Matthew 23:13-15 — When those who teach are bad

For some reason, one of the English teachers in the Japanese high school I teach at was showing Karate Kid 2 to his students yesterday.  I can’t say much for the film, but the one character I really like is Mr. Miyagi, the mentor to Daniel who was his karate student.

What does Karate Kid 2 have to do with this blog.  Absolutely nothing.  But the original Karate Kid does.  In the original (and much better film), Daniel asked Mr. Miyagi why the karate students who bullied him acted the way they did.  Mr. Miyagi answered, “No such thing as bad student, only bad teacher.”

Now I don’t know that I completely agree with this statement, but there is some truth to it.  When a teacher is bad, then those who follow him or her will almost inevitably go down the same path.

That’s what you see in this passage.  Jesus continues his scathing of the Pharisees and teachers of the law by saying,

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!  You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces.  You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to…Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!  You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are.  (13-15)

These teachers of the law and Pharisees had a lot of problems.  They were hypocritical, legalistic, and completely blind to what was truly important to God.  The result? All their students were the same way, and even worse.  You see this in Saul of Tarsus before his conversion.

What can we learn from this?

First, as a teacher, what are you like?  The apostle James wrote,

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)

While James is primarily talking about what we teach, he is also talking about our lives.  As teachers, we cannot be like the Pharisees and teachers of the law who did not practice what they preached (Matthew 23:3).

So if you’re a teacher, are you living what you say?  Or are you hypocritical?   And as you teach and live your life, do you always keep in mind what is most important to God?  Justice.  Mercy.  And faithfulness.

For what we need to remember is that God will not only hold you responsible for what you teach and how you live, but to the degree that you are faithful to the position he put you in, he’ll hold you responsible for the kinds of students you produce as well.

The other question you need to ask is who is your teacher?  How is he living his life?  What kinds of things is he teaching?  Because if you are not wise in choosing your teacher, you’ll be going down the same road as they are, and that can be disastrous.

Who are you listening to at church?  Who are you listening to on podcasts?  Whose books are you reading?

Teachers are responsible for what they teach, but you are responsible for what you let in.  So as I’ve said before, I’ll say again,

Test everything.  Hold on to the good. (I Thessalonians 5:21)


About bkshiroma

I'm from Hawaii, but have been in Japan as a missionary/English teacher since 1995. I'm currently going to a church called Crossroad Nishinomiya, an international church in Nishinomiya, a city right between Kobe and Osaka. Check out their website: 私がハワイから来ましたけど1995年に宣教師と英会話の教師として日本に引っ越しました。 今西宮にあるクロスロード西宮という国際の教会に行っています。どうぞ、そのホムページを見てください:
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