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Answer to Question 1

Why are teachers important, and why must they be careful?

James makes the admonition to teachers to be careful because he knows that a teacher can lead many astray. They were, and still are, very important to society in passing on not only knowledge, but traditions, beliefs, principles and morals. Indeed, teaching was taken so seriously in the ancient world that great respect was given teachers. Jesus was often called "Teacher" by his disciples. When the famous philosopher, Socrates, was sentenced to death in Athens, he had been charged with "corrupting the Athenian youth". The tribunal in his case felt he had failed as a teacher.

For this reason James warns the people not to be too anxious to become teachers as there is a heavy responsibility associated with the position. He also understands that teachers cannot tell their students to "do as I say, not as I do." For students will naturally wish to emulate their teacher. Because of this great responsibility and the example set, a person who becomes a teacher will be more heavily judged for his words and actions.

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