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Educating our children

Query for the Month

of May 2002


Next up-date: June 1st 2002 (God willing).

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Some perpetual questions ....

Is there really an immortal soul?

What does it mean to "be led by the Spirit"?

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Deuteronomy 6:

4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: 5 and you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.

6 And these words, which I command you this day, shall be in your heart: 7 and you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down [evening prayer], and when you rise up [morning prayer]. 

 How can we put these words regarding the education of our children into effect?


Probably the best way to answer this query is to look into the life of Jesus and see what we can find regarding His upbringing, for He is our example in all things.

The childhood and youth of Jesus were spent in a little mountain village, so country living is best.  Matthew 2:22-23.  There was no place on earth that would not have been honoured by His presence. The palaces of kings would have been privileged in receiving Him as a guest. But He passed by the homes of wealth in the cities, the courts of royalty, and the renowned seats of learning in the universities, to make His home in obscure and despised Nazareth, the (supposed) child of a poor carpenter.  John 1:45-46.

Wonderful in its significance is the brief record of His early life: "The child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon Him."  Luke 2:40.  In the sunlight of His Father's countenance, Jesus "increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man." Luke 2:52.  Thus we see that while His mind was active and penetrating, with a thoughtfulness and wisdom beyond His years, He was not too exceptional as to be an oddity.   He was "in the world, but not of it."

His character was beautiful in its balance as His later manhood shows but the powers of mind and body developed gradually, in keeping with the laws of childhood.  The hard work of carpentry and household duties did much for his body and character and so we should ensure that our children take on family responsibilities according their age.

As a child, Jesus manifested a peculiar loveliness of disposition. His willing hands were ever ready to serve others, and He carried this on in His adult life. Matthew 20:27-28.  We embody that principle in the words, “Do unto others as you would have them do to you” and we need to show our children this by our example.  

He showed a patience that nothing could disturb, and a truthfulness that would never sacrifice integrity. Luke 8:15.  A good instruction for us to give then is to teach our children to wait.  Do not rush in and endeavour to give your precious one everything he or she wants as soon as they want it.  As a result, in principle firm as a rock, His teenage life revealed the grace of unselfish courtesy. 

What to do with ambition

He soon knew who He was and what He had to do, because the Spirit told Him and His mother confirmed it.  By the age of twelve He was claiming God as His literal Father.  Luke 2:49.  His whole life expectation is summed up in the words:-

Hebrews 10:

5 Wherefore when He comes into the world, He says, “Sacrifice and offering You would [rather] not, but a body have You prepared Me. 6 In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin You have had no pleasure.”

7 “Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of Me,) to do Your will, O God.”

8 Above [before] when He said, “Sacrifice and offering and burnt offerings and offering for sin You would not, neither had pleasure therein”; which are offered by the law; 9 then said He, “Lo, I come to do Your will, O God.”  [In this] He takes away the first [the sacrifices], that He may establish the second [the will of God]. 

and He had this to say to His opponents:-

Matthew 9:

13 But go you and learn what that [this] mean, “I will have mercy, and not sacrifice” [Hosea 6:6]: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. 

So we should impress on each child’s mind that they have a work to perform as a responsibility of the gift of life.  It is not to be one of pleasure and wealth-seeking, but of usefulness, for only that brings lasting satisfaction

We can be sure that with deep earnestness Mary watched the unfolding of His powers, and beheld the impress of perfection upon His character as she taught Him these things, for that is every parent's dream. With delight she sought to encourage that bright, receptive mind in line with the command which forms our query. Through the Holy Spirit she received wisdom to co-operate with the heavenly agencies in the development of this child, who could claim only God as His Father.  And so may we as parents.  As we take our problems to the LORD each day, He will respond with simple but effective ways of reaching that individual child.

When should we start?

From the earliest times the faithful in Israel had given much care to the education of the youth. The LORD had directed that even from babyhood the children should be taught of His goodness and His greatness, especially as revealed in His law, and shown in the history of Israel. Song and prayer and lessons from the Scriptures were to be adapted to the opening mind.  It is not too early to start from the first day!  (It is never too late either!)  Put aside baby talk and converse with this new person as if he/she is capable of understanding and co-operating.  Those who do this may not notice how quickly and definitely the child responds, but it will.   Proverbs 22:6.

