“The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and he who is wise wins souls.”
When I read Proverbs 11:30 this morning, the first thought that came to mind (though perhaps it’s not the primary interpretation of this verse) was about how this is the heart and soul of Christian education (particularly of Christian home education). The fundamental purpose and the primary goals of a Christian’s philosophy and methods of education must be focused on winning the souls of one’s children and cultivating in them the spiritual life and wisdom that is the fruit of the righteous. I found it interesting that, with this thought in mind, I soon after ran across this section in the Sermon on the Mount: “So then, you will know them by their fruits. Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?” And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.” (Matthew 7:20-23, NASB)
As a home-educated young person intending to continue on in the path in which my feet are already established, I find it useful to pause to consider the subject of education once in a while. Sometimes I think it is good to stop and realize that there is nothing that I can do that can cause my future children to produce the fruits of righteousness (i.e. to be righteous), so that at the last day they do not stand before God and claim His name in vain. The fruit of righteousness is the fruit of the Spirit of God alone working in their hearts–and there is nothing that we can do that can cause that to happen. No amount of gospel preaching, no amount of education, no nothing that we can do to or provide for our children can bring them into the throne room of God as His own children. Yes, we can have them baptized and brought into the community of the visible church and under the covenant of God, but it is according to God’s purpose whether they shall come to faith in Him and bear the fruits worthy of repentance and walk in obedience to Him or not. In looking forward to educating my own children someday, it is vital for me to bear in mind that there is–and can be–no educational salvation.
Now, I feel that I must hasten to add that I am not saying that education is a useless thing. On the contrary, God uses means. God has ordained certain means to be the ordinary manner in which certain ends are obtained (i.e. education trains one for life; the Word brings one to faith, etc.). Also, He has ordained to bless those things undertaken according to His means and for His glory. Here is the crux of all the intra-Christianity educational debates. The arguing goes back and forth over “which means are God’s means?” without considering the essential foundation of “for His glory” nearly enough. If the “for His glory” part was more fully comprehended, perhaps the questions of means and methods would not be so complicated. When we see the holiness and humility to which we are called in order to honor our Savior, the point of education has far more to do with establishing an excellent and wise individual than with which method is “the best” or puts out the “smartest” kids.
Truth is, no method is “the best”–but, despite the “failure” to endorse a specific method, Christian education is one of those ordinary means God uses to build up His people. According to the pattern of Scripture, this is discipleship–which does not equal the presence or absence of formal or classical or unschooling any other “method” of education. Parental discipling of the child in the knowledge and application of the Word of God in all of life is the key. The goal is to establish each child as a functioning and useful member of the kingdom of God and of his society—therefore, everything we do must be focused on “for His glory”, including the choice of method for each individual child. To the degree that the primary purpose of education slips from being the glory of God, so much does something else–whether “smarts”, life-skills, intelligence, business, niceness, getting into the right colleges, or anything else–take its place and break the first commandment. Therefore, as an aspiring home educator, I must remember that everything I do with, for, and in front of my children must be focused on “edifying the brethren”, on cultivating (including “lead by example”) the fruits of the righteous in my children–spiritual life, godly wisdom and insight, steadfast faithfulness to the truth. Whatever the subject–whether math, Greek, or how to use an ax–my walk with my children must be constantly lived before the face of God–for his glory, in obedience to Him.
This could easily turn into a book (I would of course set it out in a logical flow if I went that far with it!); but because I have other things to do today, I shall simply close with this: “…the writing of many books is endless, and excessive devotion to books is wearying to the body. The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil.”