A Teacher’s Meditations on Psalm 34, Part 3

It’s been a couple weeks since my last Psalm 34 post. The busy-ness of school has begun, and we will get our students for the first day of classes tomorrow. Everything in the classroom is ready for little hands and eyes and minds; all that remains is to make sure this teacher is ready for those little eyes to follow, those little hands to copy, and those little minds to evaluate me. Psalm 34 gives a remarkably simple yet challenging list of the things I should be ready to teach my children.

Come, you children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
Who is the man who desires life,
And loves many days, that he may see good?
Keep your tongue from evil,
And your lips from speaking deceit.
Depart from evil and do good;
Seek peace and pursue it.

The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
And His ears are open to their cry.
The face of the Lord is against those who do evil,
To cut off the remembrance of them from the earth. (verses 11-16)

“Kids, come, listen to me; I will teach you…” what? How to fear the Lord.

Wow. This is something that goes far beyond a 20 min Bible class. Yes, I get to present to my students the truths of Who God is, what He has done, and what He wants from and for us, and that time is incredibly important. But the rest of the day is just as important, because it is during the rest of the day that my students see what I really think of God.

In Bible class, I stress the importance of God’s truth and the reality of God’s love. Do I then speak and act truthfully? Do I keep my promises to my students? Do I speak with the kindness I require from them? Do I badmouth others, either coworkers or students? Do I lay blame without knowing the full story? If I truly know God and love Him, then I will not allow any unkind, untrue, or unhelpful words to escape my lips; instead, I will say what is useful and fitting for building others up (see Ephesians 4:29). When I do say the wrong thing, I will admit it, asking forgiveness when necessary.

My students need to learn how to rightly respond to God by listening to the way I talk.

And “being good.” It seems like such a childish phrase to our ears, one that’s recited to toddlers who are dropped off at a friend’s house. But are we, as adults who love our good God, being good ourselves? We tell our students to share, listen, take turns, be kind, not to hit, not to pout, not to complain, brag, take things, or be rude. Do we keep after ourselves as hard as we keep after our kids? Or do we justify our complaining? Our petty selfishness, little prideful moments, rude comments? Kids will follow the example we set. If we tell them to be good, yet don’t “be good” ourselves, they’ll come to believe that this whole “be good and please God” mantra is just something for kids that they’ll be able to discard once they’re grown-ups.

My students need to learn how to rightly respond to God by watching the way I “be good.”

What about peace? Do I seek peace in my classroom? Do I get frustrated and unglued when problems arise? Do I just try to push problems out of sight so that I never have to deal with them? I’m not saying I should get involved in every student conflict, but am I willing to go beyond the surface of a behavior, academic, or social problem to find what the root cause is? If something is causing anxiety or tension or animosity in my classroom, am I willing to acknowledge its presence and take some time to pray about the best way to handle it? Perhaps the best way is to let a couple students work things out themselves, or just to write a simple note of encouragement to a student who seems discouraged that his efforts don’t seem to be paying off. Maybe I’ll need to get deeply involved in a student’s life. The situations and solutions vary, but my commitment to peace should remain firm, because my God of hope is the One who fills us with peace (Romans 15:13).

My students need to learn how to rightly respond to God by watching the way I seek and pursue His peace.

Our God loves righteousness. None of us is perfect and all of us will fail at times, but when our desire is to please our Father and teach our students to do the same, He promises that He will hear our simple pleas for help and give us His gracious strength to fear Him as He deserves.

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