For those of us who have school age kids, whether it be preschool or all the way up to a school of higher education like college, this is the time of year when it all begins again. Supplies are purchased, clothing and footwear is updated, excitement or anxiety grows, and another school year begins. At this time of year I think it is important to consider loving God with our mind.
Jesus himself answered the question, what is the greatest commandment, with this statement, And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind… (Mark 12:30). The mind is a terrible thing to waste, so how can we encourage our children, and challenge ourselves, to love God with our mind this year? Let me emphasize three specific thoughts.
First, we can encourage loving God with the mind by fostering a thirst for learning. It is instructive that included in the only story we have of Jesus’ childhood we see Jesus thirsting to learn. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers (Luke 2:46-47). Jesus respected the teachers of the day, had a desire to listen to them and ask them questions, in order to grow in his learning.
I know that school can be boring, uninspiring, and sometimes counterproductive to learning. Those are times you need to struggle through, especially with some kids. But the opportunity to use and grow our minds are limitless, the instruction that our children are able to receive is precious, and the skills of learning are critical for life. Inspire your children with the benefits of learning. Help them to see the helpful aspects of what you have learned.
I was always told, especially in college, that the goal of education is to learn how to teach yourself. Help your kids to learn how to learn, so that they can be lifelong learners. Be creative in encouraging your kids to honor God with the proper use of their minds, both in what they are learning in school and what they are learning about God.
Second, learning should focused specifically towards discernment and wisdom. Prov. 18:15 says, An intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge. Proverbs and the other wisdom literature in the Bible challenge us to grow in discernment, the ability to judge right from wrong, and wisdom, the ability to know what to do in the practical affairs of life. These are the two areas for which Joseph is commended by Pharaoh in Gen. 41. Because Joseph had discernment and wisdom, he was able to lead Egypt through the famine and save God’s people.
Our kids need to grow in wisdom and discernment as well. It begins with simply discerning when a friend is telling them the truth or lying. It continues with discerning truth from error in instruction they receive. It also involves being wise in how they spend their time, which friends they choose, and what they do or don’t do. This wisdom comes from God’s Word, and is also mediated through wise people who can help guide them along the path of righteousness.
Take the time to instruct your children in wisdom, through God’s Word, and commend them when you see them act in discerning and wise ways. Foster wisdom by telling of instances in which you were wise, or maybe not so wise. Prepare them for the time when they will need to express wisdom without your presence or personal oversight.
Finally, the goal of learning is to know God more fully. John Milton, the author of “Paradise Lost,” said it this way, “The end of learning is to know God, and out of that knowledge to love Him and to imitate Him.” Jeremiah says that the only thing we have to boast in is understanding and knowing God, because he delights that we know him and practice what he delights in (Jer. 9:23-24).
Learning is not an end in itself, but a means to the end of being more like God in our thoughts, words, and actions. Teach them and show them the value of knowing God with their minds for the purpose of godliness. Just as you are a disciple or “learner” of Jesus, so disciple or “learn” them in how to follow Jesus with their minds, because through this we honor God and grow in Christlikeness.