Fathers and mothers were told to instruct their children that the law of God (especially the Ten Commandments as illustrated in Exodus 20) is an expression of His character of love, and that as they received the principles of the law into their hearts, the image of God would be traced on their minds and characters.  The commandments should not be seen as Ten “You’re not allowed to’s” but as ten statements of “I promise you, you will not want to”. 

Psalm 19:

7 The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul:
the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.
8 The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart:
the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes.
9 The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever:
the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.

10 More to be desired are they than gold, yes, than much fine gold [riches]: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb [pleasures]

11 Moreover by them is Your servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward. 

Much of the teaching was oral; but the youth, both male and female, also learned to read the Hebrew writings, including the parchment rolls of the Old Testament prophets, which were open to their study.  So today we should encourage our children to read, and think about, the words of the Bible.  By making the stories attractive and entertaining before they even recognise the printed words, we can encourage a God-given desire to know more. As they read the words, they will find that the word of God carries with it a power to change them, for “by beholding, we become changed.”   2 Corinthians 3:18.  This cannot be explained with any human reasoning, but it does work.  God speaks and it is so!  Only after they have mastered this skill should we introduce them to any other book.

One way to do this is to have a child read a portion of the Bible as they grow older and then try to condense the thought into a few words.  This art of comprehension is of great value throughout life.

Should we send our children to school?

In the days of Christ the town or city that did not provide for the religious instruction of the young was regarded as under the curse of God. Yet the teaching had become formal. Tradition had in a great degree supplanted the Scriptures. True education will lead the youth to "seek the LORD, if haply they might feel after Him, and find Him." Acts 17:27. But the Jewish teachers gave their attention to matters of ceremony and man's ideas. The mind was crowded with material that was worthless to the learner, and that would not be recognized in the higher school of the courts above.

The experience which is obtained through a personal acceptance of God's word had no place in that kind of educational system, so home-schooling is always best because it can give time to meditate.   Not even one of those “good private” schools can replace the parent’s influence. No matter what the qualifications are, or even lack of them, parents can be sure that if they are willing to co-operate with the Spirit of God, the early education of their children will be complete.  See Judges chapter 13 for more on this.

Then the children should be taught some form of manual ability by which to support themselves and their families in the future. Only in some special cases will the young person be required to go onto college or university.  And that will be determined by God, not by us, for they are dangerous places for the inexperienced in God's grace.

Why did Jesus stay away?

Absorbed in the round of externals in the public schools of Israel, the students found no quiet hours to spend with God. They did not hear His voice speaking to their hearts. In their search after earthly knowledge, they were turned away from the Source of wisdom. The great essentials of the service of God were neglected.  See Hosea 6:4-7.  The principles of the law were obscured. That which was regarded as superior education was the greatest hindrance to real development. Under the training of the rabbis the powers of the youth were repressed. Their minds became cramped and narrow and they ceased to be lateral thinkers under the Spirit

This effect helps to explain why so many of the nation of Israel refused their Saviour when He walked among them.  They did not know Him through God’s word and therefore did not know Him in person.  In fact, they were expecting a Saviour who would, through force of arms, free them from the Roman occupation, not One who would free them from sin.  Even His disciples still had lingering traces of this idea after His resurrection!

Acts 1:

4 And, being assembled together with them,  [He] commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, “Which”, says he, “you have heard of [from] Me. 5 For John truly baptised with water; but you shall be baptised with the Holy Ghost not many days hence [not long now].”

6 When they therefore were come together, they asked of Him, saying, “LORD, will You at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?” 7 And He said to them, “It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father has put in His own power."

8 "But you shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and you shall be witnesses to Me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and to the uttermost part of the earth.” 

