word of God is manifested at all times. This is a tremendous responsibility, a responsibility that should always result in doing what God wants. We must parallel our purposes in teaching with the design of God in giving that which is to be taught. The purpose in teaching is not:
To Do Someone a Favor
One cannot please man and please God at the same time. Many times the converse is also true. "For do I now persuade men or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I yet pleased men, I should not be a servant of Christ" (Gal. 1:10). Men pleasers are not serving our Lord. Trying to please man in things religious is the worst motive of all.
Things that are often esteemed among men, are abominations in the sight of God (Lk. 16:15). Add to this the fact that "it is not in man that walketh to direct his own steps" (Jer. 10: 23), and it is not difficult to see that it is wrong to seek to please men.
Lest anyone feel that Galatians 1: 10 is misapplied in view of I Corinthians 10:33 (". . . I please all men in all things. . . "), observe that the latter verse refers to circumstances in which he sought the profit of men that they might be saved and where there was no violation of principle involved. This is not the same thing as pleasing men in the sense that we are using the thought. Doing this in the sense of which we speak is to buy this friendship at the cost of the Lord's friendship. One simply cannot serve two masters. We owe all our obedience, reverence and faithfulness to the Lord. Subjection to Christ implies a rejection of all human authority in matters involving the faith once delivered to the saints. Pleasing God first is the goal of the Bible teacher.
To Teach Facts Apart From Obedience
The greatest commentary in the New Testament on this point is James 2:20-26, portions of which are quoted below:
"But wilt thou know, o vain man, that faith without works is dead? ... Ye see how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only . . . For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also."
In his fight against formalism, James views faith in its vital connection with sanctification and its development in holy life or conduct. Faith must work through love (Rom. 3:28). Faith must bring after-fruits, or it is not faith at all. The works under consideration are those done with a view to salvation. Such things are involved as believing and being baptized (Acts 2:38), and working out one's own salvation (Phil. 2:12). Mere profession is a mockery (Jas. 2:15-16). It is better that we have no faith at all than a faith that is belied by our manner of living. Possession of facts apart from obedience is but a dead semblance of the living thing (Jas. 2:17, 20, 26).
Merely labeling out Bible facts is not a true purpose of the teacher. Teachers must do all that is humanly possible to cause students to obey the word of God. People must know that faith must show itself forth in works of righteousness, a righteousness that lives and moves in the world. Faith of mere profession is orthodoxy which ensures speedy and dreadful ruin. Teach that faith must work! True works are evidence of true faith. "By their fruits ye shall know them" (Matt. 7:1620). May the faith that appropriates, a life of obedience be evident in the life of all who sit in the class.
To Entertain Those Present
It is a disgrace and a shame to see teachers more concerned with entertaining and having a good time in class than they are in displaying facts of the gospel to be obeyed. The world is drunk on entertainment and this intoxication is spilling over into the class room. There is no excuse for encouraging this craze. It is this factor that causes many straight-forward, gospel packed lessons to be rejected.
For all one knows, the people in Athens who would hear some', new thing" from Paul were seeking entertainment. Yet, Paul ignored this lust and preached truth unto them (Acts 17:22-31). A class constantly filled with joke telling and rocked with laughter is not a Bible class in any sense of the word. Singing "happy birthday" to children upon whose heads are placed crowns made of metallic paper, skipping around the room while singing "This Is the Way I Skip" to the tune of "Mulberry Bush," or action plays are pure entertainment, no more and no less! The teacher can certainly spend his or her time more profitably by using technique which is more appropriate to the learning processes.
To Keep A job
Somehow our brethren have reached the conclusion that the only way some Christians can maintain interest in the work of the Lord is by fulfilling certain jobs around the church building. A total involvement is indeed the goal of all flocks of God, but lets not gets the cart before the horse. If a teacher is teaching simply to keep a job, I strongly question the motive. Take this class away from such a person and see what happens. The Christian who teaches with the right attitude will keep on working for the Master's interest even if the class is taken away. Teaching for the sake of teaching is not the right motive. A careful reading of "let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we shall incur a stricter judgment" (Jas. 3: 1, NASV) will show the fallacy of such motives in teaching. Teaching is not simply a job; it is a responsibility with serious consequences.
To Display Ability, Experience or Knowledge
I know of nothing more disgusting to mortal man than those who vaunt themselves in the sight of God and man. We deplore children "showing off" their ability in the classroom. How disgusting it must be to the student to see a teacher making a "show-off" of himself. Teachers should never lower themselves to such a level.
To Get the Best of Someone in an Argument
Getting the best of someone in an argument reduces the work of teaching to a battle of wits instead of declaring the truth as it is in Christ. This can result in much harm to the cause of Christ. It often results in alienating brethren. Many times it results in a class siding with one faction or the other. This makes about as much sense as a fighting cock with false spurs. It is better to lose an argument and win a soul. It is better to say "I don't know" to a difficult question, than to Muff and deceive an opponent. We must simply stand for the truth and let it go at that.
To Build a Class, or Win a Contest
Some of the clap-trap schemes that are being used to enlarge classes and win people over to Christ would be amusing indeed if it were not so serious. Such is ludicrous and absurd to say the least. "Let's beat Class Number one" is not the right purpose in teaching the class in the first place. Such motives are far from conforming to truth.
Have you been teaching God's word to others? Make sure that your purposes in doing so are the very things that God desires to be accomplished. Put forth your best effort in this way.
What has been said thus far is that God's Word is to be taught to others that they may learn of Christ, obey the gospel and become members of the body of Christ. They then must be taught to be strong in the faith. Any teaching that does not have this aim is falling short in the sight of God.
I am indebted to The Voice of Evangelism, October 14, 1950, for the major points used in this article.
TRUTH MAGAZINE, XV: 6, pp. 3-5