There are many ways to describe how children grow into maturity. Classical education, for instance, uses the “grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric” stages to show how education needs to change as children get older. Christine Miller explains it:
- The Grammar Stage – learning a body of knowledge about a subject
- The Dialectic Stage – learning to reason (why and how things relate)
- The Rhetoric Stage – learning to communicate and express
Scripture confirms that this is how we all learn and grow.
When children are young, we teach them what to do. As they get a little older, we are careful to teach them why they should do it, giving reasons from Scripture whenever possible. But as they mature toward adulthood, we must also teach them how to teach others. This is where they internalize their head knowledge about God and learn how to apply it in every life situation.
“For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil” (Hebrews 5:12-14).
Hebrews 6:1-2 lists the elementary teachings about Messiah that each of our children need to learn:
- Repentance from acts that lead to death
- Faith in God
- Instruction about baptisms (instruction for new believers)
- Laying on of hands (how to choose wise leadership)
- The resurrection of the dead
- Eternal judgment
Those don’t sound too easy, do they?! Yet these are considered “elementary.” 🙂
Basically, this is the “theology” of Torah and our need for a Messiah. As you can imagine, it’s a body of information, though, that must be learned by studying the Torah, the Writings, and the Prophets (the Tanakh or the “Old Testament”), and Apostolic writings about these subjects (the “New Testament”).
With young children, we would teach them these “elementary teachings” by reading and discussing the Scriptures each day, helping them memorize where to find these topics in Scripture, and memorizing passages of Scripture about these topics.
However, the teachings of Yeshua emphasize that we must go beyond head knowledge and learn why we should know these things.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others” (Matthew 23:23, ESV). See also Matthew 5-7.
Once our children learn the basics, whether of Torah or of obedience and paying attention, we move to teaching them why we should show love and mercy.
“Make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:5-8, ESV).
This is where we practice what we know. It goes for math, for reading, for spelling, and for Torah. We have learned the basic math facts; now we need years of practice. We have learned the commandments; now we need to learn self-control, steadfastness, and all the other character traits of the heart.
Scripture says that “solid food,” which is appropriate for those who can reproduce and teach others, is only for people who are skilled in righteousness. They have to have constant practice to distinguish good from evil. (See Hebrews 5:14.)
But once we are skilled in righteousness, it’s time to learn to teach others. Your older children should be given opportunities to teach simple skills to their younger siblings. Don’t try to do it all, Mom! Not only will you be exhausted, but your children will miss out on valuable practical-life experience. Coach your children from the sidelines as they gradually learn how to do things for themselves and to teach that information to others.
This includes Torah. Whom could your older children teach about the Scriptures and about the Messiah — those “elementary teachings”? Could they start a backyard Bible club? Could they supervise younger children at Sukkot? Could they teach a class at your local fellowship? Can they come up with activities for their younger siblings during daily Torah reading?
“What you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2, ESV).
The steps to maturity are easy — knowledge, heart, and teaching. Don’t worry, Mom. YHWH has you on the same course to spiritual maturity, and that’s why He opened up your eyes to Torah, His “teaching.” First you learn to obey Torah. Next you focus on the heart behind Torah, and finally you begin to teach others.
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20, ESV).