An Integrated Lifestyle
Posted in Keystone Magazine Articles
An Integrated Lifestyle
by Craig & Barbara Smith
In Part Eight of "Keeping Going When the Going Gets Tough" (Keystone of March 2004) we discussed the need to be building strong interpersonal relationships with our children and spouse. We discussed how it is hard work, very hard work. It doesn't just happen all by itself. We need to be working on it diligently (when we sit in our house, walk by the way, lie down and rise up) with our children. We can have no rest from this. Tom Eldredge in Safely Home(1) says "we should devote enormous amounts of time to them (our children), even to the point of weariness."(2)
So we need to have strong interpersonal relationships with our children, and we also need to look at what, why and how we are teaching them.
Psalm 119:98, "Thy commandment makes me wiser than my enemies for it is ever with me."
Psalm 119:99, "I have more understanding than all my teachers, for thy testimonies are my meditation."
Psalm 119:100, "I understand more than the aged, for I keep thy precepts."
When we teach the commandments, statutes and ordinances diligently to our children, then they will be wiser than their enemies, then they will have more understanding than their teachers. When our children apply and keep the precepts, then they will understand more than the aged. In Deuteronomy 6, God is commanding us to teach His commandments, statutes and ordinances diligently to our children, and we should talk of them when we sit in our house and when we walk by the way, and when we lie down, and when we rise. To our ears that means all the time. If we do this with our children all the time, with our whole hearts, then when they are older and on their own, we believe they will do likewise. Look at Proverbs 6:20-22. "My son, keep your father's commandment, and forsake not your mother's teaching. Bind them upon your heart always; tie them about your neck. When you walk they will lead you; when you lie down, they will watch over you; and when you awake, they will talk with you." If we spend 5-10 minutes each day teaching our children the commandments, statutes and ordinances, then when they are older and look back on their father's commandments to them and their mother's teaching, that is how much time they will invest in the commandments, statutes and ordinances: 5-10 minutes each day. But if we command and teach our children diligently when we sit in our house, walk by the way, lie down and when we rise up, then when our children are grown and look back on their father's commandments to them and their mother's teaching, they will likewise teach them diligently to their own children. Remember Proverbs 22:6: "Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it." We are required to train our children in a very definite manner as opposed to the other child-rearing strategy of just letting them grow up in spite of us. Training requires hard work. Those in bodily training pommel their bodies. We need to train our children in the commandments of God. There is no rest from it. It is a 24-hour-a-day job, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Psalm 1 also talks this way. The man of God who does not seek counsel from the wicked or stand with the sinners but whose "delight is in the law of the Lord, and on His law he meditates day and night....In all that he does, he prospers." Teach diligently....meditate day and night. This is all hard work. But the blessings of obedience are repeated: "In all that he does, he prospers."
You say this is just going to add to your stress, not take away from it. "Am I supposed to educate my children as well as spend all my time in building good relationships, and then spend all day and night in meditation on the Scriptures? How can anyone do that?" You see three huge tasks enumerated here. Looking at it that way is most definitely a recipe for burnout. We want to show you that all three are done at once. Meditating on God's Word is educating your children is building good relationships.
Abraham Joshua Heschel encapsulated this approach to study by saying that the Greeks study in order to understand while the Hebrews study in order to revere. God's Word and ways are ineffable: only by doing them does one understand them.3
This is the great divide between the way virtually all of us have been trained up by our schooling - to see the acquisition of knowledge by schooling as the road to success. As Christians we even apply this to the Bible, thinking that by studying it and knowing what it says we gain spiritual maturity. No. The Hebrew way, the Biblical way to spiritual maturity, is not via studying in order to gain knowledge. It is by studying in order to know how to more perfectly obey, do, practice, follow, perform, behave according to the Scriptural commandments, ordinances and precepts. That is, we study the Bible to learn how to love and revere the Lord. This is to know Him: to love Him, which is to obey Him (I John 5:3). Then, having studied and followed through by doing what we found in our studies, then we will gain knowledge. It is a different type of knowledge: heart knowledge borne of walking the walk, walking in obedience with the Lord we love, as opposed to pure theoretical head knowledge. This head knowledge approach is how we were all taught at school. It is the Greek method. It is the kind of knowledge that puffs up rather than builds up (I Corinthians 8:1). Knowing the Lord by loving Him in obedience is what builds up and gives us true knowledge of Him.
