Many years ago, when I was a starving college student, one of my professors hired me to help her evaluate the English program at a private Christian high school. The students’ scores on standardized tests had been falling, and administrators couldn’t figure out where they were going wrong. My task: read and evaluate a stack of student essays that had already been graded by their teachers. And I didn’t have to read many of them to see what was happening.
The students had figured out that, as long as they attached a religious message to their essays, they would get at least a B, usually an A. It didn’t seem to matter at all whether that message had been properly executed in the essay—or whether it even made sense. They could ramble incoherently about the homecoming football game, but as long as they tacked on “Our big win taught me that God has a plan for my life,” they’d make the grade. The school had lost the proper balance between religious and academic instruction. In other words, a spiritual message is fine, but your subjects and verbs still have to agree.
I realize those students were just teenagers whose minds were likely not on theology. And I’m not even saying they were insincere in their faith. Most likely, just the opposite was true. But those essays—not the kids but the essays—became a symbol, for me, of lip-service spirituality, of truly taking God’s name in vain by tossing it about for personal gain.
Maybe more than ever, it’s so important for us to take a hard, critical look at all the messages coming at us every day. Do they make sense? Are they consistent? Are they in keeping with the Scripture they lay claim to? It’s mighty confusing out there, friends. I wish I had the answers, but I don’t. The best I can do is try to ask the right questions—about the messages I’m sending, as well as the ones I’m receiving.
[Image by Chance Agrella @ Freerangestock.com]