Curriculum Trak is pleased to share with our readers a series of articles from Stacy Kok about what it means to be a godly educator. Knowing that many of you believe that education is God’s calling in your life, we plan to share each month about what this calling looks like to you as the educator, as well as how it can be lived out in the classroom. We also encourage you to listen to an upcoming interview with Stacy on our podcast, The Teacher’s Lounge.
From the author: “It is my humblest hope that these thoughts and reflections will inspire, encourage and challenge Christian educators as we continue in our journeys in the classroom, with our students, and in our hallway conversations with each other.” – Stacy Kok
Proverbs 29:18 (KJV) “Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.”
Proverbs 29: 18 (NIV) “Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint; but blessed is he who keeps the law.”
“In teaching and learning, as in stone cutting, we need more than a set of techniques; we need a way of telling ourselves what it is we are doing and why. The visions we adopt will help shape the kinds of teachers and learners that we become” (Smith and Felch, 2016, p. 6).
In Proverbs 29:18, it is clear that without a vision, chaos and unhappiness are the results. This verse is often used to inspire leadership and visionary teams within Christian organizations to develop a plan or a vision for moving forward, for success in reaching certain goals. Or, perhaps in broad strokes, a vision is given to provide a hashtag or overarching theme for employees or volunteers to quote when asked about the organization with which they are affiliated. In the book Teaching and Christian Imagination (2016), Smith and Felch challenge the reader that the visions we adopt will help to shape the kinds of teachers and learners that we become. Smith and Felch compare the career of teaching and learning to a stone cutter’s career. Both roles need various techniques and abilities to perform the expected tasks and to finish the job well. However, both teacher and stonecutter need more than techniques and skills…they need a vision.
In the Parable of the Three Stonecutters, a traveler came upon three individuals working with stone. Curious as to what these workers were doing, the traveler approached the first worker and asked, “What are you doing?” Without the slightest hesitation, the first worker replied, “I am a stone cutter and I am cutting stones.” Still unclear about the workers’ task, the traveler approached the second worker and asked the same question. To this the second worker thought for a moment, gazed briefly at the traveler and explained, “I am a stone cutter and I am cutting stones to earn money to support my family.” Perplexed by the two different responses, the sojourner approached the third worker and asked, “What are you doing?” Stopping for a moment, the worker stared at the stone in his hand, slowly turned to the traveler, and said, “I am a stone cutter and I AM BUILDING A CATHEDRAL!” (Author Unknown)
Three men — all working at the same site, performing the same task — each had three very different perspectives of what they were working toward.
What is vision and where does it come from? In their book Teaching and Christian Imagination, Smith and Felch refer to vision as, ”what it is we are doing and why.”
What are we as Christian educators doing and why? What is our vision?
The Hebrew word for “vision” (hazon) refers to a prophetic revelation, the kind of “vision” a prophet would see. The Hebrew word for “perish” (para) means to make someone go out of control, to run wild, to “cast off restraint.”
So what is Proverbs 29:18 really saying? What “vision” or “revelation” is being referred to? In essence, this verse is speaking to the revealing of God’s law given to Moses. The proverb continues, “But happy is he who keeps the law.” The author is making use of a Hebraic poetic device called “antithetical parallelism”, in which the second clause is a contrast to the thought in the first clause. Thus, the proverb is simply saying that those who do not have the revelation of God’s law live in their own way instead of God’s way; but those who keep the law are happy and blessed. In other words, where there is no revelation or vision, people do their own thing instead of what God wants or calls them to do.
The above explanation of Proverbs 29:18, taken from a blog by Stuart Pattico, helps us to see clearly what this verse means. How then do we, as Christian educators, apply this to the calling that God has placed on us to teach? How do we avoid “doing our own thing” and rather keep to the vision or revelation from God?
What “law” do we keep, or “revelation” do we need to see? What has God revealed to us in His word? The four Biblical themes that are seen throughout God’s story are Creation, Fall, Redemption and Restoration. God created a beautiful world and He created people in His image – both were good. Sin entered the world and as a result, all of God’s good and perfect creation became broken. Through Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, sin is defeated. God is now restoring all things to himself. Christian education’s focus needs to be on this story.
This is what God has revealed to us in His word. This is the vision that we as Christian educators must cling to in order to be blessed and to be a blessing. God created, Sin entered and was defeated. We live and teach in the fourth part of God’s story – restoration.
How are we as Christian educators helping our students to be a part of God’s restoration? Are we building cathedrals, paying the bills, or merely going to work? What vision are you embracing?