Time to go to the Principal’s Office. The teacher walks into an unhappy boss. The principal points to the chair on the other side of his desk and firmly says, “Sit down.” He looks upset and troubled. He begins to speak, “I’m sorry to have to tell you this bad news, but you are being let go. We just received your students’ test scores, as well as the teacher evaluations, and this is just terrible. I mean, these results are miserable. As administrators, we are very disappointed in your performance, especially considering your resumé, your education, and your interview. We hate to do this, but you’ve obviously left us no other choice. We simply cannot accept this. We are going to have to let you go.”
The teacher sat baffled and shocked. Then broke the silence in protest, “But I thought my class had great test scores. In a class of 30 students the overall average score was 88 and several of my students told me they were going to recommend me for Teacher of the Year.” The principal interjected, “Yes. Yes. That is all correct. However, there were three students who were failing your class and they also gave you a very poor review. In fact, one of them was my very own granddaughter, the other was the daughter of one of our most prestigious alumni, and the third was the son of a very generous donor to our school.” The teacher protested again, “But they did not do their work. They did not pay attention in class. They were a disruption oftentimes, and despite my numerous efforts to encourage and motivate them it al-ways seemed to fall on deaf ears. But those were the only three. The other kids did their work, allowed themselves to be engaged in class, truly applied themselves, and their scores and reviews show, or at least give some indication, that I was doing my duty as an educator and was doing a good job.” “I don’t want to hear it”, barked the principal. “The decision has already been made. You are a lousy no-good horrible teacher, and as far as this school is concerned you are not a Math teacher any more, you are History!”
What a horrific injustice! Who is in the wrong in this parable? The Teacher? The Principal? The 27 Students who did well? The 3 Students who did poorly? To me, it seems obvious. How could anyone look at these circumstances with eyes of truth and an honest heart and say that the Teacher was a failure because three students out of thirty failed? And yet if you change the word “Teacher” to “Preacher”, and the word “Students” to “Congregants”, and the word “failed” to “lost”, you actually have a version of this parable playing out week-after-week, year-after-year, throughout the generations of the Church.
For example, I knew a preacher one time, after, within a two-month time frame two separate teenagers came forward at two separate occasions expressing they had committed the sin of fornication and were now pregnant. One of the elders (understandably so) was upset… with the preacher (NOT so understandably so), because apparently the preacher hadn’t preached specifically enough, often enough, and hard enough for these teenagers involved to be dissuaded from engaging in fornication. Thankfully, another elder saw this error in logic and quickly jumped in to defend. But the sad truth is, the elder was not alone in his belief that the failure laid on the shoulders of the preacher, not the sinner. Because people sin doesn’t necessarily mean the preacher has failed, but it does always mean the individual sinner has. Righteous judgment reaches no other conclusion.
The truth, is that the preacher had preached against fornication, and he wasn’t the only one. He had also taught the high school class and taught against fornication (though these teenagers were not always present at class). They had discussed the dangers of fornication at youth devotionals as well (though these teenagers were not always present, and when they were, were often canoodling more than being engaged in the lesson). Thankfully, the Lord makes it very clear who is the guilty party when one sins - the sinner! (Ezekiel 18:4, 20; Jeremiah 31:30)
“Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God’… But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren.” (James 1:13-16) Do. Not. Be. Deceived! We are each responsible for our own sin. The preacher’s duty is to preach the truth and to do so fervently and with love and longsuffering. (II Timothy 4:2) But the listeners ALSO have a duty, to open up their hearts to the message. (Matthew 13:1-23)
Thanks be to God that just as we are responsible for our sin we are also responsible for responding to the gospel call of salvation. Don’t think on Judgement Day you can stand before God passing judge-ment and blame on your teacher/preacher. You have a duty to your own soul, to have a love of the truth so as to follow it. (II Thessalonians 2:11-15) You may have a lousy no-good horrible preacher, but you don’t have an excuse to sin. If the preacher is the excuse for your spiritual failing, then what you truly have is a lousy no-good horrible excuse! We can easily see the injustice of the Principal in the parable and the shortcomings of the three students. May we respect and honor our teachers with just judgment.