He plainly told them that their work on earth was to teach (Matthew 28:19), educate (2 Timothy 2:15), and warn (Psalm 19:11), all those with whom they came in contact.  So this is the main reason for Christian education.  To do this on a grand scale, God knows that we must have had a good all-round appreciation of the things of this world - scientific, political, historical and social – as well as Biblical.  But none of this will be of any use unless we also have the leading of the Holy Spirit!  So which comes first?  Naturally the Spirit can make up for our deficiencies, but we cannot make up for the absence of His presence.  Therefore He will guide in how much, and how often, we should seek to know of the ways of the world.

Another example

And that’s how it was with John the Baptist. His father said of him:

Luke 1:

76 “And you, child, shall be called the prophet of the Highest: for you shall go before the face of the LORD to prepare His ways. 77 To give knowledge of salvation to His people by the remission of their sins, 78 through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the Dayspring from on high has visited us, 79 to give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

80 And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his showing to Israel [when he was 30].

John also bypassed the schools of the time and was led to spend his time in the deserts while under the leadership of the Spirit.

With this understanding, under His guidance we can do great things to help Him in His work.  Note this point with care, we should teach our children that they are NOT the doctor, only the nurse!  See John 3:30.  We cannot expect to do things our way and ask God’s blessing as if we knew the answers, yet this what so many attempt to do.  Humility is one of the first lessons to be learnt in God's kingdom.

Where should we learn?

The child Jesus did not receive instruction in the synagogue schools. His mother was His first human teacher. From her lips and from the scrolls of the prophets, He learned of heavenly things. The very words which He Himself had spoken to Moses and Abraham for Israel’s benefit, He was early taught at His mother's knee.  John 8:56-58.  As He advanced from childhood to youth, He did not seek the schools of the rabbis for He did not need the education to be obtained from such sources, because He had the Spirit of God as His instructor. 

The question asked during the Saviour's ministry, "How knows this man letters, having never learned?" does not indicate that Jesus was unable to read, but merely that He had not received a rabbinical education.  John 7:15. Since He gained knowledge as we may do, His intimate acquaintance with the Scriptures shows how diligently His early years were given to the study of God's word.

And spread out before Him was the great library of God's created works.  (Psalm 92:5.) He who had made all things studied the lessons which His own hand had written in earth and sea and sky.  (John 1:3.) Separated from the unholy ways of the world, He gathered stores of scientific knowledge from nature. He studied the life of plants and animals, and the life of man, with a perception heightened by the Spirit. Therefore much of the student's time should be spent outdoors, looking at, and working with, nature.

From His earliest years Jesus was possessed of one purpose; He lived to bless others. For this He found resources in nature; new ideas of ways and means flashed into His mind as He studied plant life and animal life to learn about God's way.  (Consider Proverbs 6:6-8).   Continually He was seeking to draw from things seen illustrations by which to present the living oracles of God. The parables by which, during His ministry, He loved to teach His lessons of truth show how open His spirit was to the influences of nature, and how He had gathered the spiritual teaching from the surroundings of His daily life. 

Thus to Jesus the significance of the word and the works of God was unfolded, as He was trying to understand the reason of things. Heavenly beings were His attendants, and the culture of holy thoughts and communings was His. From the first dawning of intelligence He was constantly growing in spiritual grace and knowledge of truth. 

All our children may gain knowledge as Jesus did. As they become acquainted with our heavenly Father through His word, angels will draw near, their minds will be strengthened, their characters will be elevated and refined. They will become more like their Saviour.

And as they behold the beautiful and grand in nature, their affections will go out after God. While their spirits will be awed, their minds will be invigorated by coming in contact with the Infinite through His works and they will develop a mental agility seldom seen today.

Communion with God through prayer develops the mental and moral faculties, and the spiritual powers also strengthen as we cultivate thoughts upon spiritual things.  Philippians 4:8. So it is with our children.  If they are constantly asking God “How can I help?” they will constantly be given jobs to do proportionate to their ability.  We can train them to do this by getting them to ask us in the same way.

How do we deal with temptation?

The life of Jesus was a life in harmony with God. While He was a child, He thought and spoke as a child; but no trace of sin marred the image of God within Him. Yet He was not exempt from temptation, nor did He have power that any Christian cannot have.  (See John 14:12 where "greater" means "longer".) 

