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A Lesson from 5th Grade

12/11/2011

Fifth grade.

Kingship of the yard. Cursive mastery. First year out of the short little groups-of-six desks and into forward-facing standalones. All fifty states and their capitals by memory. Easy peasy multiplication.

Fifth grade was a big year, looking back on it now. Crucial. What greater academic achievements were there than in the upper middle echelons of a K-8 public school? We were at new heights of knowledge and unforeseen levels of intellectual greatness!

I remember there were several classroom exercises that stretched my young brain that fateful year. Math, in general, was certainly one (and still is). “Science” time using the microscopes was another. Using the mirrors to reflect the right amount of light on those old microscopes was a difficult task to say the least. One of my favorite challenges, though, was during the English literature portion of the class.

The “Critical Thinking” questions at the end of reading passages in that paper-bag-covered reader. At the end of each story, there would be a few easy reading comprehension questions about the facts in the text. Then, there they would be. The “Critical Thinking” questions that inevitably brought our 5th-grade genius to a halt.

It was the section that departed from the literature text itself for just a little bit and got you to think about more than just the obvious. These questions made the connections to life issues and intangible concepts like peace, happiness, and love. They brought us a step further in our ability to think for ourselves and question the wider purposes of the story. As much as a 5th grader could. And in a there’s-almost-no-wrong-answer-as-long-as-you’re-PC-when-you-share-with-the-class kind of way, of course. All for the sake of trying to develop critical thinking skills.

Critical thinking skills.

They’re something we tend to lack as Christians. And we most definitely lack them as 18-to-twenty-something-year-old Christians. I’m no expert as to why, but whether it be from thinking that a higher education means that we automatically are convinced that we think through things or from more simple reasons like pure laziness, I’m not sure. Probably a combination of a lot of things.

What I do know is that Proverbs 14:15 says:

The simple believes everything,
but the prudent gives thought to his steps.

Very direct.

A statement, to be sure– but ultimately an admonition for us to think. Scores of other proverbs in Proverbs would agree heartily.

Too many times we are too prideful, lazy, unaware, or even uncomfortable to think that we need to think. We need to give thought to our lives. We need to spend time churning things in our heads and letting our decisions, emotions, and desires to be informed from a framework of the Bible’s wisdom. Not easy stuff, granted.

To break it down a bit, I think there are 3 ways folks “our age” lack in thought:
#1 Focus
Completely disregarding certain areas in thought. For example, we often give much thought to our stewardship of education or ministry (and that’s great!), but other things that are also biblical areas of stewardship are skipped in our thinking (social maturity, ecclesiology, eschatology, finances, etc.). Whether for lack of awareness, lack of effort or intentional stiff-arming, absence of thought is dangerous. Ignorance is anything but bliss here.

#2 Emphasis
Having the right focuses, but stressing one or some much more than others to the point where it’s spiritually unhealthy. For example, giving the time to develop a complex theology of dating and relationships, but spending little time mulling over the ins and outs of Christ’s redemptive work. Any thinking that is biblically grounded but over- or under-stressed is maybe not-so-biblically-grounded (and could possibly be selfish too!).

#3 Depth
A mile wide but an inch deep. No examples needed here; this one’s all around. This is where I’m afraid many of us go wrong– we can’t and don’t think critically and effectively through biblical issues like we should.

Often, our thinking falls short in one way or another and our prayers are therefore short and weak. Our struggles with sin are futile, and our love for others is pitiable. But we can’t seem to figure out why. Many times (although obviously not always), it’s because we don’t think. We don’t think cause we haven’t trained our minds to. We don’t think because we can’t, and we can’t because we don’t.

We must replace this feedback loop with a different loop: one of the Bible, prayer, and thought– one that takes the truths of God’s Word, prays through them, and thinks through them. We’ve got to have all three of those steps. It’s only then that we can start to live our convictions.

We can’t expect to live for and come before a God in biblical humble dependence if we haven’t adequately explored the Word, tuned our hearts to His glory through prayer, and thoroughly given thought to the issues specific to our lives.

Think!

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