Sunday, June 12, 2011

Proverbs 24:3-22 - God's Design for Education

Image by Starbug via Flickr
Education in America has changed over the years. Consider this humorous example of how our school system has changed.

Teaching Math in 1950: A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is 4/5 of the price. What is his profit?

Teaching Math in 1960: A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is 4/5 of the price, or $80. What is his profit? 

Teaching Math in 1970: A logger exchanges a set "L" of lumber for a set "M" of money. The cardinality of set "M" is 100. Each element is worth one dollar. Make 100 dots representing the elements of the set "M." The set "C," the cost of production, contains 20 fewer points than set "M." Represent the set "C" as a subset of set "M" and answer the following question: What is the cardinality of the set "P" of profits?

Teaching Math in 1980: A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is $80 and his profit is $20. Your assignment: Underline the number 20.

Teaching Math in 1990: By cutting down beautiful forest trees, the logger makes $20. What do you think of this way of making a living? Topic for class participation after answering the question: How did the birds and squirrels "feel" as the logger cut down the trees? There are no wrong answers.

Teaching Math in 2000: A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is $120. How does Arthur Andersen determine that his profit margin is $60?

Teaching Math in 2010: A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is $120. Which Federal agency will provide a stimulus loan so that he can post a profit of $60?

Teaching Math in 2020: Un leñador vende un camión cargado de madera de cien dólares. Su costo de producción es de cuatro quintas partes de los precios. ¿Cuál es su beneficio?

Funny, yes, but it illustrates the fact that education is not about education anymore. It is about socialization and anything but producing an answer to a math problem.

 According to the US Department of Education, in 2004, China graduated a half million engineers, India 200,000, and the US? 70,000. Less than half of American high school students graduate proficient in reading or mathematics, and only 60% of high school seniors even graduated in 2006.[1] In 1950 the proficient literacy rate was about 90 percent and had been so since the Colonial period. As of 2006, it is about 50 percent.

In our US schools today, most children have lots of teachers who are certified in their areas, lots of subjects that they survey but don’t master, lots of activities, spend long hours in school buildings, and we spend lots of money, though never enough, they tell us. But we are not getting the same results.

Contextual Notes:
The book of Proverbs, while loved by generations for its pithy wisdom sayings, has been an enigma for theologians who want to understand the overall meaning, content, and flow of the book, which may say something itself about our education system or our level of wisdom! In the last 200 years most have defaulted to the German liberal position that the book is simply a hodgepodge of wise sayings, an archive of Solomon’s two-liners and the wisdom of a few others.

But the book of Proverbs does have a structure, even if our Western minds have not yet gotten hold of the wisdom of Proverbs fully.[2] Take our passage today, Proverbs 24:3-22. It is in a section that begins at Proverbs 22:17 and ends at Prov. 24:22. The section is unique in that each proverb begins with an imperative, a command. A key verse that comes up again in our passage is Prov. 23:17-18, connecting the fear of the Lord with a future hope that will not be cut off. Note the same phrase used at Prov. 24:14, 20.

Key Truth: Solomon wrote Proverbs 24:3-22 to teach Israel how God intended the building up of wisdom, understanding, and knowledge would build a righteous life that makes one fear the Lord, be a good citizen, and be responsible toward others.
Key Application: Today I want to show you what God’s Word says about his design for education.
Key Verse: Prov. 24:3-4
Pray and Read:  Proverbs 24:3-22

Sermon Points: God designed education
1.   To produce wisdom (Prov. 24:3-4)
2.   To produce a wise citizenry (Prov 24:5-10)
3.   To produce a responsible society (Prov 24:11-12)
4.   To produce lifelong learners (Prov 24:13-14)
5.   To produce righteous citizens (Prov 24:15-20)
6.   To produce respect for God and government (Prov 24:21-22)

colon English: Teacher and students at Airvill...
Teacher and Students at Airville, 1908.
Exposition:   Note well,

a.   The reason for this passage is found in the beginning of the section (Prov. 22:19) “so that  your trust may be in the Lord, I teach you, even  you.” And as parents and grandparents, we are charged with educating our children, not the school system. Deuteronomy 6:4-9 – God expects us to do the training of our children, not leave it to someone else to do.
b.   ILLUSTRATION: This description of wisdom, understanding, and knowledge parallels the ancient system of education called the trivium:
                  i.    Knowledge is grammar; it teaches us what, introducing a concept and giving us the vocabulary. It is the ability to input information.
                ii.    Understanding is dialectic; it teaches us how, the way things work or fit together or the reasons.
              iii.    Wisdom is rhetoric; it teaches us why, the way to explain a concept to another person.  
               iv.    Since ancient Greece, this system of education was the standard in Western civilization until the last century when John Dewey arrived, who described himself as a democratic socialist. Dewey had an immense influence on the American educational system. He developed educational and social reforms based on the philosophies of pragmatism and functional psychology and began to reinvent education without the pattern of knowing God and making Him known.

