Recently I heard a preacher talking about homeschooling.
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He forcefully made the argument that every Christian household should be homeschooling, and that this was God’s will for everyone, and this was a “Kingdom principle” which meant that every person who called themselves a Christ-follower was called to it, and was in disobedience to God if their kids were in public or even Christian school.
If something is indeed a “Kingdom principle,” then it means that it is a rule of the Kingdom of God, and all subjects of the Kingdom must obey it.
Paul wrote to Titus that in his church, the older women were to mentor the younger women, encouraging “the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.” (Titus 2.4-5)
This was the main Scripture being used to justify the preacher’s argument: women should stay at home, and part of staying home was to raise their children and educate them personally (although this text is not explicit on these things, it must be noted).
My own kids are in public school, and so, as typically happens when I am challenged with something I’m not doing, I entered into some prayerful reflection, study of Scripture, and soul-searching. Perhaps there was truth in here that I was missing.
To be clear, I think homeschooling is wonderful.
I have a tremendous amount of respect for homeschooling parents. We have many in our church, and they honestly blow me away. They are gifted at it, and their kids are thriving in it. It is an incredible thing to watch.
Now, I learned during Ontario’s COVID lockdowns that I am a terrible homeschooling parent.
Even as I wasn’t truly “homeschooling” as much as I was helping my kids with their online learning (while also working full-time, I should add), nonetheless, I found that I lacked the patience and grace to do the job well.
I ended up with even greater appreciation for those who are actually good at homeschooling, and greater conviction that I am not gifted for it or called to it.
But all of my personal feelings on this are irrelevant, if this truly is a “Kingdom principle.”
If that’s the case, then whether we are good at it or not, we are called to do it and need to find a way to make it work.
So it got me to thinking: What is a “Kingdom principle?”
This will obviously have application far beyond just the homeschooling issue.
How do we define this?
Here is where I landed:
- A “Kingdom principle” must be found in Scripture. That much should be obvious. From the time Jesus began His ministry, one of His main messages was, “The Kingdom of Heaven has arrived!” (e.g. Mt 3.2; 4.17 etc.). We are interested in what Christ and the apostles had to say about how this Kingdom works, and how the Old Testament prepared the way for this Kingdom to come.
- A “Kingdom principle” must be consistent with the ways of the King. “Whoever claims to live in Him must live as Jesus did,” (1Jn 2.6). When Jesus came to earth, He showed us what a perfectly lived-out human life should look like. Anything that we are claiming for everyone to follow must be consistent with His life on earth.
- A “Kingdom principle” must transcend culture. The Kingdom of Heaven supersedes any government, political party, national identity, or worldly philosophy. If it is a “Kingdom principle,” then it must be applicable across all nations, all cultures, all social standings, all peoples, etc. If a principle applies in America but not in Africa, then it is not a principle of the Kingdom. So wealth for all Christians cannot be a “Kingdom principle” and the prosperity gospel cannot stand, as an example.
- A “Kingdom principle” is eternal. It needs to stand as strong in Jesus’ time as it does today. It also has to be something that will remain after this present world passes away, as the Kingdom of Heaven is not ultimately about earthly matters but about heavenly ones, brought to earth in Christ.
Based on this criteria, I don’t think that we can say that homeschooling is a “Kingdom principle” as much as it a personal conviction.
You can certainly find Scripture, such as Titus, that suggest a mom can stay home and not work outside the home (although there are also working women in Scripture, most notably the famous Proverbs 31 woman).
And it certainly can be Christ-like for families to sacrifice to live this lifestyle, and for moms to sacrifice in order to raise their kids in this way. The way of Jesus is the way of sacrifice.
But it is hard to see this as a principle that works across the board for all people.
Homeschooling works for us in North America because we are wealthy by the world’s standards, and it’s possible (for now, at least!) to live off one salary if your spouse has a good enough job.
When I visited Africa many years ago, there was no homeschooling, because most of the people we met were unbelievably poor, and mothers worked all day and often brought their children to work alongside them. Homeschooling was simply not an option there for many people.
And for that matter, wherever people struggle financially, they may not have any option but two working parents just to scrape by. So this won’t work for them.
And what of single mothers? Homeschooling is not an option for them either; they have no choice but to work.
It’s safe to say that if a principle doesn’t work for the poor, or for the widow, then it cannot be a Kingdom principle (Jam 1.27).
This is not to say that homeschooling is not a wonderful principle, of course!
It is just to say that it is not something that applies to everyone, and therefore can be left to one’s personal convictions.
So I respectfully disagree with this preacher, although with a loud voice I commend and admire homeschooling families!
But we need to understand this as a personal conviction and choice, and I would say that nearly all homeschooling families I know would agree with this.
Beyond this one singular issue, which is used here just as an example and not the main point, let us be careful what we label as a “Kingdom principle,” and how we judge others who don’t align with our views on such matters.
The ways of the Kingdom are found in the Word and in the way of the King. They transcend all peoples and all circumstances and all cultures, and they are eternal by their nature.
As we discover them, we walk in them. And in so doing, we walk in the ways of the King.
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