Q. Most of your answers to questions about judgement usually include the fact that believers will not be judged for their (our) shortcomings – because Jesus took our punishment at the cross. You didn’t mention that here. After looking at the question and the verse(s), I started wondering if James was speaking to unbelievers since they’ll be the people being judged?
A. It’s true that believers will not face the judgment for their sins like unbelievers will. But our works as believers will be judged to see if they qualify for rewards (1 Cor. 3:10-15). Teachers often get a lot of praise from their students and are sometimes held in higher esteem than is appropriate. Desiring or accepting this kind of recognition for ourselves when we’re just doing something the Lord has gifted us to do will disqualify us from rewards we might have otherwise received.
Jesus said when we accept praise from men for our efforts, we’ve received all the reward we’ll ever get. Matt. 6:2 and Matt. 6:16 are two examples. Teachers of His word should know this and be certain to always credit the Lord for their abilities.
Any unbelievers who are put in a position of teaching believers will have much bigger problems at their judgment than accepting praise from their students might bring. They’ll be accountable for rejecting the Lord’s pardon and will have to pay for all their sins.