John Dewey
John Dewey was a progressive who believed that education and civil society needed improved by deleting God from the worldview of children. He wanted to replace Deity with a pluralistic, humanist society based on pragmatic principles and aimed at reshaping the social environment of children. He believed that children did not need to learn and memorize facts – they needed socialization to prepare them to be good workers.
               vi.    For Dewey, there was no personal God, only a unity of the ethical ideal of humanism. Dewey acknowledged that education and schooling are instrumental in creating social change and reform. He notes that “education is a regulation of the process of coming to share in the social consciousness; and that the adjustment of individual activity on the basis of this social consciousness is the only sure method of social reconstruction.”
c.   One reason why America’s public schools are no longer educating our children is because modern, entertainment-driven educational techniques have left everyone confused about the true nature of education.[3]
d.   Peter Drucker in The Post-Capitalist Society, gives other reasons government-funded schools are failing. He says they are being asked to complete two tasks they cannot do: (1) strengthen weaknesses rather than identify and strengthen gifts, and (2) socialize rather than teach. Families, churches, and communities are designed for social interaction.[4]
e.   Schools cannot be expected to replace family or church, two of God’s institutions. In 2007, columnist Charles Davenport, Jr. rebuked Terry Grier, the Guilford County, NC, public school superintendent because Grier declared the school system’s core values as “diversity, empathy, equality, innovativeness, and integrity” instead of reading, writing, and arithmetic.[5]
a.   Wise leaders who know enough about what is happening in society that they can make robust contributions to debate and decisions, to gain victory and have something to say in the assembly at the gate (Prov 24:7).
b.   ILLUSTRATION: Martin Luther said, “I'm afraid the schools will prove the very gates of hell, unless they diligently labor in explaining the Holy Scriptures and engraving them in the heart of youth.” Children in the public schools lose their ability to discern good from evil because they are taught that there are no absolutes in life. Parents aren’t always right, the Bible is not infallible, and God (if He even does exist) is not the final authority. Public schools promote the same thinking as the nation of Israel in the Old Testament when “every man did that which was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25). “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ” (Colossians 2:6-8). The amount of time children are being subjected to negative influences in the public schools totals over 1,062 hours of humanistic classroom instruction per year. How can a Christian parent even begin to counteract that teaching with only four hours a week of family devotions, Bible study, Sunday school, and mid-week church activities? Is there any wonder why today’s statistics state that many Christian children lose their faith by the time they finish their first year of college?[6]
c.   APPLICATION:  Pragmatism or utilitarianism, teaching only what is useful, (perhaps to score high on an exam or an EOG!) is a poor educational model for free people. True education is more than just pragmatic or useful. It is beautiful and inspiring. We want to be useful to our Lord, but we want to serve Him in a way that He will say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Wisdom and wise citizens come from an educational model that teaches beauty and to know God and to make Him known.
a.   2 Timothy 3:1-9 – Kingdom of Man / humanism. 2 Tim 3:10-17 – design for education, like family, church, parenting, marriage. 1- Education and discipleship v. 10-13, 2-Education and family 14-15. 3-Education teaching and training in righteousness v. 16-17.[7]
b.   APPLICATION: A mark of a good education is that one understands, unlike Cain, that we are our brother’s keeper. The development of wisdom develops a care for those around us who cannot speak for themselves. Just as Jesus was an advocate for us, we become advocates for others who are helpless, defenseless, or without a voice. The mark of an education that develops a knowledge of God and makes Him known also takes responsibility for others in Jesus’ name.
a.   Education should do more than produce careerists and a skilled workforce like some socialist proletariat. Education should produce people who can adapt and change with economic and other conditions in society, people who know how to learn new things, lifelong learners.
b.   ILLUSTRATION: Education is not a product of government. It is a product of the church. The original role of education in the church was to have students discipled by someone who looked out for their whole heart – a lover of Christ who transferred his or her delight in the
