Robbery in the Sunday School
Every Christian would admit that God deserves the best we can offer Him, but is He actually getting the best of our efforts in children’s work generally? There is abundant evidence to indicate that He is not, for actions speak much more loudly than words!
Old Testament Teaching
Throughout the Old Testament, it is obvious that God requires nothing short of the very best. The Passover lamb had to be “without blemish” (Exod. 12:5); likewise the bullock and the rams for the priests’ consecration (Exod. 29:1), as well as the animals used for burnt offerings (Lev. 1:3, 10). Again and again the Scriptures stress that anything offered to God must be the best.
Even the sons of Aaron were qualified to perform all their priestly functions only if they were free from blemish; otherwise they would have profaned the sanctuaries of the Lord (Lev. 21:16-24). Only the best were fit to serve fully.
Furthermore, the Lord commanded that the Levites should receive “the best of the oil, and all the best of the wine, and of the wheat, the first-fruits …” which were offered to the Lord (Num. 18:12). Only the best was fit to be offered to Him, and the best was reserved for those who served in presenting these offerings.
That Israel failed miserably in giving God the best weighed heavily upon the heart of Malachi. “Ye offer polluted bread upon mine altar” (Mal. 1:7). “Ye brought that which was torn, and the lame, and the sick; thus ye brought an offering: should I accept this of your hands? saith the Lord” (Mal. 1:13). “Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed Me, even this whole nation” (Mal. 3:9). Giving God our second-best is nothing short of outright robbery, for He has given all of His best. Nevertheless, it seems possible for many of us to rob Him over and over again, without so much as a ripple of concern!
The greatest offering of all time was the Lord Jesus Christ Himself; He was uniquely free from spot and blemish (Heb. 9:14. 1 Pet. 1:19). Fortunately for us, that perfect offering is the ground of our perfect acceptance with God (Eph. 5:25-27). But this in no wise or degree exempts us from striving to present Him with the best of our worship and service; the spirit and principles of the New Testament are just as demanding of our best as was the Old Testament of Israel’s best.
New Testament Teaching
“Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matt. 6:33). And yet how many of us expend our best efforts in seeking food, clothing, and even luxuries, rather than in seeking His kingdom!
Paul pressed upon Timothy the vital importance of giving his best: “Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them” (1 Tim. 4:15). And Paul’s own example was so completely consistent with his teaching that, near the close of his life, he could say confidently without fear of rebuke: “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith” (2 Tim. 4:7).
His life and service, more than anyone’s, fully exemplified the sacrifice he urged upon the Roman Christians: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God” (Rom. 12:1). And if God will accept only the best as a sacrifice, we have some idea of the calibre of service for which our bodies should be utilized. It is true that in Christ we are judicially accepted before God, but to what extent do our spiritual condition and our Christian service correspond to our lofty position? Or are we quite smug and self-satisfied about giving Him our second-best, or even less?
Because we are human and inherently sinful, there is bound to be failure. But we sin grievously if we use this fact of nature as an excuse for not striving to give Him our best — in every situation and in every aspect of our service.
Despite the knowledge that perfect attainment still lay before him, Paul nevertheless could say that he counted “all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for Whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ” (Phil. 3:7-14). He was continually “reaching forth unto those things which are before” and constantly striving to give his best under all circumstances.
To the Corinthians he wrote in a similar vein: “Wherefore we labour, that … we may be accepted of Him” (2 Cor. 5:9). Are we labouring amongst the children so that we may be accepted of Him? In other words, are we sincerely and whole-heartedly endeavouring to give Him our best in all of our service in the Sunday School and in other children’s works?
Self-examination is a healthful spiritual exercise if conducted in accordance with scriptural principle (Ps. 26:2. 1 Cor. 11:28. 2 Cor. 13:5). In fact, a humble confession of failure before the Lord is possible only when sin and shortcomings are recognized. Furthermore, blessing and fruitful service are possible only through fellowship with the Lord, and the maintenance of this fellowship is entirely dependent upon confession (1 John 1:5-10).
In seeking to serve the Lord amongst the children entrusted to our care, are we giving our best to Him Who died and rose that these precious young souls might be redeemed to Himself?
1. Do I seek to keep fit spiritually and to come to the class each Sunday in a condition which makes it possible for the Lord to bless my teaching, or do I just squeeze my preparation in between other “more essential” activities?
2. Do I pray daily for each of my pupils by name, or do I just ask the Lord vaguely to “bless my class”?
3. Do I strive constantly to become better acquainted with each pupil and his parents, or have I never bothered to meet the parents?
4. Do I prove to the family my genuine interest in each pupil by writing or visiting him whenever he is sick, or do I merely hope that he will be back next week anyway?
5. Do I begin preparing my Sunday School lesson a week before I have to teach it, or do I just leave it until the last day, the last hour, or even the last minute?
6. Do I go over the lesson prayerfully day by day throughout the week or do I just hope for the best?
7. Do I try to teach a comprehensive range of Bible books and topics, or do I generally just cover the well-known stories?
8. Do I review my teaching carefully week by week, or do I just take it for granted that telling pupils once is enough?
9. Do I attend the class regularly, or do I “take a day off” whenever there is something “more important” to do?
10. Do I practise punctuality, or does half the class arrive before I do?
In other words, are we really giving our best, or are we robbing God and deceiving ourselves?