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I see it from time to time in my children. I will be explaining something to them or relating some story, and they will interrupt, “No, Dad, that’s not what happened. No, Dad, it happened this way.” Sometimes they are right and Dad is wrong, but at other times they are mistaken and I try (gently, I hope) to correct them. But at times they will not budge. With dogged determination they insist that they have it straight.

I have a hunch that my children are not entirely unique in this regard: sometimes they have an unteachable spirit.

And I have a further hunch that this is not limited only to children: I can have an unteachable spirit too.

We must not confuse an unteachable attitude with having opinions or convictions. The two are not the same. We must be people of strong, biblically-based, confessional convictions. We must be bold to hold to those convictions without compromise. As a beloved professor put it once, we must not be “spaghetti-spined” but have backbones of steel.

What, then, does it mean to be unteachable? To put it bluntly, it means that I am a know-it-all. It means that I think I have everything figured out. It means that I never ask for help or advice. It means that I am not willing to listen to others and learn from them. It means that I am always talking, holding forth, pontificating. It means that when others offer a critique or a gentle suggestion for improvement I become surly and resentful and vindictive.

It means that I am proud.

The scriptures have something to say about this issue. James 1:19 says, “…let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak…” Proverbs 9:9 says, “Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser: teach a just man, and he will increase in learning.” Proverbs 10:17, 19 says, “He is in the way of life that keepeth instruction: but he that refuseth reproof erreth…In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin: but he that refraineth his lips is wise.” Besides these few, there are a number of other passages in Proverbs that address the idea of being teachable.

What does it mean to be teachable? A teachable person is one that is aware of his limitations and is willing to acknowledge them. He is a person that is not afraid to ask for help or advice from others. He is a person that is willing to listen to others and learn from them. He is a person that is slow to speak. He is someone that is willing to receive correction and reproof. He is wise, and wants to grow in wisdom.

He is humble.

This is a virtue that every child of God must seek to cultivate. It is not just for church members in the pew, but for leaders and officebearers too. The only one who is unteachable is God. For the rest of us, we are very much in need of teaching. We must be teachable before the Word of God, but we must show ourselves teachable also in our interactions with one another.

What about you?

Are you teachable?

O come, my people, to my law
Attentively give ear;
With willing heart and teachable
The words of wisdom hear.
(The Psalter, no. 215, stz. 1)


This post was written by Rev. Joshua Engelsma, pastor of Doon Protestant Reformed Church in Doon, Iowa.

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