As human beings, we are always (ideally) learning. In fact, life itself is a school.
“From the earliest times the faithful in Israel had given much care to the education of the youth. The Lord had directed that even from babyhood the children should be taught of His goodness and His greatness, especially as revealed in His law, and shown in the history of Israel. Song and prayer and lessons from the Scriptures were to be adapted to the opening mind. Fathers and mothers were to instruct their children that the law of God is an expression of His character, and that as they received the principles of the law into the heart, the image of God was traced on mind and soul. Much of the teaching was oral; but the youth also learned to read the Hebrew writings; and the parchment rolls of the Old Testament Scriptures were open to their study.”—Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 69.
For most of human history, education took place mostly in the home, especially for the early years. What does the Bible say about education in the family, and what principle can we take away from it for ourselves, whatever our family situation happens to be?
* Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, October 10.
We haven’t been given many details—none, really—in the initial pages of Scripture regarding the kind of family education that went on in the earliest days of human history, though we can be sure that it was in the family structure itself that education took place back then.
“The system of education established in Eden centered in the family. Adam was ‘the son of God’ (Luke 3:38), and it was from their Father that the children of the Highest received instruction. Theirs, in the truest sense, was a family school.”—Ellen G. White, Education, p. 33.
And though we don’t know exactly what was taught, we may be sure that it dealt with the wonders of Creation and, after sin, the plan of Redemption.
“The system of education instituted at the beginning of the world was to be a model for man throughout all aftertime. As an illustration of its principles a model school was established in Eden, the home of our first parents.”—Ellen G. White, Education, p. 20.
Christian education is a commitment to educating families and members in doctrine, worship, instruction, fellowship, evangelism, and service. Home is where you minister to family members about the love and promises of God. It is where Jesus is introduced to children as their Lord and Savior and Friend and where the Bible is upheld as the Word of God. Family is where you model what a healthy relationship with our heavenly Father looks like.
In Genesis 4:1–4, we have both Cain and Abel bringing their offerings to the Lord. We surely can assume that they learned about the meaning and importance of the offerings as part of their family education regarding the plan of salvation. Of course, as the story shows, a good education doesn’t always lead to the kind of outcome that one would hope for.
Scripture gives us very little detail about the childhood of Jesus. Much from those years remains a mystery. However, we have been given some insight into the character of His earthly parents, Mary and Joseph, and what we learn about them could help explain to us something of His childhood and early education.
Through these texts we can see that both Mary and Joseph were faithful Jews, seeking to live in obedience to the laws and commandments of God. And indeed, when the Lord came to them and told them about what was going to happen with them, they faithfully did all that they were told.
“The child Jesus did not receive instruction in the synagogue schools. His mother was His first human teacher. From her lips and from the scrolls of the prophets, He learned of heavenly things. The very words which He Himself had spoken to Moses for Israel He was now taught at His mother’s knee. As He advanced from childhood to youth, He did not seek the schools of the rabbis. He needed not the education to be obtained from such sources; for God was His instructor.”—Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 70. No doubt Mary and Joseph were good and faithful teachers to the Child, but, as the story in Luke 2:41–50 reveals, there was much about their Son that they did not understand, because Jesus had knowledge and wisdom that had been imparted to Him only by the Lord.
In a very real sense, education at any level is communication. The teacher is the one who has knowledge, wisdom, information, facts, whatever, to convey to the student. Someone filled with a lot of knowledge must be able to communicate it to others; otherwise, what good is all that he or she knows, at least in terms of teaching?
At another level, however, good teaching skills are not just the ability to communicate. Also crucial to the whole process is the building of a relationship. “The true teacher can impart to his pupils few gifts so valuable as the gift of his own companionship. It is true of men and women, and how much more of youth and children, that only as we come in touch through sympathy can we understand them; and we need to understand in order most effectively to benefit.”—Ellen G. White, Education, p. 212.
In other words, good teaching works on the emotional and personal level, as well. In the case of the family as a school, this is so very important. A good relationship must be built between the student and teacher.