The inhabitants of Nazareth were proverbial for their wickedness. The low estimate in which they were generally held is shown by Nathanael's question, "Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?" John 1:46.  Therefore Jesus was deliberately placed where His character would be tested. It was necessary for Him to be constantly on guard in order to preserve His purity.  So how did He do it?  How may our children?

1 Corinthians 10:

13 There has no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that you are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that you may be able to bear it [all we have to do is ask and then obey].

14Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry. 15 I speak as to wise men; judge you what I say. 

He was subject to all the conflicts which we have to meet, that He might be an example to us in childhood, youth, and manhood.  1 Peter 2:21.  So we may expect (and we should tell our children to expect also) that this type of living will produce many reactions, downright opposition, and many temptations.  But we may cheerfully follow in His steps because of the "way of escape".

It is written of Him:

1 Peter 2:

23 Who, when He was reviled, reviled not again [did not retaliate]; when He suffered, He threatened not; but committed Himself to Him that judges righteously [He left it all in God’s hands and did only what He was told to do.] 

The work ethic

As Jesus worked in childhood and teenage, mind and body were developed. He did not use His physical powers recklessly, but in such a way as to keep them in health, eating and sleeping wisely that He might do the best work in every line. He was not willing to be defective, even in the handling of tools. He was perfect as a workman, as He was perfect in character.

By His own example He taught that it is our duty to be industrious, that our work should be performed with exactness and thoroughness, and that such labour is honourable.  He even folded the grave clothes before He left the tomb, just like making His bed!  John 20:6-7. 

The exercise that teaches the hands to be useful and trains the young to bear their share of life's burdens gives physical strength, and develops every faculty. All should find something to do that will be beneficial to themselves and helpful to others. God appointed work as a blessing, and it is the diligent worker who finds the true glory and joy of life. Genesis 3:19.

The approval of God rests with loving assurance upon children and youth who cheerfully take their part in the duties of the household, sharing the burdens of father and mother. Such children will go out from the home to be useful members of society.

Throughout His life on earth, Jesus was an earnest and constant worker. He expected much; therefore He attempted much. After He had entered on His ministry, He said, "I must work the works of Him that sent Me, while it is day: the night comes, when no man can work." John 9:4.  

Jesus did not shirk care and responsibility, as do many who profess to be His followers. It is because they seek to evade this discipline that so many are weak and inefficient. They may possess precious and amiable traits, but they are nerveless and almost useless when difficulties are to be met or obstacles surmounted. The positiveness and energy, the solidity and strength of character, manifested in Christ are to be developed in us, through the same discipline that He endured.

And then the grace that He received is for us.



Education for children

The parents of Jesus were poor, and dependent upon their daily toil. He was familiar with poverty, self-denial, and going without. This experience was a safeguard to Him. In His industrious life there were no idle moments to invite temptation. No aimless hours opened the way for corrupting associations. So far as possible, He closed the door to the tempter. Neither gain nor pleasure, applause nor censure, could induce Him to consent to a wrong act. He was wise to discern evil, and strong to resist it.  Hebrews 5:14.

Christ was the only sinless one who ever dwelt on earth; yet for nearly thirty years He lived among the wicked inhabitants of Nazareth. This fact is a rebuke to those who think themselves dependent upon place, fortune, or prosperity, in order to live a blameless life. Temptation, poverty, adversity, is the very discipline needed to develop purity and firmness for they will show us what is in us.  On top of that, being taught to understand the “nature of things” by the parents who brought us into the world will give us the “icing on the cake."


Who wants to add (or subtract!) from these thoughts? I won't argue as I have stated, but I will publish your Scriptures so that we may review all the words of God on the subject.
Next thought. To be discussed from June 1st 2002.

John 2:

19 Jesus answered and said to them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 Then said the Jews, “Forty-six years was this temple in building, and will You rear it up in three days?” 21 But He spoke of the temple of His body. 

Why did the Jews not understand what He meant by these words?

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