Make Knowledge Easy for Your Children

What if I told you I discovered a Bible verse that revealed the secret to making it easy for your children to acquire knowledge? Well . . . I did. Ready? Here it is:

"A scoffer seeks wisdom in vain,
but knowledge is easy for a man of understanding."

(Proverbs 14:6 ESV)

Did you read that? “Knowledge is easy”! How? First, we have to understand the difference between knowledge and understanding. It is the difference between facts and wisdom. It is the difference between knowing historical data and understanding what history can teach us about the world. It is the difference between knowing how to do something and knowing the right thing to do.

We live in a culture that has elevated knowledge above skill and wisdom. Our schools teach for knowledge—worksheets, testing. They do not emphasize skill or morality. For me, even gaining knowledge took second place to a much more important goal: passing classes and graduating!

Many of us who are teaching our children at home are products of this educational system. Many of us have made the mistake of taking public school objectives and strategies home with us. So, how can we correct this perspective and the resulting strategies? Let me give you a couple ways:

1. Aim for more than knowledge.

Knowledge is important. But it is not the most important. Very rarely do we acquire knowledge for its own sake, just to know it. We acquire knowledge to accomplish a more practical goal. We have projects, hobbies, goals, jobs, repairs, and chores that require knowledge.

Of course, this is the answer to every child’s favorite question, “Why?” It seems that no matter what instructions or corrections I give my children, they always ask the same question: “Why?” I think “Because I said so” is an appropriate answer. However, it can’t be the only answer. At some point our children will have to understand the why of what they are learning. The goal of learning is related to understanding. When we know why we are learning something then we understand it and it is much easier to learn.

So, how do we identify the why of what we are teaching? If we are aiming for more than knowledge, then what are we aiming for? Here is the simplest, and most important place to start:

2. Prepare your children to fulfill God’s purpose for their lives.

This must be the ultimate goal of all education because it is the ultimate goal of life. And what is God’s purpose for your children’s lives? Generally speaking, we all have the same purpose: to love God (Mark 12:30), love people (Mark 12:31), and make disciples (Matt 28:18-20).

Paul specifically contrasts knowledge and love in 1 Cor 8 and 13:

"This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up.
If anyone imagines that he knows something,
he does not yet know as he ought to know.
But if anyone loves God, he is known by God."

(1 Corinthians 8:1-3 ESV)

"And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge,
. . .  but have not love, I am nothing."

(1 Corinthians 13:2 ESV)

Knowledge is a means to an end. The end is love. EVERYTHING we do (and everything we teach) ought to have this purpose.

You want to make knowledge easy (or at least easier) for your children? Then put it in a meaningful context. Place it in submission to our ultimate purpose in life. The real challenge of teaching our children should not be wrestling with them over math or history. The real challenge should be imparting to them wisdom, a biblical worldview, a love for God, and a commitment to his purpose for their lives. 

Do You Really Want Honest Friends?

One of the #1 character qualities people want in a friend is honesty. But to be honest, honesty is pretty hard. Honesty is hard because telling the truth to our friends is sometimes hard and we don't like hard. We would prefer the easy road.

The Bible confirms that a good friend is honest (and that it hurts).

"Better is open rebuke than hidden love.
Faithful are the wounds of a friend.
Profuse are the kisses of an enemy."
Proverbs 27:5-6

Our culture has duped us into believing that the #1 quality of love is tolerance. Therefore, a good friend always puts up with everything you say and do. He will never tell you that you are wrong (which might hurt your feelings).

It is easy for us to believe this because it appeals to our selfishness. We would rather everyone always be happy with us and like us. We would rather avoid conflict. But according to God, that is not what a good friend does.

In the church (our relationships to brothers and sisters in Christ), we have an even greater responsibility to help each other out by being honest. Our responsibility is not just to those whom we would consider our closest friends.

Here are a few important principles about living in community with fellow believers:

1. Speak the truth in love.

(See Prov 27:5-6 above and Eph 4:15; Matt 18:15). When you have a concern about a brother or sister, love them enough to ask questions and learn more about it. Love them enough to share your concern. There is always the risk for nitpicking, judgmental people to abuse this (another subject for another day), but in my circles, the primary problem is an unwillingness to speak the truth.

