Master Teaching

a blog for teachers who follow the Master Teacher

The Firstfruits of Teaching

It’s been a year since we started this blog. In order to celebrate, we’re reposting some of your favorites, posts with clicks and shares and mentions on our survey. With sacrifice lately on our minds, this one seemed like a good place to begin.

In today’s world, the word sacrifice is taken seriously as often as it’s bandied about lightly.  We talk about giving up time, money, sleep, or life.  We speak of sacrificing family to job, rest to work, and chocolate for Lent.  We decry sacrifice when foregoing one for another is clearly detrimental.  At other times, we choose with conviction.  “I gave up _____ for _____.” we say with a note of pride because the second seems infinitely better than the first.

No doubt, the second sometimes is better.  But not when sacrifice takes up slack for another.  Not when it’s blind submission to “think we should,” the unwritten rules of family, society, or church community that impress so deeply they seem written in stone.  Not when it’s an excuse to neglect the first or escape from a challenging situation.  We soothe our souls because the second seems godly and the first worldly.  But what if both are important and the first much better than we think?  What if the stones have been broken and we’re set free?  What if the challenge needs us?

Sacrifice is especially thorny when the “m” word enters the picture, and we become involved in ministry.  Ministry is good.  It seems anointed and so can easily take precedence.  When we teach in another country and report back to people who seem more interested in a count of souls than papers graded, ministry clamors for attention, and teaching sometimes comes in second or a distant third or fourth.

Though the mode and results blessedly diverge this side of the cross, ancient concepts about sacrifice may clear out the thorns and renew our thinking.  They may lead to transformation, to true worship and living sacrifice.  So, let’s take a minute to consider what Malachi, who had a lot to say about Old Testament sacrifice, might have for us today.

The Problem

We cheat Yahweh and show contempt for His name when we:

  • promise the firstfruits of teaching but offer defective sacrifices, the dregs of our time and the lastfruits of our energy and mental capacity.
  • use sabbath as a makeup for lesson planning and grading, sacrificing rest to work and justifying it with ministry.
  • show favoritism to students who have the right spiritual climate.
  • take advantage of the captive audience in our classrooms or our position as teachers (especially in authoritarian societies) to “push our agenda.”
  • complain that teaching is too hard or that everyone else gets all the good jobs.
  • claim to be teachers when we are not and encourage others to do the same.

The Challenge

Lastfruits can be replaced with firstfruits:

  • the sacrifice of thoughtful planning and timely grading.
  • the gift of a well-executed lesson, a fitting activity, or skillful classroom management.
  • the pure offering of an aptly spoken word in the ears of a hurting student no matter the spiritual climate.
  • a living investment in knowledge about teaching—persistent professional development and possibly a higher degree, with humility and enthusiasm, for the Master Teacher’s name.
  • the sweet incense of professional excellence and a job well-done.

The Result

Bring in the whole tithe, Malachi might say, teaching and ministry, job and family, godly in the world, and rest.  Test Yahweh in this and see if He does not refine your firstfruits into jewels in His crown.  See if He does not pour out so much blessing that you don’t have room for it:  favor in your school and the society in which you live, classrooms that become places of delight, and students (even colleagues) who overflow with the fruits of peace and righteousness.  Then, “for you who fear [Yahweh’s] name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings.  And you will go free, leaping with joy like calves let out to pasture.”[1]

[1]Malachi 4:2, New Living Translation.

Further exploration

  • Malachi
  • Romans 12:1-2

What’s your perspective?

  • How do you offer up the firstfruits of teaching?

Post Author

Melissa K. Smith

Photo Credit: Chiara Cremaschi via Compfight cc

10 comments on “The Firstfruits of Teaching

  1. Anonymous
    July 23, 2014

    Love it love it love it!


  2. Melissa K. Smith
    July 23, 2014



  3. Anonymous
    August 4, 2014

    Words fitly spoken. I have been challenged by my students who have most recently completed their season of fasting. Though I would not fast for the same reasons as they, I have had to ask myself what sacrifices am I making for my Lord to demonstrate my love and devotion to Him and His plan for me and His world. Thank you for your thoughts.


  4. Melissa K. Smith
    August 5, 2014

    That's a good question for me to ask too, especially as I prepare to return to my home in China. Thank you for sharing and making me think. 🙂


  5. Anonymous
    August 9, 2014

    Convicted by this today. Thank you for sharing!


  6. Anonymous
    August 10, 2014

    Thank you for these words. I needed to read this as I prepare for another school year


  7. Melissa K. Smith
    August 11, 2014

    You're welcome. Convicting for me too. The word “timely” keeps coming to mind.


  8. Melissa K. Smith
    August 11, 2014

    Isn't it nice that we teachers have regular breaks–with time to reflect–and then get to do the same thing all over again and hopefully better each time? I'm thankful these words about firstfruits could play a role in your summer musings….Now to spend some time reflecting myself before a new semester begins…


  9. Ken Smith
    April 8, 2015

    I was reminded of the times I have offered the dregs and the lastfruits. Quite a challenge!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Melissa
      April 10, 2015

      I just collected papers from students yesterday. It’s a good time for me to remember to offer the firstfruits of grading! 🙂


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This entry was posted on April 8, 2015 by in Melissa K. Smith, purpose, readers' choice, teaching as firstfruits.



Photo Credit: Eric Fischer via Compfight cc
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