Delightful and Truthful: Nails and Goads Part 2.

Part 2.

Ecclesiastes 12:10-11 says, “The Preacher sought to find words of delight, and uprightly he wrote words of truth. The words of the wise are like goads, and like nails firmly fixed are the collected sayings; they are given by one shepherd.

As mentioned in Part 1 of this blog, this passage can help us shape the Biblical environment we strive to make for our students. Part 1 focused on the first set of words in that passage – “words of delight… words of truth.” The second set of words that guide our teaching for Biblical worldview development is nails and goads. The preacher’s use of these words is metaphorical, with nails and goads both corresponding to items that would have been familiar to Jews in the 10th century B.C.

Nails and Goads

Nails are used to settle things or make them stable or permanent. A carpenter uses nails to fasten pieces of wood together so that they do not move or shift. Sometimes, our words as teachers are aimed at solidifying what our students know. These would be analogous to carpenter’s nails. In lesson preparation, we must think about what our students already know, desire, or do, and seek to reinforce those things. 

Goads are similar to nails in that they too were common to the original audience of Ecclesiastes. They, also like nails, are sharply pointed. However, goads had the opposite purpose. Instead of being used to keep things where they were, they were used to prod livestock ahead. A sharp, painful jab to the side was what oxen often needed to get moving in the right direction. 

Prodding and Reinforcing 

In the teaching context, goads are designed to prod our students to move to new ground in the content. Lessons that function as goads push our students ahead, requiring them to explore, pursue, or open themselves to something new. 

Good teaching requires an intentional balance between reinforcing what our students already grasp and encouraging them to move to new ground in their learning. If we only focus on what they know and do well, they become complacent and stale. Yes, we’ll be stable, but we won’t move ahead or learn anything new. If we only focus on goading our students, they will become tired and disoriented, fatigued from always being on the move. 

Creating a Biblical Worldview

In lesson planning, an effective teacher will plan for both reinforcement of content and skills that are already mastered and appropriate encouragement to gain new knowledge and understanding. In general, each of our lessons should include experiences (shaped by our words) that result in students thinking, “Yeah, I’ve got that!” which tends to provide the confidence and motivation needed to move on to things that make them think, “This is new… I need to press in more to understand what my teacher is saying.” 

It’s like reading a good non-fiction book. I like to be affirmed that I know some of what the author is saying. I love to say to myself, “Yes… that’s exactly what I believe or do.” But I also need to say in response to the author, “Yes… that’s where I need to change and grow. Thanks for pushing me ahead!”

Creating Biblical worldview immersive environments and experiences can seem like an intimidating task. Fortunately, Scripture gives us plenty of direction on how to teach. And, anytime we teach in alignment with the imperatives and examples of Scripture, undergirded by a heart orientation towards the Kingdom of God, we are doing Biblical worldview immersion. 

Click here to read Part 1.

Roger Erdvig is an author, leader, and scholar who finds his greatest joy in helping to develop emerging leaders. Roger’s life purpose is to equip those who are on the front lines of raising up the next generation of culture-shaping leaders. Whether it is in his role as a Christian school leader or a university professor, he is the quintessential coach— drawing out the best in others while helping them to fulfill their mission. Learn more at

This Blog is sponsored by Frameworks: A Biblical Worldview Initiative. Frameworks courses are online Bible classes that public school students can take for elective credit on their high school transcript! Learn more at

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