My 3-year-old grandson David was nestled close to me as I read from a children’s story book. As I read the story to him, I couldn’t help but break out laughing in places—it was a delightful story. Somewhere in the middle of the story, David interrupted and looked up at me with a big smile and said, “You’re happy, Gramma!” “Yes David, I’m happy.” “I’m happy, too.” Even though David wasn’t able to understand everything in the story, he did understand that the story made gramma happy. And that caught his attention.
That little incident made me think back several years ago to when I was teaching a lesson in first-grade Sunday school. I can’t remember the particular lesson (from The ABCs of God curriculum), but I remember very vividly what happened after the lesson. Our Pastor for Children had been observing me teach, and afterward he gently pointed out, “You didn’t seem very joyful in your teaching.” There I was, teaching children about the greatest joy and treasure in the universe—God Himself—and I was communicating this life-giving truth, without joy! I wonder if that caught the children’s attention?
You see, on that particular day, I had simply come prepared to “teach a lesson,” and it came across as dry and indifferent information. Yes, truth was taught, but my joyless demeanor made it seem like I was telling the children how to fill out a tax form. That isn’t to say that authentic teaching is always evidenced by a smiling face and laughter. Sometimes conveying the truth with genuine brokenness and humility is most appropriate. The main point is this: Before we teach, our hearts should first be gripped and shaped by the truths we are to communicate—truths such as…the splendor, majesty, and holiness of God; the desperate condition of sinful man; the amazing grace that God extends to sinners; the matchless worth of Jesus; the good news of the cross; etc.
Here is a wonderful and challenging thought for every teacher and parent to ponder:
Teachers and parents who do not exult over God in their teaching will not bring about exultation in God. Dry, unemotional, indifferent teaching about God—whether at home or at church—is a half-truth, at best. It says one thing about God and portrays another thing. It is inconsistent. It says that God is great, but teaches as if God is not great.
Psalm 145:4 shows us another way: “One generation shall praise Your works to another.” Let praises carry the truth to the next generation, because the aim of truth is praise. The aim of education is exultation. So let education model exultation in the way it is done.
(John Piper, Copyright ©2013 Desiring God Foundation, www.desiringGod.org)
(Image courtesy of Photostock at freedigitalphotos.net.)