2. Don't share your concerns about a friend with others.

"Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets,
but he who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a thing covered."
Prov 11:13

Gossip and slander is very destructive. Also be watchful for gossip disguised as a prayer request!

Here are a couple of exceptions to this principle:

  • When you are talking to one or two mature, trustworthy people for prayer and council about helping your friend who is in a serious situation.
  • When your friend won't listen to you and you need some back up (Matt 18:16).

The next two points are steps to take when someone is trying to talk to you negatively about another person.

3. Don't form opinions about a person being talked about without getting the full story.

"The one who states his case first seems right,
until the other comes and examines him."
Prov 18:17

4. Encourage others to speak the truth in love to their friends.

If someone talks negatively about someone to you, then encourage them to follow the first two principles.

And if you sense that the person sharing information is not truly concerned, or not willing to help his friend, then ask him to stop talking to you about others.

Think of a friend you love that needs your help today. Remember, only an enemy offers nothing but kisses!

Making Plans?

If you are making plans, consider these Proverbs:

"Desire without knowledge is not good, and whoever makes haste with his feet misses his way." Proverbs 19:2

"Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand." Proverbs 19:21

"Plans are established by counsel; by wise guidance wage war." Proverbs 20:18

"The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty." Proverbs 21:5

Avoid Worthless Pursuits

I spoke with a friend this morning about this challenging Proverb, so I am reposting this entry from April 1 of this year.

“Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits lacks sense.” Prov 12:11

What a great standard for the activities we choose for ourselves and our children! First is the priority of work. Our provision should come from our own work. We cannot train our children or allow adults to expect others to provide for them. Everyone works!

Second, not that everything we do must be work, but everything we do must have worth; it must have value and benefit. We are an entertainment driven culture and many of our activities qualify as worthless pursuits. Entertainment is not inherently bad since it is a form of relaxation that we all need. However, there are so many spiritually and intellectually nourishing forms of relaxation and entertainment! Instead of justifying our entertainment habits as "relaxation we all need," we can raise the standard and engage in activities that qualify as "worthy pursuits."

Feeding the Flesh

“A companion of gluttons shames his father”Prov 28:7

The struggle between flesh and Spirit is becoming more clear to me. They are diametrically opposed. Flesh leads to death; Spirit leads to life and peace (Rom 8:5-8). But unlike the Buddhist philosophy, flesh does not refer to all that is physical from which one must strive to be detached. Flesh is the sinful nature, the tendency to make oneself god and his or her pleasure the ultimate end of all. I’m afraid that I still subtly serve my flesh.

As in this proverb, it can be as natural as eating, but it becomes gluttony. This is a perfect example of the distinction that must be made between flesh and the physical. There is nothing wrong with eating (physical), but we can make it an end and enjoyment above God (flesh). There is nothing wrong with the enjoying the pleasure of eating either. And while it seems ridiculous that a person could place it above God, it is quite possible. It is not a conscious choice of worship. It is the longing and drive of the heart. Anything that we live for that is not God is idolatry.

My own concern is not that something like eating motivates my life. My concern, though, is in exercising a certain level of carelessness in eating, such as eating too much of anything and especially that which is not good for me. Not only does this carelessness have definite physical consequences, but it also feeds my flesh. When we take the good things that God gives us and use them outside of the purpose and limits for which he has given them to us, then we are serving the flesh.

Strive Against the Wicked

“Those who forsake the law praise the wicked,but those who keep the law strive against them.” Prov 28:4

Once again, the righteous do not simply mind their own business carrying out righteousness in their own lives. Righteousness includes striving against the wicked around us. But what exactly does this mean? Stopping them from harming others? Not allowing it to spread by exposing its wickedness? Trying to get them to stop? On what basis does a righteous person do this? Does he use law and government? Personal persuasion? Community pressure? Prayer? Does he attempt to convert the wicked? I suppose a righteous person would strive against wickedness by any righteous means available. I am reminded of Gao Zhisheng, the lawyer in China who was working against the oppressive Chinese government and is now in prison, probably being tortured (because he already has been several times). The bottom line is that the righteous do not stand by while the wicked work their evil unchecked.