When we think of wealth we often think of money. But it would be better to think of wealth as property and possessions and other valuables. Money plays an important role because we use it to measure wealth but there are lots of different kinds of wealth. For example, iPhones. One time my pastor was talking about wealth and he pulled out his iPhone and asked, what would Nebuchadnezzar think about this item? Can you imagine how many Babylonian slaves it would take to make an iPhone? The answer is hundreds of thousands of slaves. Hundreds of slaves to run all those text messages everywhere and hundreds to spell check them and then another hundred to post notes on Facebook. You get the idea. The things that an iPhone can do would be considered magic in the days of Nebuchadnezzar. And all this magic sits in our pockets. That’s some crazy wealth.
Another form of wealth is education. Imagine if Augustine of Hippo had access to all the books and essays that we have today (like Omnibus!). I have a library in my little study that has more books than Augustine probably saw in his whole life. If he had my library, imagine how many books he could have written? Or consider what Aquinas and Dante could have done. The educational resources students have today would seem like a utopian dream to people of the past.
Now education is not just information and books. True educational wealth comes from content and methods that are built on a solid Christian foundation. In our country, we can find students who have spent years and years in a public school and have gotten a very cheap education. The value of that education is seen in the price tag: it cost nothing probably because it is worth nothing.
But Classical Christian education is not like that at all. This kind of education costs a lot because it is valuable. It is a wealth that many parents dream they could have for themselves and they sacrifice time and resources to give it to their kids. In this way, parents know the value of this gift better than students. For students, it is easy to take this education for granted especially when they are in the middle of it every day. It is like the story of the two fish that were swimming in a river. They pass by a third one going the other way. The third fish says “How’s the water?” and then swims on. When he is gone, the first fish turns to the second one and asks “What in the world is water?” That’s what our students are like: what in the world is a wealthy education?
Now it is important to be able to recognize a wealthy education, but I want to focus on how students should receive it. This education is like a check written for a million dollars. This check can be a great blessing but it also can be a great curse. It all depends on how it is received. So as we hand over this million dollar check, we must instruct students in the responsibilities that come with it.
The first step is to warn about the dangers. The first danger is thinking that education will fix you. An educated criminal is a smart villain and that’s it. While education is important in forming a child into a mature adult, the wealth must be managed by a heart that submits to the lordship of Jesus. The student must love Jesus first before he can receive this kind of wealth rightly.
The second danger of a wealthy education is the student becoming a lumber head. Alexander Pope describes these as blockheads who have read “with loads of learned lumber in their head.” These are the students who have learned a great deal and they think they have arrived at the top. They know everything. Especially more than their parents. But that is foolishness. Education is a gift that one receives. It is not something that comes to you because you are good or the brightest or the best. This education is God’s gracious love for you and your job is to be thankful for it. You did nothing to receive this gift and so the only right response is thankfulness.
So what should students do as they receive this wealthy education? The first thing a student should do is realize he will never be done. Even though you finish the project, even though you finish the course, even though you graduate, you are never done learning. My goal as a teacher is not to have you finish school. I want you to be in school the rest of your life: the school of wisdom. And wisdom begins with the fear of God. God is the only one who can know everything and you are not God. There will always be someone smarter, faster, and better than you. In my own life, the more I learn, the more I realize how much I still have to learn. A thankful student should always recognize his weaknesses and see it as an opportunity to learn more. The fool is the one who thinks he has learned everything.
Second, you are being given this wealth so that you can make more wealth. Don’t bury this wealth in the ground. Give it away to others. You have not received this educational wealth rightly until you have made the next generation even wealthier. That is the whole point of this educational process. If this knowledge and wealth stops with you, then we have all failed at this project. You are not the end product. The next generation is the product we are shooting for. And every generation after that. While I love educating this generation, I am even more excited to see what the next generation will do as it begins Classical Education 3.0. The goal of this education is for each generation to faithfully hand this wealth to the next generation.
While this article is an encouragement for students to use this wealth well, it is primarily directed at parents. Parents are the key in all of this. Parents are some of my favorite people. Even when I have never spoken directly to parents, I can tell that students have good, solid parents behind them because they are cheerful and thankful in my classes. It is one of my greatest joys to see students receive this wealth and use it well. While some parents might feel inadequate with this huge wealth called Classical Christian education, they should not be afraid. Even if parents do not have this educational wealth themselves, parents do know how to handle wealth. Parents have been using other kinds of wealth: money, jobs, the home, etc. And parents have been doing this as they have invested their time and money into Classical Christian education. In this way, you parents have already been setting the example for your students.
The real question then is: are you, as a parent, making this sacrifice for your children with a song in your heart? If you are joyful in the midst of this hard task, then your student will receive this wealth with thanksgiving also. It is important to remember that true thankfulness is not something you can fake. Students can see a fake a mile away. Genuine joy comes from knowing the wealth we already have in the Gospel. You may not have a Classical education but you have Jesus and the wealth He gives you is so much more than a Classical education. The only response to the wealth of the gospel is a thankful heart. And that kind of response is contagious. If you set the example for how to receive that wealth, then your students will follow your lead as you give them the wealth of a Classical Christian education.
Jesse Sumpter has taught for ten years with Veritas Scholars Academy. His classes include Omnibus, Latin, and Greek. He is also the managing editor for the blogazine at CrossPolitic and he has written articles for Kuyperian Commentary and The Imaginative Conservative. He graduated from New Saint Andrews College with a Master’s degree in Classical and Christian Education. Jesse and his wife, Kate, have a daughter and live in Moscow, Idaho.
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