Last year at Closing Assembly, I felt a deep conviction to steadily and publicly acknowledge that any success we’ve had at TCS comes from God. I firmly believe this school is not a man-made endeavor. Any good that exists in us personally or institutionally comes from our Heavenly Father. The task at hand for all of us is this–in all our ways acknowledge Him.
I have been contemplating our school culture and asking if there are areas which might be hindrances to some of our ultimate goals and I have found my prayer life steadily drawn towards the issue of our wealth.
There are two things that I think we need to get on the table from the outset. I’m hoping for a high level of agreement on these: 1) We are rich; 2) As rich people, our children are spoiled. The spirit of this talk is not one of judgement, but rather humble self-reflection. Listen first to the words of Paul:
As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.–1 Timothy 6:17-19 (ESV)
For me, there is no room for debate—I think we are among “rich in the present age.” I don’t think I need to read you the statistics, as most of you have heard them. The American culture in general, and all the more the specific culture at TCS, is one of wealth and abundance. Since we are wealthy, I think most of you will agree with me that being spoiled is somewhat inescapable. We are inherently spoiled because of the culture in which we live. What do we do with this?
In regards to our wealth, I am concerned about stagnation and spoil. I’m concerned about the natural way that things ought to flow—in and out. The very nature of the word spoil has to do with goods unused. When we have an abundance that does not get used, that which is left over spoils. When our children are invested into and there is no outlet for that investment, they spoil. In our lives, where is the potential for spoil and stagnation? Where do life-giving streams become cesspools and sweet aromes become putrid smells? Input without outflow is grounds for spoiling.
The two issues of being rich and spoiled are significant hurdles in at least two of our four goals in the portrait of a TCS graduate. Our administrative team spent some time over the summer reflecting on our end goals. We summarize them this way:
By the grace of God, our graduates will…
- be able to identify truth, goodness, and beauty and recognize Christ as the source
- be able to skillfully apply the tools of learning (grammar, logic, rhetoric) to everyday life
- be wise and virtuous
- use their education selflessly to further Christ’s Kingdom.
Regarding the last two points, wealth is the major assailant. Wealth is the enemy of virtue in the Scriptures because wealth urges our attention and affection toward the kingdom of the world. So as we ponder this portrait of a TCS graduate, we must consider the effects of wealth and abundance. The biblical charge from Paul in 1 Timothy 6 is this: “Rich people, take heed. Since you are rich, you are admonished to:
- Know and preach the uncertainty of riches (v. 17a).
- Constantly point to God as the supplier and enjoy your wealth (v. 17b).
- Work towards a kingdom “savings.” Store up good works (v. 18a).
- Give from your abundance of wealth. Avoid stagnant pools (v. 18b).
- Take hold of what is truly life (v. 19).”
The message that needs to emanate from us is that our abundance of food, clothes, toys, and material possessions is fleeting. Preach the uncertainty of your wealth. Tell your kids not to presume the same abundance will be available tomorrow. All of history is a testimony to this. We are to enjoy what we have, but do so in a way that is cognizant of the fact that God is the supplier. Our focus should be on increasing our wealth in the ways of heaven. Being rich in good works is being rich in heavenly ways (verse 18). Let’s not neglect our eternal savings account.
There is a monetary cost for a TCS education. Our wealth affords the opportunity to get rich in the first two stages of the trivium—knowledge and understanding. Our wealth provides an opportunity to gain knowledge and understanding at TCS, but it does not buy wisdom. The rhetoric stage, where the outflow begins to surge, is a bit of a litmus. What are we doing with the outflow? Is there even an outflow? There is so much flowing into our children—do they have healthy habits of outflow which began in their grammar school years and continue throughout upper school?
Since we live in abundance, we need to take extra care to make sure there is an outlet for worship, giving, self-sacrifice, and self-denial for our children. We will be working to foster this on a corporate level and we encourage you to be working on it in your homes, to help them find outlets of worship. They can be investing and serving their siblings (older siblings even teaching younger ones some). They can use the arts to find creative ways to bless others. Don’t just teach them how to write a letter, teach them how to write a letter and fill it with content meant to bring joy and hope into someone else’s life. Basically, begin to work with your students on how they can be generous with their education.
I want to loop this back to the talk at the beginning of the year about the hope of heaven. See verse 19: “Thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.” Paul is not saying to flee wealth. He is saying, “Figure out how to be rich in this present age.” Our children need to know material need. They need to know dependence. They need to know they don’t always get what they ask for. The point is not to be insecure or worried about our wealth, nor is it to hesitate in providing abundantly for our children. But we do need to stay awake to the biblical warnings that material wealth is often destructive. We need to equip our children to be ready to cling to Jesus, no matter the circumstances.
Eternity has already begun—do we really believe that life in him is real and everlasting? Are we harnessing what is truly life? My hope is that we, who are materially wealthy, will be rich in heart and rich in the ways of heaven. Take hold NOW of that which is truly life, this eternal, priceless life thread initiated in you by the Holy Spirit.