Jeremiah returns to hanging the blame for Jerusalem’s fall on the false teachers. The false words of Jerusalem’s prophets and the corruption of the priests make these two groups of leaders responsible for the death and captivity of Jerusalem’s people. This is the responsibility James warns teachers of in his New Testament book when he says:
“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
Many of today’s preachers, pastors, Sunday school teachers, etc. should take a serious look at James’ warning beginning with his use of the word “presume” when he says, “Not many of you should presume to be teachers.” The word “presume” in the NIV comes from the Greek word ginesthe, which is the verb “be” in the present tense and means “to become” and continue “being.”
James is telling the believers to stop posing as teachers. The wording of the sentence indicates that there are indeed teachers, and teachers were necessary. In fact, James considered himself a teacher. But, James is also saying that there are many more people out there trying to teach than there are real teachers. Many of those who called themselves “teacher” where not really teachers. Yet, they erred by assuming the position of a teacher (pastor, leader, preacher, etc.) and presenting themselves as such to the people of God. These wanna-be-teachers would be judged for their failure and the failure of the people who listened to them. Arrogance and conceit will lead many to assume the position.
The problems begin when those who listen to a teacher desire to hear something different than the Truth the teacher is required to know and present. At that point the teacher will be forced to choose who they are serving. Are they serving the Lord? Or, are they serving themselves, and thus need the acceptance of people? Teachers will have to discern between their own views and the doctrine presented in scripture. Is the teacher interested in voicing their own opinions and worldly philosophies while they enjoy the sound of their own voice? Or, are they committed to hearing the Word of the Lord and proclaiming it? Do they know the difference between a worldly philosophy and the Word of God? Or, do they simply know what the people are willing to accept, what book is on the best-sellers list and what is being currently being taught at the recent church-growth-seminars?
Jeremiah says the false teachers (prophets, priests, elders) of his generation were guilty of the bloodshed brought to Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar’s sword. Jeremiah points out that the failure of these teacher’s philosophy, theology, worldview and their promises of peace have so utterly failed that these teachers will be rejected wherever they go. These teachers will be rejected because of the guilt of bloodshed associated with their failure to properly instruct their audiences. People will say to these men who pretended to be teachers and religious leaders:
“Go away! You are unclean…Away! Away! Don’t touch us!” – Lamentations 4:15
There will be NO honor for these prophets, priests, teachers and elders in the place the Lord is sending them:
“The Lord himself has scattered them; he no longer watches over them. The priests are shown no honor, the elders no favor.” – Lamentations 4:16