The God of Learning
Marybeth Whalen

"Bel bows down, Nebo stoops low; their idols are borne by beasts of burden. The images that are carried about are burdensome, a burden for the weary." Isaiah 46:1 (NIV)

Education is important. None of us would disagree with that. But how important is it and what role is it to play in our lives, especially as parents?

This has been a conflict for me as I have made my peace with the need for a good education for my children with my own desires for them to be "the best." While I recognize that education opens doors, I also wonder if perhaps I haven't at times fallen out of step with what God wants me to stress as a parent.

I will admit that I have valued academics over character growth at times.

A friend of mine once said, "Bible is not on the test." I asked her what she meant. She said that she always tells her children that, no matter what they score on standardized testing, she reminds them that there are things that can not be measured with grades or charts. My friend reminded me that our children's character growth and commitment to the Lord are more important than any grade, yet which gets more attention in our society?

In today's verse, Nebo, the god that burdens the Babylonians, is the god of learning. My breath caught in my throat when I read that note in my Bible. God pointed out in scripture that the god of learning burdened the people who worshiped it. I know the god of learning has burdened me during the time I have been a parent.

Whether I was a young parent making sure I exposed my child to all the right things to get them ready for kindergarten; a homeschool parent striving to provide all the right academic curriculum for my young students; or a mom of a public school kid pushing them to make the grades and try harder, I have felt the burden of making a god out of learning.

As parents we should care about our children's performance and grades. We should care about sending them to the right schools and their academic futures. But more than that, we should care about them growing closer to God. I want to give my children a hunger for His Word and ignite in them a passion to chase after Him. But as my friend said, none of that is on the test. At least, not any test the world devises.

With my eye on eternity, I can remove the burden of the god of learning by refocusing on the one true God, and helping my kids to do the same.

Dear Lord, as a parent I want my kids to know You first and foremost. Help me to keep my priorities in perspective and to not put too much stress on academics. Help me to find the balance between doing everything as unto You (including learning) and inspiring my children to follow hard after You. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
P31 Woman magazine

Learning To Live Financially Free by Curt and Marybeth Whalen

Mining for Gold in the Heart of Your Child Character Chart and CD by Renee Swope

Visit Marybeth’s blog

For more great parenting ideas, read our free resource Full-time Job

Application Steps:
If you have children, set aside time today to read a Bible story or turn on some praise music.

Praise them for the character qualities you see in them and not their academic achievements or shortcomings.

What place does learning have in your life? Has it become a god to you? To your children? How can you topple that idol in your life and put God first?

Power Verses:
Luke 2:52, "And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man." (NIV)

Isaiah 46:7, "They lift it to their shoulders and carry it; they set it up in its place, and there it stands. From that spot it cannot move. Though one cries out to it, it does not answer; it cannot save him from his troubles." (NIV)

© 2010 by Marybeth Whalen. All rights reserved.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am currently a 2L and a new mom. My husband is a stay at home dad. I try to finish my work by 5 and then come home. The work doesnt get completed but I still get in time with my baby girl and my husband. At times I am overwhelmed about how successful I will be this year with not completing everything as usual but God grants grace. And I know my first ministry and priority is my family.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a teacher this REALLY hits home. We have character education in our school, but all too often we are so rushed that it is overlooked. Thank you for the encouragement to challenge my students to improve their character as well as their academics.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Although I am not yet a parent, this devotion also hit home for me. I am a college student starting a new academic year today, so this devotion serves as a wonderful reminder for me as to where to place my priorities. Thank you, Marybeth, for your affirming words!

Anonymous Sandy M. in PA said...

When I read the Scripture beginning this devotion, I got chills. Then I got to the first paragraph and I began to sob. The Lord has used you to speak directly to me in an incredible way. For weeks now I have been burdened to the point of near panic when I think about starting our new homeschooling year. Doubts and insecurities have plagued me. Several conversations with a godly homeschool mom friend had begun to open my eyes about this idol in my life, and now I have even more reason to believe God is telling me to stop fretting and put Him front and center where He belongs. Thank you so much for sharing this wisdom. Would you please pray for me, that I might successfully strike that balance between academics and character development as I homeschool my children this year? Thank you...

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for this Devotion today! For a few months I have been trying to start our new school year but illness after illness have plagued our home. I am feeling like a failure. My friend reminded me that when this all passes the schooling will still be there, that my job is to take care of my family. Thanks confirming this. As long as I get our devotions in and I show them how to deal with this season we are in, in a Godly way, I am teaching them what is important. God and family just have to come first.

Anonymous Emmy said...

I have never heard it put quite like that... " Bible is not on the test" I LOVE THAT!!! SOOO DEAD ON!

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for this devotion.
Our Father answered my prayers through it.
I have been,unknowingly, asking Him if i could go against what He has already told me was His will by asking if i can put my special needs daughter in public school. This was a real i opener for me. I never thought i was guilty of idol worship but i am. I am just plain tired of being exhausted from her outburst and refusal to do her school work and the constant stress of conflict affecting my health so i was looking for an easy way out.
Our Father however, is not interested in our comfort as much as our growth. And as you pointed out, He is not as interested in the academic part of our childrens education as in them growing in their relationship with Him and fulfilling His will for their lives. With my daughter already rebelling and wanting to go to public so she doesn't have to hear about God i would be, in effect, sacrificing her on the alter to the God of secular education.
May our Father grant us all the wisdom to find the right balance!

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have been praying about this subject for the last week. My daughter does not do well on timed test. She panics. Even though she knows the material she goes blank. She has been stressing out since school started back. This is a great reminder for us both not to worship the god of education.

Blogger Carrie Turansky said...

Hi Marybeth, I loved your blog post and totally agree with you. Now that our five kids are young adults and launched, I am so thankful we gave character development and spiritual training priority while we plugged along with the academics. This has paid great dividends in their lives and ours.

For us that meant homeschooling when they were young and transitioning into school at the right time for each child. Of course those educational decisions must be made with much thought and prayer, trusting God to show you what is right for your family.

Parents are the primary spiritual trainers of their kids, no matter how many times a week they go to church and no matter where they go to school. We are responsible to teach and train our kids.

One resource we enjoyed was the Family Time Activity Books by Kurt Weaver. They are easy for parents to use, fun for kids, activity based, and Scripture focused.


Anonymous Wife and mom of 4 said...

This devotional was a blessing to me! As a mom of 4 kids 5 and under, our oldest is about to start kindergarten. He will be in a hybrid school where he attends three days a week and I homeschool him two days a week. I have been fretting over my ability to educate him while trying to manage his three little sisters and do home preschool with one of his sisters. God will guide us and give strength and wisdom! God will also direct us in parenting their souls first and foremost! thank you for the reminder that the heart is what matters most!

Thank you so much for this post. It was what I needed to read today. God knew that and I sit here in tears at his wisdom and grace and at how he knows what we need when we need it.

Blogger Rena Jones said...

Thank you for this post. Even as I start our 15th year homeschooling, reading something like this helps put things into perspective.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Love your ministry and this lesson hits hard. We are under the law of a nation that has made education one of its gods, and expects us to join in. It is such a challenge to balance this and not be burdened wrongly in it. I really struggle. Thank you so much for the wisdom shared.

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