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What Does The Bible Really Say About Educating Children?

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In the last few years, education has been under fire… and for good reasons.

It seems like every time you turn around, you hear about schools with low ratings, states facing Common Core controversies, and even students walking out on mandatory testing. Is there any wisdom to be gleaned from Scripture regarding all of this? While one is not likely to find the Bible espousing the benefits of private school over public school or homeschooling as a preferred option, there are certainly truths to be found in Scripture that can inform our approach to educating children.

The education that is most important

In fact, there is a form of education that should never be sacrificed for the sake of anything else: spiritual education. It is primary, to be placed above everything a child learns.

Moses told Israel, “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 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, and when you rise” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7). From the very beginning of Israel’s history, the regular teaching of the Word of God to young children was paramount. It was the parents’ role.

Solomon wrote, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (Prov. 1:7). Knowledge without an understanding of the One who grants it will be quickly misguided. However, when knowledge is based on the fear of the Lord and the truth of His Word, one can be confident that the knowledge received will be used properly and seen through the proper lens.

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Focusing on the spiritual education of a child first is important because it communicates two very important truths: First, it communicates that knowledge must be seen in light of the fact that our minds were created by God to be used for God to the glory of God. Second, it communicates that nothing is more important than knowing the God who created them. Paul wrote to the Ephesians, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4).

Education displayed throughout the Scriptures

Anonymous kid doing homeworkA regular theme throughout Scripture is that of teaching and guiding those who are younger and/or less mature. For example, Moses taught and led Joshua, Elijah mentored Elisha, Jesus taught His disciples, Priscilla and Aquila taught Apollos, and Paul taught Timothy and Titus.

Additionally, some of the early church fathers learned under the disciples; for example, Polycarp was a disciple of John. The entire book of Proverbs was written for the purpose of educating young men in the importance of wisdom (Prov. 1:8). This belief in passing down wisdom and knowledge is a common one in the Bible.

Learning is seen in Scripture as one of life’s ventures, not just something that happens during a certain phase of life. While it is true that children are in a state of heightened awareness with regard to formal education, the Scriptures make clear that we are all growing and learning throughout our lives. The author of Hebrews says, “It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? … For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness” (Heb. 12:7-10). The Greek word for discipline is paideia, which means “the act of providing guidance for responsible living.” What the author of Hebrews is telling the reader is that receiving guidance is a never-ending process; we received it from our parents for a while and then we receive it from others and ultimately from God throughout our lives, who corrects us even as adults.

The biblical data makes clear that education is important, but spiritual education is most important. While Scripture might not tell you where to send your student to school, you can be sure that the motivation for your child’s educational future should be based in your understanding and pursuit of the knowledge of God. Education begins in the home, with spiritual education the focus.

When instruction is based in the knowledge of God and discipline in following Him, one can be certain that the education will carry eternal value.

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