c.   APPLICATION: True education should be to love learning and to see the world from God’s side of the sky. It is your job, parents, to inculcate a love of learning in your children and grandchildren. You are discipling them in the things of God, and everything, astronomy, mechanics, finances, canning, fixing the lawn mower, medicine, taking care of pets, everything points to God and his character.
a.   Education should produce citizens who want to do what is right, who are righteous and know God’s law and are submitted to Him as Lord, who do not participate in rebellion, who do not stop the outworking of justice, but are compassionate towards those who are wicked because they have an eternal perspective borne of the Word of God and a fear of God.
b.   ILLUSTRATION: John Milton wrote in 1644 that “the end of learning is to repair the ruins of our first parents by regaining to know God aright, and out of that knowledge to love him, to imitate him, to be like him, as we may the nearest by possessing our souls of true virtue, which being united to the heavenly grace of faith makes up the highest perfection.”[8]
c.   APPLICATION: We are adamant to teach our children that evolution is a fact, that we are all simply animals like any other animal and that our rights to life and earth’s resources are no better than any other animal’s. We teach our children that we are a product of random selection, that there is no absolute authority or truth that creates a standard of morality, and then we are astounded when they go out and are sexually immoral, treat others with impunity, and steal, kill, and destroy one another like animals. One’s philosophy of education has real implications for society. If we would follow God’s design for education, we would find ourselves living in a society that respects and protects righteousness, that is a preserver of civilization rather than a destroyer of it.
English: Teacher and students of Knapps Creek ...
Teacher and Students, Knapps Creek School, 1899
a.   Fear of God is found here as a bookend to Prov. 22:17-19; 23:17. Here for the first time the king is added. Education should produce citizens who have respect for both the Lord and for God’s institution of government.
b.   ILLUSTRATION: Parents hold primary responsibility before God for training their children and educating them. The Church’s responsibility is to provide direction and encouragement to parents. Dr. Robert Dabney, that great Southern Presbyterian pastor, chief of staff, chaplain, and biographer of Stonewall Jackson, said “It is the Church’s duty to instruct parents how God would have them rear their children, and enforce the duty by spiritual sanctions; but there its official power ends. It does not usurp the doing of the important task it inculcates.” Dabney adds that we cannot expect Christian fruit from a secular tree. Even the best secular institution is not going to produce ambassadors for Christ and pass on the things He has done for us.[9]
c.   APPLICATION: God’s design for education affects all three institutions of God: the family, the government, and the church. When we teach our children that parents and home are not the primary places of learning and of the responsibility of education, we surrender the anchor of society, the family, to the secular “God is dead” philosophies of Dewey and Nietzsche. When we teach our children these socialist philosophies, we rob them of their respect for God and government. When we appropriate the secular socialization educational philosophies of humanists and apply them to our church curriculum, we are fighting against ourselves. We must return to God’s design for education – a design built on wisdom, knowledge, and understanding that is Christ-centered in its philosophy – and parents have a responsibility to be involved in their children’s education, in whatever form of education they choose for their children, to make that happen.

[1] National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP);
[2] Proverbs 1-8: Ladies Wisdom and Folly, Prov 9, Prov 10-22:16 Solomon’s wisdom, 22:17-24:22 Wisdom sayings, 24:23-34 Sayings of the Wise, 25:1-29:27 More Solomon’s Proverbs, 30:1-33 Sayings of Agur, 31:1-31 Sayings of Lemuel including the Eshet Chail (Woman of Noble Character).
[3] Leigh Bortins, Echo in Celebration: A Call to Home-Centered Education (West End, NC: Classical Conversations Multi-media, 2008), 14.
[4] Peter Drucker, The Post-Capitalist Society (San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1994), quoted in Bortins, 14.
[5] Charles Davenport, Jr., Greensboro News & Record, June 24, 2007, quoting Terry Grier, Guilford Co. Schools Back to School Guide 2007,
[7] Steve Kitchens, “God’s Design for Education – 2 Timothy 3:10-17,” First Baptist Church, Weston, FL, April 10, 2011,
[8] John Milton, Of Education, 1644.
[9] Robert Dabney, Secularized Education.