Teaching as an Act of Love: Creating a Culture of Flourishing

Just got done with a tiring school day. Let’s run through the to-do list once again:

  • Make lesson plans for tomorrow’s classes
  • Question papers are due this coming week
  • Finish grading yesterday’s test
  • Give feedback to students on their writing task
  • Oh yeah… And that parent wanted to meet me. Need to schedule a meeting

Sounds overwhelming? Welcome to the life of a school teacher!

How do we maintain our sanity amid such chaos? I think many teachers ask themselves the same question on a sadly regular basis. One powerful motivator that can help us through such times is reminding ourselves of why we do what we do.

Why we do what we do

There is a popular story that illustrates the idea of purpose quite well. It is about a traveller who comes across three workers, asks all three of them the same question, and gets three different answers.

The first worker answers that he is laying bricks.

The second worker answers that he is building a wall.

And the third worker looks at the traveller and says that he is building a cathedral.

All three of them are doing the same job. 1

Why am I doing what I do?

Why do I wake up early in the morning, go to school and teach middle schoolers?

I do so because I am making disciples of Jesus.

As a citizen of the Kingdom of Jesus, I am fighting the darkness in the world through my teaching. I do this by helping students develop habits of good order and health that enable them to see reality, understand it, evaluate it, enjoy it, and effectively and beautifully express it for the flourishing of the world.2 In short, I am making disciples of my King, Jesus.

I do this filled with the hope that my King will return and the victory is already won.

Called by God to teach

In the year 2018, I felt called to teach. How do I know I was called to teach? I knew I was called to teach because I found myself teaching at a school.

God works in and through our circumstances. This is not to say that we cannot change our careers or jobs because we feel called to something else. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 7:20-21, “Let each man stay in that calling in which he was called. Were you called being a bondservant? Don’t let that bother you, but if you get an opportunity to become free, use it.” And later in v24, Brothers, let each man, in whatever condition he was called, stay in that condition with God.

Our callings are opportunities to love our neighbours as ourselves

The greatest commandment for our lives is not to do our work diligently or to be the most productive person. The greatest commandment for our lives is to love God, and the second greatest is to love our neighbours as ourselves.

Loving our neighbours is not different from being diligent and sincere with our work. Where we are called to work are places where we are called to serve. Work done well is an act of love. A farmer who grows his crops well demonstrates love to his neighbours who would eat the crop and sustain their lives. A doctor who diagnoses the right ailment in his/her patient shows love to the person by helping them heal better and sooner.

Being a teacher gives me a unique opportunity to love and serve my students.

What does loving my students look like?

Loving my students often looks like waking up early to plan engaging lessons for them. It often looks like spending time giving them feedback on their performance and suggesting ways they can improve. It can often look like creating structures and routines in the classroom that help them know what’s expected and at what time. Loving my students often looks like having hard conversations with disruptive students.

Loving my students can be messy. Loving human beings often is.

But it’s definitely worth it. It’s worth it because of the ultimate purpose towards which I’m working.

Form a culture that glorifies God

What is this ultimate purpose?

Forming a culture that glorifies God.

As these students see, understand, evaluate, enjoy and express reality in beautiful ways, they undo the lies that hold people in oppression. They undo the lies that enable unjust systems and unjust people to be in power. As they evaluate and express truth, they bring flourishing to their societies and thereby to the entire world.

To put it differently, they help form a culture that glorifies God.

If the traveller meets teachers

I wonder what the story of the traveller would sound like if he came across 3 language teachers.

“I teach students what a noun is.”

“I teach students to read well.”

“I teach students to express truth beautifully so that they build a culture that glorifies God.”


  1. I did a 5-minute Google search to locate the source of the story to no avail.
  2. This is a slightly modified version of John Piper’s definition of education which he gives in this sermon.

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