Sound Teaching & True Authority Avoids Pride – Gregory the Great

Gregory the Great coaches pastors, teachers and business leaders how to avoid pride & arrogance.  Teaching with authority does not mean belittling and dominating one’s students or subordinates, but modeling in one’s life and actions the principles being preached.  The apostles Paul and Peter both modeled this sort of humility and sound teaching.  From Gregory’s Moral reflections on Job.

Now, Job, listen to my words, and attend to all I have to say.

It is characteristic of the way that arrogant people teach, that they do not know how to convey their knowledge humbly and cannot express straightforward truths straightforwardly. When they teach, it is clear from their words that they are placing themselves on a pinnacle and looking down on their pupils somewhere in the depths – pupils unworthy to be informed and scarcely even worth the bother of dominating.

Pride Dominates & Intimidates

The Lord rightly admonished such people through the mouth of the prophet Ezekiel, saying You have ruled your flock cruelly and with violence [Ezek 34:4]. For they rule with cruelty and violence when they do not try to correct those under them with rational arguments but try to dominate them and crush them.

Sound Teaching Promotes Humility

On the other hand, sound teaching is eager to avoid this sin of pride manifested in thought: just as eager as it is to attack with words the teacher of pride himself. Sound teaching does not promote him by imitating his arrogance but uses pious words to attack him in its hearers’ hearts.

Instead it promotes humility, the mother and teacher of all virtues. It preaches humility in words and manifests humility in its actions. It commends humility to its pupils more by conduct than by speech.

This is why Paul seems to have forgotten his exalted status as an apostle when writing to the Thessalonians: We were babes among you. So also Peter: Always have your answer ready for people who ask the reason for the hope you all have, adding, to emphasize that the teaching must be presented in the proper way, But give it with respect and with a clear conscience [1 Peter 3:15].

Teaching with True Authority

When Paul says to Timothy Command these things and teach them with all authority [1 Tim 4:11], he is not calling for a domination born of power but an authority that comes from a way of life. “Teaching with authority” here means living something first before preaching it; for when speech is impeded by conscience, the hearer will find it harder to trust what is being taught.

So Paul is not commending the power of proud and exalted words, but the trustworthiness that comes from good behavior. This, indeed, is why it is said of the Lord, Unlike the scribes and pharisees, he taught them with authority [Matt 7:29].  He alone spoke with unique authority because he had never, through weakness, done evil. What he had from the power of his divinity, he taught to us through the innocence of his humanity.

For more on pride and humility, read Dr Italy’s post HUMILITY OPENS DOORS.

For more from St Gregory the Great’s Moral Reflection on Job, see THE MANIFOLD LAW OF THE LORD IS SUMMED UP IN LOVE.

This excerpt explains how sound teaching shuns pride and promotes humility  It is an excerpt from Saint Gregory the Great’s Moral Reflections on Job (Moralia in Job Lib. 23, 23-24: PL 76, 265-266).  It appears in Roman Office of Readings on Wednesday in the 9th week in ordinary time, together with Job 32:1-6 and 33:1-22.

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