Education fills up our days and hours and weeks and spills out constantly in our community, and that is entirely on purpose. Teaching and learning is at the center of discipleship, and we are disciples of Jesus who have been given the Great Commission to disciple the nations, beginning with the ones living our own homes. But we do not want this mission to grow into anything perfunctory. What we are doing is aiming at cultural impact over generations.
“Hear therefore, O Israel, and observe to do it; that it may be well with thee, and that ye may increase mightily… And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou rise up…” (Dt. 6:3-9) “… That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth. And ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 6:1-4).
SUMMARY OF THE TEXTS
Both of these texts teach not only the moral imperative of teaching God’s truth to your children diligently, they also teach the significance and potency of that education: lives going well, mighty increases, and long lives in the land (Dt. 6:3, Eph. 6:2-3). Both of these texts also clearly lay the responsibility for education at the feet of parents, and fathers in particular (Dt. 6:7, Eph. 6:1, 4). Finally, both of these texts insist that a Christian education take place all day long: at the breakfast table, in the car, in the front yard, on the front porch, and when you go to bed and everywhere in between (Dt. 6:7-9) and it must be applied to every area of life: giving the counsel and culture of Jesus in everything (Eph. 6:4).
EDUCATION, BLESSING, AND POWER
Pagans understand in a very narrow, limited way that education is important for jobs, and jobs are important for money, security, and provision. Many Christians are either Gnostic in their thinking, pretending that they have no needs or responsibilities with regard to jobs or provision or they imagine that vocational skills and wisdom will just happen. Both tend to mismanage the opportunities of education and resources. Other Christians simply live bifurcated lives, where they pretend to be Gnostics on Sundays and during small group, and then they just assume pagan assumptions about their work, 401Ks, or retirement plans. But notice that both of our texts connect material prosperity and the blessing of God to the task of education (Dt. 6:2-3, Eph. 6:3). This is because living under God’s blessing really does tend to prosperity. This does not mean that God’s blessings are like a vending machine. We are in no position at any point of demanding anything from God. But those who obey God’s commands and honor their parents are offered the promise that it will go well with them, and this promise that was originally given to Israel in Canaan, was then offered to Gentile kids in Asia Minor, and therefore we can apply it to us here in Idaho. Teaching God’s truth diligently to our children is God’s ordinary way of raising up generations that increase mightily in every form of wealth: wisdom, children, churches, businesses, lands, houses, technology, medicine, influence, etc.
EDUCATION IS THE RESPONSIBILITY OF PARENTS
The duty of teaching children is placed squarely on the shoulders of parents, and this begins with teaching obedience to children (Eph. 6:1). This is the foundational lesson: hear and obey (Dt. 6:3-6). And parents are the first people that must hear and obey by teaching their children to hear and obey. It is not heavy-handed to require complete, cheerful obedience of your children, but your first lesson you are teaching is your parental obedience. If you are slow to correct, angry, or frustrated, the lesson you are teaching is that it is ok to obey slowly or with a bad attitude. Fundamentally, if children are not taught to hear and obey, they will not be able to learn any other lessons. We should also note here that this task of education applies to both sons and daughters. While we do recognize the gloriously different callings of men and women, this does not mean that our daughters need less of an education.
Notice also that it is not enough to teach wooden conformity; the center of Christian obedience is love: “love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might” (Dt. 6:5). Instinctively, people tend to remember and learn well those things which they love the most, but do not fall into a modernist sentimentalism, love is a skill and duty that God requires, that must be taught and practiced. This need not devolve into cold duty, but it really is something like warm-hearted duty (Prov. 3:1, 4:23). Related to all of this is the requirement that fathers in particular not provoke their children to wrath (Eph. 6:4). This provocation can come from a father’s harshness and short fuse, but it can also come from a father’s abdication and emotional or physical distance or detachment. But God the Father is loud about His pleasure in His Son, and now you are in His Son. The education of children is the responsibility of both parents, but the father is responsible for the state of his whole household. Many Christian families suffer from the father’s lack of leadership in education.
EDUCATION & VOCATION IS ALWAYS MORAL
Finally, wound through both of our texts is the clear teaching that all education is always moral in nature. There is no neutrality. You are either growing to love God all day long or not. You are either learning the counsel and culture of Jesus in mathematics, science, writing, history, literature, and music, or else you are learning some other counsel and culture. The greatest lie of modern, government education is that there is such a thing as “religion-free” zones, which is what the First Amendment has been twisted to mean. But it never meant that; it always meant that the government could not run churches or be partial to a particular denomination. But our founding documents universally acknowledge the Christian God and Creator, and our constitution recognizes Sunday as the Lord’s Day and the birth of Christ as the most significant date in human history. All of which should have kept government out of the education business. In the absence of Christ, other gods and values always fill the vacuum. The other side of this lie is the claim that you can have math or language or history work apart from Christ. But all things hold together in Christ (Col. 1:17). Remove Christ and you remove reason. But Christ is always there to be loved and worshiped. And refusal to do so is disobedience and cowardice.
The center of Christian education is to love all that God is with all that we are. This is the “counsel and the culture of Jesus.” But we are only able to love God rightly as we receive His love in Christ: Christ the Creator, Christ born, Christ obedient, Christ crucified, Christ risen, Christ ascended over all. And where Christ is there is always flourishing and abundant life. This life is creative, curious, joyful, diligent, savvy, courageous, and it looks for fruit over many generations.