Like basketball’s Boston Celtics or football’s Pittsburgh Steelers, we homeschoolers are, so to speak, a dynasty. Competitively, we dominate. Every year, seemingly, homeschoolers take top honors at the National Spelling Bee, span the globe victoriously at the Geography Bee, and argue our way to statewide forensics titles. We populate the better side of standardized test bell curves. We outlearn, outserve, and outscore every other educational demographic. We needn’t be ashamed of these good things, but they are also dangerous, and we have no reason to be proud.
The devil is an equal-opportunity tempter. When things don’t go our way, he is happy to pile on heaping doses of discouragement. He reminds us how weak we are. He points out the daunting cliffs that separate us from our goals. He whispers in our ear that we won’t make it and that we don’t deserve to make it. When things do go our way, however, he doesn’t go away. Instead he reminds us of how strong we are. He points out the great hurdles we have overcome. He whispers in our ear that we made it on our own.
The Devil in the Details
The same strategy works in our homeschools. When our child finger-paints with peanut butter all over the living-room wall, when one child cries over her long division and we yell at her for crying, and when our neighbor with the child in the government school’s gifted program calls to let us know our two-year-old is outside, sans diaper and digging up our daisies, the devil reminds us we are failures and that we really have no business homeschooling the kids.
When, however, our fifteen-year-old makes first-chair violin in the state symphony, when our twelve-year-old successfully recites the Westminster Shorter Catechism, and when our ten-year-old happily volunteers to feed the baby, the devil pops up. This time he encourages us. “Yes,” he entices, “what a great decision you made to homeschool—wonderful job you are doing! If only others were as smart, as committed, as godly as you are. And your children—there’s just no telling how great they’re going to be when they’re grown. You should be proud. You did it!”
Abide in Him
Jesus tells us differently. When we fail, are frustrated, and things are not going as we hoped, He calls us simply to abide in Him—the one needful thing. When things do go well, He tells us why: “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5, NKJV).
“Without Me, you can do nothing.” These are not words for an inspirational poster, the gospel equivalent of “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13, NKJV). They aren’t words to inspire us to greatness. God designed them to humble us to look to Him, the essence of greatness. We understand this concerning the gospel. We know that in salvation’s work we bring less than nothing—only our need. We know that before the judgment throne we are, in ourselves, nothing but dust and rebellion. Foolishly, however, we forget this concerning our sanctification, which is precisely what Jesus addresses here—bearing fruit.
We are in Him because He gave us life, and apart from Him, we can do nothing. The blessings of children learning well, living together peacefully, and excelling in their endeavors are fruit from the Vine. The Vine produces the fruit.
Jesus told us this so our joy might be full (John 15:11). We find joy in humility, not in pride. As you sit at your table with the blessings He has given you, as you behold the olive plants gathered there (Psalm 128), give thanks to Him, not for what you have done, but what He has done. He is the Vine. Abide in Him.
Originally published in Homeschooling Today® magazine May/June 2011 (digital edition), titled “Without Me,” used by permission. All rights reserved; www.homeschooltoday.com
Who should teach our children? What should they be taught? What is the goal of education? Dr. R.C. Sproul Jr. provides a unique approach to homeschooling, answering these and other questions. He maintains that education is discipleship; the goal of seeing your children bear fruit, grow in grace, and become more like Christ. AVAILABLE IN OUR STORE.