Suggested Reading: James 3:1-12
I was excited when my daughter recently discovered re-runs of the 90’s classic series Saved by the Bell, a show about six high school kids as they hilariously navigate school, relationships and growing up. One episode I watched with her featured a situation where the guys decided it would be fun to sneak into an over-age dance club. They created fake ID’s and waltzed through the doors like they owned the place. While there, they discovered Kelli’s boyfriend was cheating on her and hatched a plan to catch him in the act. By the end of the episode, Kelli had discovered her scumbag boyfriend’s cheating ways and Zack (the ringleader of the group) was found out by his mother who confiscated all of the fake ID’s and took them home, costing Zack a date with a college girl and a grounding. The episode was full of people pretending to be something they were not. Kelli’s boyfriend was pretending to be a faithful, nice guy. The gang was pretending to be much older than they were. And in the end it worked out badly for all of them.
I have also noticed a trend recently of Christian people pretending to be something they are not. Men and women who think that because they have been educated they can call themselves “pastors” when no church has called them as their shepherd. Know-it-all’s who aren’t allowed into teaching positions and so they pretend they are teachers, trying to force their “knowledge” down the throats of anyone who pauses too long in their vicinity or on their Facebook page. And while it may even be possible that these people feel called to ministry, they try to jump the gun, parading themselves around as something they have no claim to until a church agrees and actually calls them.
James 3:1 reads, Dear brothers and sisters, not many of you should become teachers in the church, for we who teach will be judged more strictly (NLT). With positions of authority and responsibility come a higher level of accountability. We are judged more strictly. Notice there is no qualifying statement there. We are judged more strictly. The passage goes on to talk about how words can change the courses of lives and spark destructive fires. But the statement about being judged strictly isn’t limited to our words. It isn’t limited at all! Those who are teachers will be judged more strictly. Period. We will be judged more strictly based on our words, our deeds, and perhaps even the places we allow our minds to dwell. We will be judged more strictly. And James warns his readers, Not many of you should become teachers because of this strictness. So why, knowing we will be judged more strictly, would anyone take on those responsibilities and pretend to hold positions of authority until God actually places them in those positions?
Pretending to be something we are not never works out well. For Zack and the gang, it meant being grounded. For Kelli’s boyfriend, it meant losing out on a wonderful girl. For people who pretend to hold positions of authority God has not yet given them, it might mean needlessly looking like a fool or even harming the very Kingdom work with which you want to help. Making a claim people can easily verify is inaccurate harms your reputation and your ministry. Trust God’s plan and only make claims to the positions God has actually placed you in. If God has truly called you to a particular ministry, God will eventually make it happen. Don’t bring stricter judgment on yourself until the appropriate time. Don’t pretend to be something you’re not. The consequences are never pleasant when you are found out.