You therefore which teach another, teach you not yourself? you that preach a man should not steal, do you steal?
The apostle supposes a Jew to have listened complacently to the long catalogue of crimes of which the heathen world has been guilty - crimes which blacken the lip to mention. And then the apostle turns strategically round upon the self-satisfied possessor of a Divine revelation to put the scathing inquiry, why he has not been freer from violations of the moral law. Advantage entails responsibility; it was inconsistent to eagerly proselytize to a religion which the preacher observed more by precept than by example. A lesson here for all teachers of the Word: let their instructions mould their own lives!
I. THE WORK OF TEACHING.
1. Its possibility. It presumes that some are able and willing to teach, and that others are equally in a position to learn. Knowledge begets the desire of communication to others; truth by its dissemination enriches all, leaves none the poorer. The possession of the Scriptures constitutes a capacity in those who study to explain their meaning to others less happily situated for meditation. Besides the preachers of the gospel from the pulpit, we have a noble army of volunteers sacrificing their ease each Lord's day to impart to the young what they themselves have learned of Christ. And the youthful mind is plastic, its heart easily impressed.
2. Its importance. Education is a work of beginnings, of seed-sowing, of filling the pockets with treasure in the shape of facts and principles to be afterwards used, applied, recognized, in fulness of meaning. The mind must be fed as well as the body, or we have dwarfed, stunted souls, miserable and corrupt. To neglect the garden is to fill it with weeds. We insufficiently value acquisitions whose worth cannot be tabulated in monetary figures. Of what priceless value is a new happy inspiring thought of God! To be led where we can get a better sight of Christ and his salvation, is surely a service for which we can in no wise adequately thank or pay our guide.
3. Its difficulty. Some hesitate to teach unless they can answer every objection which may be urged against the truth they enforce. And on religious subjects there is no end to the queries which may be started. There are many adverse influences preventing the ready reception of the facts and doctrines of Christianity, or checking the subsequent advance in learning. Recall our Lord's parable of the sower, and its picture of the multiform ways in which sin works against the leaven of the truth. There is a roseate and there is a practical view of Sunday school work. Yet, whilst we would not forget the restlessness of the young, and the far aim of making them "wise unto salvation" so frequently hindered by unlovely homes, neither should any despair, but remember they are wielding the sword of the Spirit, and that to God all hearts are open. Let preachers think of the Lord and his apostles as failing to conquer the opposition and win the assent of all their hearers, and, instead of renouncing toil, remember that they are not responsible for success, but only for effort.
II. THE REFLEX INFLUENCE OF TEACHING ON THE TEACHERS,
1. Incites to their own culture. There is the felt necessity of being in advance of the learners. The more we know and the more thoroughly and clearly we understand it, the greater the enjoyment and the success of the work. We often take pains for the sake of others which we should reject for ourselves. How can we teach if we do not instruct ourselves? There ought to be no sad hiatus between our declarations and our spiritual conduct. We must not only be finger-posts, but guides - "lest, having preached to others, we ourselves become castaways."
"The lore of Christ and his apostles twelve
He taught, but first he followed it himself." If we are the channels of good to our fellows, it behoves us to clear away all that might impede the flowing, and defile the purity of the stream of truth from God.
2. Necessarily promotes their own improvement. Earnest sincere teaching not only demands self-culture and progress, but is certain to result therein. All Christian service is self-rewarding.
"Thou shalt be served thyself, by every sense
Of service which thou renderest." Teaching clarifies our own views, enforces truth upon our own souls. Many a teacher has enjoyed prayer and realized the sweetness and significance of the Scriptures most when preparing the lesson for his scholars. The Divine plan for oblivion of our own sorrows is to become saviours to the helpless, physicians to the sick. The outrush of Christian benevolence protects against the inflow of corroding cares or pleasures. - S.R.A.
Parallel VersesKJV: Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal?