Delightful and Truthful Words: Nails and Goads Part 1

Part 1

I frequently talk with teachers and educational leaders. When we get around to talking about Biblical worldview immersion, it is common for teachers to nudge the conversation towards questions about how to present the content of a Biblical worldview. They frequently express misgivings about their ability to connect Biblical content to their academic content. They fear they’re not talking about God and Scripture enough in their lessons to be able to say they’re doing authentic Biblical worldview immersion.

This is understandable. As Christian teachers, we expect that what we say about our subject areas will be different from other classrooms. In many ways, this is true. A Christian history teacher will highlight examples of God’s providence throughout the human story through the ages. The Christian chemistry instructor will tell her students about the precision of God’s design of the universe as reflected in the periodic table of the elements. However, Biblical worldview immersion goes beyond the content we’re transmitting to our students. It is also a way of teaching and being in the classroom. 

God’s Word

The Bible is the authoritative plumb line of truth, including true propositions about how the world really is, including the truth about how people develop a Biblical worldview. From Genesis to Revelation, we’re given a worldview-shaping manual— a manual full of imperatives and examples that should shape our teaching. From Deuteronomy 6, where Moses instructs parents to create Biblical worldview immersive environments for their children, to Christ’s example of orchestrating and leveraging teachable moments, Scripture is full of insights for teachers. 

Ecclesiastes 12:10-11 is one of the numerous passages that can shape the kind of experiences and environments we create for our students. 

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.

This text gives us two pairs of contrasting words that can help us teach for Biblical worldview development. The first is pair is words of delight… words of truth.

Words of Delight, Words of Truth

“Words of delight” refers to words that are enjoyable to listen to. These kinds of words (strung skillfully together into sentences and paragraphs) are appealing, and they draw others to listen to them. 

It takes some work to find words of delight. You need to know your audience, you need to know many words, and you need to be able to put them together in ways that will make people want to listen to them. It is also helpful to take cues from teachers or writers whose words you enjoy taking in. When planning lessons, we should be considering how to speak and relate to our students in ways that will draw them to us. Students tend to learn best in environments that they like, and how we speak is a key building block for those kinds of environments. Stories, personal examples, and humor or satire are all examples of words of delight.

However, if that’s solely where you focus your preparation to teach, you may very well be guilty of “ear-tickling,” satisfied with a warm reception and generous applause. In this case, there may not be much positive worldview-shaping happening. The teacher in Ecclesiastes didn’t stop with delightful words. He also focused on words of truth. 

Both in the Classroom

Words of truth are accurate statements of how things are, and their truthfulness is not impacted by whether people enjoy hearing them. Just recently I spoke at a contentious state Senate committee hearing. My purpose was to speak true words, and I was not concerned about the likeability of my remarks. Had likeability been my goal, I would have had trouble speaking the truth. In that situation, the truth about the way things are was not popular or appealing to many of the individuals in the meeting.

So, which should we focus on in our teaching and speaking? Words of delight or words of truth? Ecclesiastes 12 suggests that we should pursue both in our teaching preparation. While some of us gravitate toward using words of delight, and others toward words of truth, the skillful teacher will seek out how to bring BOTH words of delight and words of truth to the classroom. 

When I’m thinking about words of delight in my planning, I will consider how to connect with my audience. I may consider using a humorous illustration or a compelling story. When I’m working on words of truth, I need to think carefully about my subject matter and select content that is accurate and clear. Ideally, every lesson will have both words of delight and words of truth. 

Click here to read Part 2.

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 https://www.rogererdvig.com/.

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 http://frameworks.ncsaz.org.

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