Why You Must Teach What You Learn
Not so long ago, we drove north to Seattle with my eleven-year old son and his friend in tow. The destination was a training facility called Driveline Baseball.
There we bought him a kit that includes some stretch bands for opening up and a series of light-to-heavy rubber balls for practicing throwing and pitching.
The idea is to accustom the body to over- or under-working when throwing a baseball.
Upon our return, as we set up his pitching net, my son asked, "Will these make me the best pitcher in the league?"
You could hear the hope in his voice, the heart of the young king longing to be powerful and influential.
He does have quite the arm, and I am very proud of him. Needless to say, however, we are still chipping away at his sense of duty to practice toward his goal.
Notwithstanding our encouragement, willingness to pay and my withered right hand from playing catcher, he is susceptible to more amusing distractions.
Moments like these can be pregnant for either shade of the tongue of death. I could have told the boy he was out of his mind, or I could have buttered him up with false hopes and told him he was a shoe-in.
Neither would have helped, but I've been "good" at enough things, and yet not "the best," to know that there's plenty of room for winners of every level.
The Real Reason We Have Skills and Talents
It's probably fine to say 99% of us settle for being "the best" at a certain level; no further. Back in 2014, I won first place in Division 3 of a racquetball league.
They invited me to compete in Division Two. I declined; it was too great a commitment of practice and coaching for me.
You couldn't argue, however, if I was a formidable opponent in my class. I could serve the ball well, read plays and anticipate the trajectory of the ball.
My physical presence at 6'2" made controlling the flow of play on the court less work than for a physically shorter player.
But anytime I played a Division 2 player, I got slaughtered.
So why bother exercising and exhibiting skills and talents, if only a few can be the absolute best in the world?
I found the most memorable of answers - you guessed it - in ancient biblical wisdom. Jesus, in another monologue that seemed random, uttered these words in the Gospel of Luke 9:33-36:
"No one lights a lamp and puts it in a place where it will be hidden, or under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, so that those who come in may see the light. Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eyes are healthy, your whole body also is full of light. But when they are unhealthy, your body also is full of darkness. See to it, then, that the light within you is not darkness.Therefore, if your whole body is full of light, and no part of it dark, it will be just as full of light as when a lamp shines its light on you.”
In seventeen years of reading this, I never noticed its surrounding context, much less the deeper meaning of what Jesus meant when he said it.
We'll come to that presently, but first, a few key bullets on what Jesus did NOT say in this passage:
Self-Promotion. Jesus' teaching here has nothing to do with being a braggart or proclaiming one's own greatness. He did not suggest we bring our "light" out into the open, so everyone can see, because we're currently hiding it in fear of judgment.
Enlightenment. This isn't New Age lingo. Jesus didn't tell us to imitate Buddhism or some other Eastern form of meditation and emptying of the self.
Physical Health. This is also not a passage about exercise and physical health; he wasn't talking about getting vision screenings or blood tests.
All of these approaches end in anxiety. I know from trying them all.
The meaning of Jesus' statement here can be inferred from his use of the same expression in another story from the Gospel of Matthew 6:23, where he says that "If your eye is evil, your whole body will be full of darkness."
The expression "evil eye" was First Century Hebrew idiom for what we in the 21st Century would call "greedy" - a financial sense of insecurity and anxiety.
Here, the same expression draws attention to the ulterior motives of the religious establishment and the crowds who gathered around Jesus as he spoke.
In verses 14-26, the former accused him of casting out demons by the power of demons. A desperate political tactic reminiscent of "Never Trumpers" accusing the president of being a closet member of their political opponents.
Translation? People who hold office are afraid to lose their power, and will say almost anything to avoid it.
In verses 29-32, the latter swarmed to Jesus for some spectacular display of power or strength, rather like they now do around phony penniless influencers posing in front of Lambos.
Translation? Trick shows and dazzling large groups are just that - a flash in the pan.
Jesus saw right through the cliques and gathering numbers, and pointed out that trying to be in the in-crowd and/or a crowd-pleaser are fool's errands.
Okay, So Why Have Talent At All?
NOW, I hope, you can see why Jesus says, "Instead, they put the lamp on its stand, so that those who come in may see the light."
Your talents and gifts exist to help OTHERS develop theirs. Even if you're the best in the world at what you do, this responsibility is irrevocable.
It's at the heart of everything the Bible teaches, from cover to cover.
Elsewhere you may have read that the word "Torah," which we've traditionally interpreted as "law," is actually a Hebrew word that means "teaching."
Your destiny is to teach. Some people teach just one, others teach a handful, others teach classes, some teach nations and some teach the entire world.
Nobody is meant to store up skill and talent exclusively for themselves.
You should not think, either, that you will not receive a king's ransom for aligning yourself with this principle.
"If your whole body is full of light, and none of it dark, it will be just as full of light as when a lamp shines on it," Jesus promised in verse 36.
This means that when you illuminate God's other children, He will bestow on you his very own glorious light.
You will see people change and grow right before your eyes. And to those you change, you will bring the heart of God as close to them as a human being can do.
Moses learned this well, descending from Mount Sinai with such glorious light that the Israelites couldn't look at him (Exodus 34:29-35).
So What Did I Tell My Son?
I'm glad you hung around to the end of this.
"Son," I said, "if this gear makes you the best pitcher in the league, I'll be cheering the loudest.
"But you need to understand that no matter what happens, the real reason you acquire skill and talent is always to teach others.
"So even if you don't make it close to being the best pitcher, you can always help at least one other person become a better pitcher."
So teach, my friends. Teach what you know at the level you best understand it. Share what you know with your fellow human beings, and reap the glory of God in so doing.