Recently, I was teaching a lesson to my Junior church students on the commitment of John the Baptist to forego everything else in order to proclaim the message about the coming Messiah. “How do you put Jesus first?” I asked my group. I was expecting answers like “Be honest when others aren’t,” “Watch movies that aren’t violent or that put Jesus down,” or “Be kind and reach out to other kids who are being left out.”
Instead, my group answered with the three following answers: “Pray,” “Go to Church,” and “Read the Bible.”
I felt frustrated . How could I ask the question so they saw that following Jesus is a 24/7 venture, that our faith is not just some basic rules that allow us to barely slip into Heaven? I probed. “What more do you need to do than just read the Bible?” They stared at me. Finally one child answered tentatively, “Think about what you are reading?” That was a start, at least!
“What about doing what the Bible says?” I asked. “What does the Bible tell us to do?” More blank stares. I gave the answers I listed above. I’m not sure they got it. What’s wrong with these kids that they don’t understand that what we are teaching them is to be applied to their every day life? I wondered. I was more frustrated than ever. But I shouldn’t have been.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Gene, a fellow worker on my mission trip to Austria last spring told me to emphasize the word, “beginning.” Our job as teachers is to move kids beyond the beginning point of wisdom. The beginning of wisdom is knowledge of Jesus. That’s the point my group of students were at. Wisdom is knowing the difference between right and wrong. The greatest form of wisdom, says Gene, is to take what you know and apply it to everyday life.
Teaching children about Jesus is a progression. It doesn’t happen all at once. We first teach who God is, who Jesus is and that we are to honor Him as our Lord. But we don’t stop there, assuming the kids will figure out the rest. We must continue to guide them in gaining wisdom by giving them example after example of how to take what you know and apply it to everyday life.
That’s extra work. That takes some thinking and creativity and lots of prayer for . . . wisdom. Whoever said teaching was easy?
We can’t presume kids will make the connection between knowledge and life application, biblically known as wisdom. Sometimes we have to spell it out, use examples, give them practice in a sheltered environment, patiently remind them and cheer for them when they get it right.
God promises to give wisdom to anyone who asks for it. Start praying now that God will give you wisdom in teaching your children and that He will create a desire within each of your students for the wisdom to know how to apply what you are teaching to their everyday lives.