Proverbs 3:1-6, I Timothy 4:1-16
June 10, 2007
This passage from Proverbs sounds familiar doesn’t it? Solomon is writing here about the people binding things around your neck, and writing them on the tablets of their hearts.” Doesn’t that sound like the passage from Deuteronomy 6 we read a few weeks ago. (Or however long ago!) “Hear O Israel, the Lord, your God is one Lord! And you shall love the Lord your God with all your hearts, with all your soul, and with all your might.” Do you remember that? You shall love God – a ton!
After that Moses told the people, “These words… shall be upon your heart. And you shall teach them diligently to your children, and you shall talk about them… all the time. And you shall bind them upon your wrists, they shall be as frontlets to your eyes.” (Deuteronomy 6:4-9) Doesn’t that sound like this Proverbs passage – remembering, binding, writing? Actually both of those are great passages for this Christian Education Sunday. And I’d like us to think about both of them as we go along here.
You see, sometimes the tendency is for us to think of “Christian Education” as “Sunday School,” right? And then, when we think Sunday School, we tend to think children, don’t we? That’s pretty common among Churches. Many Churches think that way. And the purpose of this theme today is to remind us, as did the writer of Deuteronomy, that the learning about, and the talking about, and remembering of the faith, is ongoing. It’s not just for the kids!
In our culture, in our society, there is that same tendency. People think of learning in terms of what we call our “Formal Education,” which ends in our teen years. (Or early 20’s if we think of “Higher Education.”) And granted, those years have a profound influence on us! They affect the way we continue to learn – or not – throughout the rest of our lives! Because for some, even though that’s where formal study ends, learning still continues. But for others, they don’t even consider learning beyond those years.
Now, all of that is very interesting, because we live in what has been called the information age. Human knowledge is growing, and has been growing, at an astronomical rate! They say the sum total of all human knowledge doubles every few years! And human learning is given the highest honor in our culture. “Such and such a person is ‘intelligent.’ That means, “they’ve learned a lot.” Or “They know a lot!” We also say, “They’re smart.” Or “They’re bright.” Such people are greatly esteemed in our world. And I’m not saying that’s bad. I think it’s important for people to continue to learn – throughout their lives. It’s important to be a “Lifelong learner,” as some have called them. Well, we in the Church should be lifelong learners, as well. We should be lifelong learners of our faith, of God’s Word, and of God himself.
That’s all good. And I hope today that we can see Christian Education as being not just for the kids! I hope we can grow and develop our Adult Education opportunities here at Eddington. That’s all very important. Like the people of Israel, we should be teaching the things of God diligently to our children, but we should also be talking about them ourselves, when we sit in our houses and when we walk by the way, when we rise until the time we sleep. We should be binding those things on our wrists and around our necks.
As we think about that, I want you to see something very important here. Moses told the people that the word of God “shall be upon your hearts.” Solomon said, “…do not forget my teaching, let your heart keep my commandments…” Then he said to bind these things “around your neck, and write them on the tablets of your heart.” In II Corinthians 3:3 Paul says the same thing, as he told the people that their faith was not written in ink, but by the Holy Spirit, not on tablets of stone, but on tablets of the human heart.” Those were clear references, by the way, to the tablets of – what? (The Ten Commandments!) So both Paul and Solomon were making bold references to some very important things here!
Well, let me ask you this. Don’t we tend to think of learning as a thing of the mind? If someone is learned and intelligent, don’t we say they have a “keen mind?” Don’t we say they are a “brainy character?” What’s all this about the heart, then?
Well, first off, I want you to remember that this is not that foreign a concept to our world. We still speak of this kind of thing when we say that we know something by heart. Isn’t that they way we describe a deeper knowledge of something? Well, that’s the way the Bible speaks of learning and knowledge all the time! True learning, deep learning, is a matter of the heart!
The Bible also speaks of wisdom. And I believe that’s a matter of the heart, too. This book of Proverbs part of that section of the Bible the Jews called “Wisdom Literature.” And that was a very important part of the scriptures for them. Because throughout the Bible, instead of emphasizing the mind, the Bible speaks of the heart. Instead of honoring one who is “smart” – not that that’s bad or anything – but instead the Bible speaks of the importance of one being “wise.” And where wisdom definitely has to do with learning, it’s more about what we do with our learning. And over and over the Bible tells us is that wisdom – which is the most effective and the most important part of learning – takes place in the heart! We take the things of God, not just into our heads where we store them, but into our hearts where we use them! We take them into that place where they reside most deeply!
Now, having said all that, let me tell you that we need to have both! We need both learning and wisdom. Despite the emphasis on wisdom in the scriptures, there is still a great need for learning. And that’s a big part of Christian Education which we’re thinking about today. And I have to tell you, the thing I have been hearing about for 20 years now is that there is a growing Biblical illiteracy in our world. People in our world are knowing less and less about the Bible and what it says as the years go by.
I was watching “Cash Cab” the other day, which is a riot, by the way, if you haven’t seen it! It’s a game show that takes place in a New York City taxi cab. Well, one of the questions asked of the contestants was, “Name one of the four books of the New Testament that are called the Gospels.” Well, the people in the cab actually answered correctly. (They said “Peter.”?!?!?) The said John. But they had to call someone on the phone to do it! They had no idea! And let me tell you, that loss of knowledge is not just happening outside of the Church!
It used to be that we preachers could talk about things in the Bible, and assume the people on the other side of the pulpit knew the stories. But we were told in the late 70’s that we could no longer make that assumption. And it’s been getting worse since then. That’s especially important to remember when we’re trying to reach people outside these walls. But even inside the walls, we want to be sure that we’re still striving to learn, that we’re still working on growing in knowledge, no matter what level of learning we may be on.
We don’t want to be in a position where we have stopped learning about our faith. And I suspect there are people in Churches who think that’s ok! They are “just fine” with the amount they know, and they don’t care all that much if they ever learn any more. We know that there are people in Churches who are content with doing the “minimum in their faith.” You’ve heard me say that before. Well, there are also those who are satisfied with “learning the minimum,” as well.
Let that not be said of us! Let it be said of us that we seek to grow in the knowledge and love of God. Let it be said that we seek that knowledge and learn it in the depths of our hearts. Let it be said that we trust in the Lord with all of our hearts, that we acknowledge him in all of our ways. Let it not be said among us that Christian Education is just for the kids.
Eternal God, help us to rejoice in you. Help us to be people who learn and live our faith every day. Give us your Spirit and the joy of your kingdom, that we may speak about relationship with you at all times of our lives. Help us to seek your wisdom, and the understanding of your love and grace. For these things we pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.