"These twelve Jesus sent out after instructing them: “Do not go in the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter any city of the Samaritans; but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. Freely you received, freely give. Do not acquire gold, or silver, or copper for your money belts, or a bag for your journey, or even two coats, or sandals, or a staff; for the worker is worthy of his support." (NASB)
Many times in my teaching career, I've wondered about God's call on my life and my conviction that teaching is part, but not all, of that calling. There's a part of me that longs to speak the Gospel to the lost and to edify the body of Christ more actively. Working in the public school environment, it's difficult to see how I'm doing either. "I'm not going anywhere, I'm not preaching, I'm not healing the sick, I'm not raising the dead, I'm not cleansing any lepers or casting out demons!" It takes faith to believe that He is, even so, at work in me and through me as a light to a dark world.
Teachers are often asked to consider their motivation for teaching. Are you in it for the money (Okay, that's just a joke. Moving on.)? Are you in it to help others? Are you in it for personal fulfillment? Are you in it for love?
I've often struggled to answer these questions honestly, even for myself. Saying I do it for the students is not enough for me. I do see in my interactions with students the gifts that God has given me--and many areas where the gifts need to be matured. God has given me a talent for teaching. He is also reminding me constantly that I have more to learn about using that talent effectively. The students are part of that process. They challenge me, motivate me, puzzle me, entertain me, put one over on me, annoy me, charm me, and teach me. The students are both my frustration and my delight every day.
Saying I teach for personal fulfillment may be closer to the truth. Every day I see God's blessing in giving me a profession that is intellectually stimulating. I am able to read and write and converse and challenge myself and be challenged by others, and I get paid to do it! I think, I grow, I change, I laugh, I cry, I learn. I learn to depend on God. Now that's a life I want to live, job or no job.
But there's more to my motivation for teaching. The way I view my life in Christ, teaching is one of the gifts God is developing in me as part of a larger whole. It is part of the journey and part of the destination, but there is more. What is that "more"? God knows. It's an overall path, set out with purpose and care before I ever came to be. I hope you know this sense of God's purpose for your life. It is written all over the Bible, intertwined with themes of God's love and wisdom and grace.
What if I don't have a clear sense of where I'm going on this path God has given me to walk? That's the essence of faith--"the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen" (Heb. 11:1 NASB). I believe God is preparing me for intense ministry. It doesn't matter what that ministry is--He knows, and He is already watching over it. Teaching? It's part of the preparation for service. It is also service now. And there are some parts of the puzzle that I can know now.
For one, I am ministering to "lost sheep." Matthew 10:42 says,
“And whoever in the name of a disciple gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I say to you, he shall not lose his reward.”
Teach those kids. Give them a drink. God is watching over these simple actions of service. Do them in His name.
For another, I have received freely. "Freely give." In teaching in the public school, I show the world that God has given freely to me, and that the great gift of His salvation prompts me to give freely to others through sacrificial teaching. And teaching is a sacrifice, or else no one would ask why we do it.
For another, I know it's not for the money anyway. "Do not acquire gold." "Or even two coats." It's not about the paycheck. The paycheck is not enough. God is enough. His salvation is enough. I will share it however I can.
Don't be frustrated or ashamed when you wrestle at times with doubts about your motivation for teaching. Don't leave the profession simply because you can't see the good you are doing. As Christians, we ought to look at the world as a place where the invisible is more important than the visible.
In Colossians 2, Paul urges believers to think less about functions of earthly society--the celebration of feasts and what other people think about our celebration or abstinence from celebration--and more about the world to come:
"Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day—things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ."
Other people may concern themselves about why you do what you do. Your task is to leave their judgment to God and set your eyes on the invisible--the coming kingdom of God. Ask Him to give you peace about your calling. He will be faithful to complete it in you.