We could put it another way: The Jewish Talmud tells a story of an elderly rabbi's counsel to his young nephew. The boy already knew the Torah, the Old Testament Law. Now he wanted to study the wisdom of the Greeks. The rabbi recalled God's words in Joshua 1:8: "You shall mediate on it [Biblical Law] day and night." "Go, then," said the rabbi. "Find a time that is neither day nor night, and learn then Greek wisdom."(3)
Let's invest our time, our days and nights, studying....and doing!.... the really important things, the things that God tells us to teach our children. That is, teach them to live a life of obedience in all areas by ourselves living a life of obedience in all areas and ensuring our children are involved with us in all our activities. This contrasts to our normal method of lectures supplemented with workbooks and texts as we strive to see our children acquire superior Biblical and secular knowledge. We can still acquire this superior knowledge, in fact we must, but we can do it in the context of doing things and being involved in planning and executing activities, rather than in the context of lectures and discussion for the sake of gaining the knowledge. In the classroom or lecture model of instruction, there is no immediate use for the knowledge just gained, except perhaps for the purposes of sitting an exam. And then, of course, that body of knowledge is quickly forgotten. But as we plan and do things in obedience to the many things the Scriptures commend to us, we can gain knowledge in the doing, a more practical sort of knowledge. We can also make use of the lecture/classroom model, but with the added dimension that we are learning this for the specific objective of putting it into immediate use.
No, this is not neglecting our academics. John D. Beckett explains in his book Loving Monday, "A Biblical worldview has [great] implications for those of us in the secular, Greek-thinking West. As we allow it, the Bible speaks to us concerning government, economics, education, science, art, communications and business. Really, it speaks to all of life."3 Have a look at the very first words God Himself spoke to Adam and Eve at their creation, Genesis 1:28: "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth." What sort of academics will we need to fulfill this one commandment? Animal husbandry, physics, chemistry, biology, geology, mining, metallurgy, engineering, mathematics, statistics, soil sciences, meteorology, horticulture, agriculture, genetics, etc., etc. Combining the Great Commission of Matthew 28:18-20 with the call to bear both the message and ministry of reconciliation as Christ's ambassadors in II Corinthians 5:17-20, we find we will also need to master, in order to obey these verses, communications in all its forms (written, spoken, non-verbal body language, electronic), art, history, languages, cultural studies, inter-personal relationships, music, poetry, education., etc., etc.
Meditating on God's Word is educating your children is building good relationships. The objective of meditation and study is to obey more properly and consistently what we find in God's Word. To obey in this way we will need to master the academic disciplines. Now, it is clear that no one person can master all of these academic disciplines listed in the previous paragraph. Here is where each person, as he matures, senses God's personal calling to him to specialise in one area of work in His Garden or another. That is, Johnny does not become a carpenter because he likes to work in wood, although if his calling from God is carpentry, he will most probably like it. But Johnny's work as a carpenter is to glorify God by bringing every thought and every effort and every product of that occupation into captivity to Christ, acknowledging Him as Lord over all. His service in this industry provides others with things they need to advance God's kingdom in their particular spheres of specialty and influence.
Home educating mums have a far more direct line in building God's kingdom on earth than does Johnny the carpenter. They are training up disciples for Jesus Christ from the time they are conceived until the day they leave home, launching them into a world that could be transformed, as history has shown us, by the committed and focused efforts of any one of them, an Augustine, a Whitfield, a Wesley, a Carey, a Wilberforce. That is, such mums can and should be wielding undisputed authority, under God and under their husbands, over the lives of their children for 16, 18, 20 years. There is simply no other position of such immense power and influence under the sun. The imprint that a God-fearing mother's handiwork can have on the mind, heart, soul and character of a number of children she might rear, an imprint that is felt and passed on to one or two further generations, numbering dozens of people, is immeasurable and second only to the impact of our Triune God's own sovereign work of accomplishing His will on this earth in the affairs of men. We have mostly lost sight of this unbelievably powerful position of mother hood. Why else would any woman willingly trade it for as little as $7.50 an hour?
Meditating on God's Word is educating your children is building good relationships. The key to these good relationships is that this task is so immense, so comprehensive, so far-reaching that all involved recognise it is far bigger than any of them can handle as an individual. They are working on this task together as a family unit. Team work, between husband and wife, between mum/dad and the children, among the siblings, is essential for making any progress in fulfilling this task. This task becomes an integral part of, not additional to, the family's raison d'etre, its reason for existing as a family unit, with each member holding a vital portfolio in the running of the family corporation. (This language may sound strange, for few of us have thought in these terms. We are instead used to thinking of our children as the little people we raise as our contribution to society, and once they're off our hands, we can get back to enjoying the good life.) In this Hebrew approach, each family member recognises how much each needs the other: the children see the vital nature of their contribution, even if it is only making the beds and washing the dishes, for it allows mum and dad more time to devote to the big task of winning the world for Jesus Christ and for adorning the Gospel with their good works of excellence and gracious attitudes and unstinting hospitality and edifying conversation.
