In his book The Divine Conspiracy, Dallas Willard states that, “the aim of the popular teacher in Jesus’ time was not to impart information but to make a significant change in the lives of the hearers…it is a peculiarly modern notion that the aim of teaching is to bring people to know things that may have no effect at all on their lives.”
In my observations as a University librarian and faculty member, there is a temptation, even among ministry and theology students, to only engage the intellect or the mind. This makes sense. If these students are capable of progressing to higher education then some aspects of the academic process comes natural to them and they feel comfortable engaging their mind in this way. But, the intent of Jesus’ teaching was to change lives. That requires more than just our mind or a mere academic exercise. This is harder than we think.
In our day, knowledge, even perceived knowledge, brings prestige, respect, and influence while changing our behavior and character is an uneven, humble, and challenging endeavor. We have to be willing to face some of our shortcomings and sin in order to do the hard work of Growing Up. Vulnerability is needed to admit that even despite our knowledge we are missing the mark and have just started to make real progress toward Christlikeness. Though not easy, learning to better your life and not just your intellect is one of the great goals of living.
Ask yourself, as you approach scripture reading and Bible study, how am I being asked to change? What am I to know from this passage, but more importantly, how am I to respond to it? Clarence Jordan once said, “We’ll worship the hind legs off Jesus, then not lift a finger to do a single thing he says.”
Work to not be the smartest person in the room. Instead, be the person whose heart has transformed the most and maturity, real Growing Up, is happening. God desires this for you and will take your humble efforts and bring real change.