Relationships are established and developed by means of communication. When Christians do not communicate with God, such as by reading the Bible or in prayer, their relationship with God stagnates.
Families need divine guidance if they are to grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ.
Taking the time to sow the proper seeds of communication will not only prepare family members for a personal relationship with Christ, but also help to develop interpersonal relationships within the family.
It will open up channels of communication that you will be glad you formed once your children reach puberty and adulthood. And even if you don’t have children, the principles found in these texts can work for all kinds of relationships.
Parents have an awesome responsibility. The father is the head of the family, and the family is the nursery of church, school, and society. If the father is weak, irresponsible, and incompetent, then the family, church, school, and society will suffer the consequences. Fathers should seek to demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit—“love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance” (Gal. 5:22, 23).
Mothers, too, have perhaps the most important role in all society.
They have great influence in shaping the characters of their children and establishing the mood and temperament of the home. Fathers should do all they can to work with the mothers in the education of their children.
Christian parents have a moral obligation to provide a biblical model of Christ and the church by their behavior. The marriage relationship is an analogy of Christ’s relationship to the church. When parents refuse to lead, or if they lead in a tyrannical manner, then they are painting a false picture of Christ for their own children and for the world. God commands all Christian parents to diligently teach their children (see Deut. 6:7). Parents have the responsibility to teach their children to love the Lord with their whole heart. They are to teach the fear of the Lord, a total loving devotion and submission to Him.
In Deuteronomy 6:7, the children of Israel were given specific instructions about educating their children in regard to the great things the Lord had done for His people. However great a story the elders had to tell their children, we, who live after the cross of Christ, have a much better one to tell, don’t we?
Thus, the healing or training we are to give is an ongoing proactive event in which we pour the truth of God into our children and prepare them for their own relationship with Christ.
In the end, though, we all have been given the sacred gift of free will.
Ultimately, when they are adults, our children will have to answer for themselves before God.
Before the children of Israel were to enter into the Promised Land, Moses spoke to them again, recounting the wonderful ways that the Lord had led them, and he admonished them again and again not to forget what the Lord had done for them. In many ways Deuteronomy was Moses’ last will and testament. And though written thousands of years ago, in a culture and life situation radically different from anything we face today, the principles there apply to us, as well.
So, central to all that they were to teach their children was the marvelous working of God among them. Also, how clearly was the warning given not to forget all that God had done for them.
Of course, if parents are to play the first major role in integrating biblical teachings into their children’s lives, then they have a responsibility to organize and prepare their own lives in such a manner that they have adequate knowledge and time to spend with their children.
“The child’s first teacher is the mother. During the period of greatest susceptibility and most rapid development his education is to a great degree in her hands.”—Ellen G. White, Education, p. 275.
This is the essential time when parents minister to their children about the love and promises of God. Designating a regularly scheduled time to teach the wisdom and promises of God personally to your children will positively impact your family for generations to come.
Further Thought: Read Ellen G. White, “Preparation,” pp. 275–282; “Cooperation,” pp. 283–286; and “Discipline,” pp. 287–297, in Education.
“Upon fathers as well as mothers rests a responsibility for the child’s earlier as well as its later training, and for both parents the demand for careful and thorough preparation is most urgent. Before taking upon themselves the possibilities of fatherhood and motherhood, men and women should become acquainted with the laws of physical development . . . ; they should also understand the laws of mental development and moral training.”—Ellen G. White, Education, p. 276.
“The work of co-operation should begin with the father and mother themselves, in the home life. In the training of their children they have a joint responsibility, and it should be their constant endeavor to act together. Let them yield themselves to God, seeking help from Him to sustain each other. . . . Parents who give this training are not the ones likely to be found criticizing the teacher. They feel that both the interest of their children and justice to the school demand that, so far as possible, they sustain and honor the one who shares their responsibility.” —Ellen G. White, Education, p. 283.