One significant lesson I am learning from the Sermon on the Mount about being a teacher who follows the Master Teacher is not to worry. It is my teacherly nature to be anxious, but to keep from admitting it I dress this sin in professional garb: I’m not anxious about tomorrow—I’m just fine-tuning my lesson plan, again. I’m not worried about student behavior—I’m just staying on top of classroom management. I’m not anxious about being observed—it just happens to be the day I’m using that activity that never fails.
These rationalizations and excuses work because they have a grain of truth in them. Professionalism does indeed mean I should plan my lessons carefully, manage the classroom skillfully, and lead the students to the best of my abilities. Yet these priorities so easily turn into a kind of perfectionism, obsessed with attempting to control the host of human and circumstantial variables that permeate and shape teaching and learning. The door swings wide open to worry and anxiety. We yield to temptation, unaware even of when we crossed the border.
In North America, worry is a common cultural sin. In fact, we rarely see it that way. It’s linked to hard work and high achievement. If it causes problems, we shunt it aside and speak of it in neutral psychological terms such as “stress management” and “coping strategies.” It’s not worry—we’re focused on doing our jobs well. It’s not anxiety—we just care too much about our students.
Yet the sin of worry is substantial. Worry is a failure to trust our loving Father. He knows and provides for what we and our students need. Birds do not reap or sow, yet God feeds them. Flowers do not sew or shop, yet God clothes them. To run anxiously after what we need is to doubt God will provide, to trust in ourselves instead. We act as if it all depends on us. How weak is our faith!
When does professionalism and the pursuit of excellence cross the line into sinful anxiety? Whenever I walk into the classroom depending mainly on myself. Whenever my teaching is not first and foremost an act of faith and dependence upon the Lord. Whenever I think the day’s classroom outcomes depend entirely upon me.
Jesus asked, “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” Of course not, what a ridiculous question! And yet, absurdly, many of us daily need this reminder that worry is useless. Our Father daily meets our teacher needs for creativity and wisdom and patience and courage and love. Therefore: “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” In the end, God will be most glorified when we rest in Him and teach like a bird!