“You must not be called ‘Teacher’, because you are all members of one family and have only one Teacher.” Matthew 23:8 (The Good News Translation)
“Don’t let people do that to you, put you on a pedestal like that. You all have a single Teacher, and you are all classmates. Don’t set people up as experts over your life, letting them tell you what to do. Save that authority for God; let him tell you what to do.” (The Message)
These words of Jesus have great potential to tweak us all today. Whether we lean toward passive followership or have a penchant for taking charge, Jesus is very clear that we are ALL students in God’s classroom. Standing up there, in front of the chalkboard, isn’t Pastor so-and-so or Dr. such-and-such…
There is great danger in our failure to take literally these words of Jesus.
Caution is required anytime we begin to subscribe to a particular human teacher’s words or ways. To the degree that our earthly teachers seek to function as holy plumbing systems, a person can actually participate in the active Word of God as it flows through the lives of His people. At the point that those pipes seek to channel God’s goodness in directions of its OWN choosing, we’ve crossed that delicate line between participation and power.
Even the most well-intentioned human teachers can become sidetracked in issues of pride, authority and control. We don’t do them any favors by empowering them to exercise their issues in our lives, do we? There is a great need for all students of the Word to keep ourselves in check when it comes to who we listen to and how far down the road we are willing to go behind a person who is herself attempting to follow the Rabbi.
My Tuesday morning women’s group has discussed this many times – the way that we in churches tend to put all of our eggs into the Pastor-basket. Pastors are people, lest we forget, and Jesus’ reminder is timely for those of us who would rather see one person charged with much responsibility than to take up our own crosses and follow the Teacher Himself.
On the other hand, some of us would be wise to ask God to give us a healthy fear of heights. Leadership comes so easily to some, along with the temptation to become something more than we were ever called to be. We who seek to let the Living Waters flow from our ministry efforts would do well to keep the picture of the classroom in our minds.
I picture old, wooden desks (the kind with the lift-up desktop and pencil shelf inside), arranged in rows facing the blackboard. There are boys and girls seated on chairs that swivel and squeak. Some have buzz cuts. Others have pig tails. Scraped knees. Ankle socks. Grass stains on their jeans. These are my classmates – real, down-to-earth people – and I sit there with them. I am one of them. And just like sweet first-graders, we love our Teacher.
Today, on this Literal 4 Lent journey, take a good, long look at your surroundings:
- Do you feel a bit nauseous? Do people look like ants from where you stand?
- If you were to fall, would you have far to go before hitting bottom?
- Is it unclear who your Teacher is?
- Are there other voices speaking into your life that compete with His?
- Are you content to live vicariously through the bold and boisterous others you’ve surrounded yourself with?
Consider what gives you pause. Pray for caution and pray for fear. Embrace your classmates. Listen to the Teacher.
Let Him tell you what to do.