You can see how radically different this hands-on, relational, interactive Hebrew approach is to the theoretical, intellectual, individualistic Greek approach to doing things that we all grew up with. The Hebrew approach creates and values families and closely connected communities. The Greek approach values and creates the lone ranger, the "autonomous individual" which the state school system is actively promoting and which the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child is always talking about.
Yes, the family is the powerhouse of evangelism, education, discipleship training and Gospel effort, especially within a Biblical church fellowship and under mature church leadership. We may well feel some pressure from our local churches to get more involved in church activities, but we home educators need to help the church see that we are in fact fully engaged in doing church work. As the home education movement matures beyond the pioneering stage, the institutional churches will, Lord willing, recognise this more readily than at present and begin to encourage us more directly. More on this in a future article.
Tom Eldredge in his book, Safely Home says,
The sad truth is that rather than building a distinctively biblical approach to life, education, and work, the Christian community has been absorbed into the culture, such that the priorities of many of our local churches and church leaders are often at war with the Christian family.
The way of life God designed for His people supports itself in every way. There is no conflict within God's design. Each of God's institutions was designed in such a way that it does not diminish the importance of the family. God even set aside one day a week for the Israelites to spend together as a family: the Sabbath.
From sundown on the last workday in the week, until the same time Sabbath evening, God's people were to go home and rest (Exodus 16:29), reflect on the goodness of God over the past week and worship Him. It was a prime teaching opportunity for the father. It also served as a weekly reminder that life was not based on survival of the fittest but on relationship and faith. The Sabbath said, trust in God to provide, look how He is providing! Jesus taught that this special day was not to be observed as a mere legalistic requirement. The Sabbath was made for man's mental, physical and spiritual refreshment (Mark 2:27, Isaiah 58:13-14). It was to be a day of sharing and hospitality (Exodus 20:10). It also served as a time for teaching, a time spent in every home preserving the spiritual heritage of the family.
God has established the pattern and time sequence in creation for the education of children. The first six years of life present an opportunity that cannot be postponed. At no other time in the child's life is it as easy for the child to learn language. In fact, the child will never learn another language as well as the language he learns during those years. It is also a time when the child can absorb facts phenomenally. The Hebrew mother, in a loving and joyful way, cultivated a thirst and love for learning in her children and created the opportunities and moments in which to give them the treasure of knowledge.
The Hebrew mothers were diligent and creative in the way they taught their children. Hebrew mothers know if they were not diligent in their training of their children, they as mothers would be brought to shame (Proverbs 29:15; 22:15). The Scriptures teach that when a woman serves her family well, her children and husband will arise up and call her blessed (Proverbs 31:28). Hebrew mothers knew the importance of wisdom, language and the Word of God (Deuteronomy 6:6-9).
The Hebrew father had three responsibilities: to instruct his son in the law, to bring him into wedlock and to teach him a handcraft. By the time a son reached age thirteen, he was held responsible to know the law and to keep it. Since the father was responsible for this part of his son's training, it is evident that the father's involvement started early in the life on his son. In fact, the Hebrew fathers began teaching their sons the law as soon as they were able to speak, enabling the son to develop a manly spirit.
The Hebrew mothers did not wait for learning readiness in their children: they developed it. Much if not most of Hebrew training was oral (Proverbs 1:8). Even before a child can read, he absorbs tremendous amounts of information and grows in knowledge and understanding as he listens to his parents. Parents can help children to learn by speaking clearly and repetitiously so that children will hear what they must hear.
Mothers need to relearn how to make the maximum use of their homes as worship centres, hospitality centres and education and craft centres. Some of these craft centres will no doubt become platforms for the development of home industries. Often home industries are the first steps towards deliverance from the many forms of bondage in which today's families find themselves.
Home education is not an end in and of itself. It is a God-ordained means to a biblical end: The training of the child after the image of the God who made him; the building of the family; and the promotion of a multi-generational legacy of faithfulness.(1)
1. Safely Home by Tom Eldredge.
2. Emphasis added
3. Heart of Wisdom website: http://homeschoolunitstudies.com/TG/Philosophy/11Biblicalvsgreek.htm
From Keystone Magazine
May 2004 , Vol. IX No. 3
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