I weaved in and around the kids in my Gifted and Talented program as they sat on the school’s tile floor in our quiet upstairs room where we meet every Friday, each one answering in their notebook the day’s free-writing question.
“Jesus says that if we pay attention to His teachings and put them into practice, we are wise. But He says that if we hear the teachings and do not put them into practice, we are fools. The only difference between being wise and being a fool is putting it into practice. “ Suddenly, without planning on it, I blurted out, “So many times I am a fool!”
One fourth-grade boy who is new to the program snapped his attention from his notebook up to me, eyes unusually wide, probably thinking Is the teacher really calling herself a fool?
I look down at him with a wide grin and said emphatically, “Yeah!” as if to answer his unspoken question. “Jesus says ‘Do not worry’, and yet so many times there I am, worrying about something. In those moments I’m a fool! I know very well what His teaching says, but I fail to put it into practice!” The realization of just how foolish I tend to be hit me rather unexpectedly as I stepped carefully over the legs of another student sprawled out on his stomach, elbows propping him up as he wrote with a wooden pencil in his bright yellow notebook.
“He says to cast our cares on Him because He cares for us, but so many times I don’t. What a fool I can be! Knowing God’s word is not good enough – you have to put it into practice or you’re just another fool!”
Today’s prompt for the allotted free-writing time was: Jesus says that we are to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. What do you think of that? Do you have enemies or people that persecute you, make fun of you, or treat you poorly? How can you put into practice Jesus’ words to love your enemies?
By now I was on my soap box, talking more to my own foolish soul than any young student in particular. I walked around the extremely quiet room, bare of furniture except for an oversized dry-erase board at the front filled chaotically with the day’s schedule, different thoughts, arrows, and writing prompts. “There are a ton of people out there who know the entire bible, but don’t put anything into practice. Fools! You can go to church everyday and know every last detail about Christ, but if you don’t put it into practice, it’d be better to just stay at home and watch television.” A sixth-grade girl whom I have known for three years and attended my wedding made eye contact with me and we both laughed.
I continued my excited speech, propelled onward after remembering the saddening journal entry of a smart young girl in the program. The prior week as I sat on the school’s playground after school revising her journal entry about the injustice in the world that makes her mad, she went on a long written tirade against idolatry, writing about how outrageous it is that so many people do things against God, sprinkling her writing with various distinctly biblical terms. Unfortunately, while reading her entry, I overheard her at a nearby table ferociously back-stabbing a classmate of hers. Poor fool.
“I don’t care if you can quote the bible – good for you! Do you actually live it? It’s not enough to ‘know’ that Jesus said ‘Love your enemies’ unless you actually do it, so think about if you have enemies. Is your dad a drunkard? Did your mom abandon you? Do the kids in your class bully you? Do you have a neighbor who mistreats you? How can you love that person, or at least pray for them? Write!”
The children continued in a joyful silence as they filled a couple more pages in their journals, the contents of which I would read and re-read during the coming week, enthusiastically marking them up with ideas, comments, and Bible verses to help guide them along.
You may think I know Jesus said not to kill or steal, and I’ve definitely put that into practice. I’m a good person. But, do you lust? Do I love money? Do we become anxious about what will happen tomorrow or in 16 years? Is there anyone you have yet to forgive? Do I love my own life more than I love Christ? Who have you judged? How many times have we been disobedient to the Living God for love of our own twisted egos? Do you rush to help when you see someone in need? Is my gaze fixed more on this current world than the one to come?
According to Jesus, the only difference between being wise and being a fool is whether or not you put into practice what you know of God’s word.
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock…But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.” – Matthew 7:24,26