Everybody thinks they know everything. Since there is “nothing new under the sun,” I can only conclude that everyone ever born has always believed they know everything.
The Book of Job, more than likely the earliest written book of the Bible, has suffering-Job being lectured by his friends who know everything. Job says to them, “No doubt but ye are the people, and wisdom shall die with you.”
If Job’s friends die, so dies wisdom. Obviously Job is being sarcastic. How many of us are surrounded by such folk!? So many people giving so much advice about things they know nothing about.
Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived who was still dumb enough to fall into idolatry, says in Ecclesiastes:
“For who knoweth what is good for man in this life, all the days of his vain life which he spendeth as a shadow? for who can tell a man what shall be after him under the sun?“
Who knows what is good for other people? Everyone knows that Solomon! Come on, man. Get with the program!
We don’t know what’s good for other people because we don’t know what tomorrow brings, let alone the rest of time after that.
People never let ignorance interfere with certainty though. In fact, often, the more uncertain we are about something, the more vehemently we argue.
I’ve had many a theological argument with someone who eventually resorts to, “yeah, well, you should talk to my pastor/dad/husband/wife/professor/this one author guy/etc. He would set you straight.”
In other words, “I have no idea what I’m talking about, but this other guy does and I agree with him, even though I don’t know what I’m talking about to know if what he’s saying is actually true, but I feel like it is, so you should talk to him and he’ll convince you just like he convinced me.”
People often say, “I just don’t argue well.” What that means is, “I can’t explain what I’m talking about because I don’t know what I’m talking about.”
This isn’t necessarily a bad place to be, as long as you can go ahead and admit your ignorance and then go do some work to get yourself informed. The sign of a good teacher is the ability to take the complex and make it simple. If you cannot simplify your belief, then you probably don’t really understand your belief. (However, there are many non-simple concepts in the Bible, so even here we need some balance.)
Yet we continue to pontificate our ignorance. The problem with being an authority by telling others what to do, is that you become responsible for what they do to some extent. Talking with authority puts you in a place of accountability.
I believe the combination of all that I have said above is why James says, “Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment.”
There should not be many teachers within Christianity, yet we find a proliferation of them. Everyone and their mother pontificates about Christianity. One of the worst things churches do is put young believers in positions of teaching. Usually we start them teaching children! Then we wonder why our kids leave the church. Sheesh.
The Bible makes it clear that there are people within the Body of Christ who are spiritually gifted to teach. The difficulty arises in figuring out who that spiritually gifted teaching person is.
Jesus tells us to examine their fruit. What is the outcome of that teaching? What does it turn people into? Do people who listen to that teacher (to the point of actually applying and doing what is taught) become more like Christ, or more like the world?
Even here we must proceed with caution. Your predisposed conclusions may sway your ability to analyze fruit.
In the end, teaching and learning must be done with much prayer and seriousness. Add to your prayer and seriousness much silence for thinking. Be careful not to jump at every opportunity to teach ignoramuses around you.