The Goal of Education Part II: Fides et Charitas

In The Goal of Education Part I we saw the foolishness of Educating for Mammon, that is, bringing up children with the primary goal of turning them into moneymakers. But what is the alternative? Fortunately, as with so many things, we don’t have to invent a solution. Educating for Mammon has long been a problem, and the Church has often addressed it.

Educating for Mammon was a problem in the fourth century when a pastor named John Chrysostom was preaching through the book of Ephesians. He came to Ephesians 6:4, “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord,” and here’s part of what he said:

How long are we going to be mere flesh? How long are we going to hunch over the earth? Let all things stand in the second place for us when compared with taking forethought for our children and bringing them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. If he learns to be a lover of wisdom from the first, he has acquired riches greater than all riches, and a mightier glory. You will accomplish nothing so great by teaching him a craft, and the outward training through which he will acquire possessions, than if you teach him a craft through which he will despise possessions. If you want to make him rich, do it like that. For the rich man is not he who binds himself with many possessions and surrounds himself with many things, but he who has need of nothing.

Discipline your son in this, teach him this – this is the greatest wealth. Do not seek how you will make him renowned in outward lessons, and make him glorious, but consider how you will teach him to despise the glory that is in this life. Thence he would become more radiant and more glorious. These things are possible both for the poor man and the rich man to do. One does not learn these things from a teacher, nor through craft, but through the divine sayings. Do not seek how he will live a long life here, but how he will live a boundless and endless life there. Give him the great things, not the little things.
(Ephesians, Homily XXI)

Nor was the problem of Educating for Mammon limited to the fourth century. In the sixteenth century Martin Luther wrote in his Large Catechism:

Nor is it recognized how very necessary it is to devote serious attention to the young. For if we want capable and qualified people for both the civil and the spiritual realms, we really must spare no effort, time, and expense in teaching and educating our children to serve God and the world. We must not think only of amassing money and property for them. God can provide for them and make them rich without our help, as indeed he does daily. But he has given us children and entrusted them to us precisely so that we may raise and govern them according to his will; otherwise, God would have no need of fathers and mothers. Therefore let all people know that it is their chief duty – at the risk of losing divine grace – first to bring up their children in the fear and knowledge of God, and, then, if they are so gifted, also to have them engage in formal study and learn so that they may be of service wherever they are needed.
(Large Catechism, I.170-174)

Fides ad Deum, Charitas ad Vicinum

With one voice Chrysostom and Luther lambaste the practice of Educating for Mammon; they unite also in the remedy. They point us to the two marks of the Christian life: faith and love. Throughout all of Scripture, faith and love characterize God’s people. And each is directed toward someone. Faith is directed toward God; we trust in Him and expect to receive every good thing from Him, which he gives freely for the sake of Christ in spite of the fact that we don’t deserve any of it. Love is directed toward the neighbor; good works are the fruit of faith, and we don’t use these works to earn anything with God, but to serve our fellow man. Put faith and love together, and we have a fine motto to keep us mindful of the goal of Christian education: Fides ad Deum, charitas ad vicinum, “Faith toward God, love toward the neighbor.”

Faith toward God

Let’s examine these two marks of the Christian in more detail. First faith. Faith is not something that we can manufacture within ourselves. Rather, it is something God works in us by his Word; as it says in Romans 10:17, “faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” Thus Chrysostom returns to the language of Ephesians 6:4 again and again, “bring up your children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord,” meaning, teach them the Word of God, the “divine sayings,” as Chrysostom puts it. Luther likewise tells parents to teach their children God’s Word, saying that if they do not bring up their children in the fear and knowledge of God they risk losing divine grace, because this is the chief duty of parents.

Education should have faith as one of its goals. Education should treat a child like he has a soul, and not like mere flesh hunched over the earth. Education should delight in Christ, and the redemption that He has accomplished, and the words that He has spoken.

Love toward the Neighbor

Flowing from faith, the second mark of the Christian is love. Only one who has received the love of Christ can properly love his neighbor. Apart from Christ’s love we cannot love others. We can hate them, we can use them for our own ends, we can behave decently to avoid punishments, we can feel compelled by the general morality of those around us – but of ourselves we cannot love anyone else. Like faith, love is a gift of God. And indeed, wherever there is faith, there is love, just as wherever there is fire there is light and heat.

Education should include instruction in God’s Commandments and Christian morals. But more fundamental than teaching children to behave rightly, is the Christian attitude that we do not live to ourselves but to others. An education that teaches children to look to their own wants and needs is no education for a Christian. But when love is a goal of education, then the student learns to say, “How can I be of service to those around me? Teach me things so that I can better care for my neighbors.”

Chrysostom and Luther both stress that children should learn useful knowledge and skills – not useful for earning Mammon, but useful for the neighbor. So Luther said that the purpose of giving children a formal education is “so that they may be of service wherever they are needed.” Chrysostom comments at length, showing what a wonderful gift a Christian is to the world:

Thus the more he is renowned in this life, so much the more is this discipline necessary for him. For should he be brought up in palaces, there are many heathens and ‘philosophers’ and those puffed up with the present glory, just like some place that has been filled with dropsical people. Of some such sort are all the palaces: all are puffed up and inflamed, and those who are not are zealous to become so. Think, then, how great your son is, going in there like the best physician: entering with the instruments that are able to reduce the inflammation of each, and approaching each one and conversing, and making the sick body healthy, applying the medicines from the Scriptures and pouring out the words of philosophy…

And if you want to know, he will be a more serviceable man even in the world itself. For all will revere him because of those words when they see him in the fire, though not being burned nor desiring power. And at that very time he will be ready for it – when he does not desire it – and he will be still more revered by the king, for such a man will not be able to escape his notice. For among many healthy people, the healthy man will escape notice. But among many sick people, when one is healthy, the report will be spread quickly, and into the royal ears, and he will set him over many nations. Therefore, knowing these things, bring up your children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
(Ephesians, Homily XXI)

The True Goal

What is the goal of education? Not the acquisition of Mammon. The goal of education is Fides ad Deum, Charitas ad Vicinum, faith toward God, love toward the neighbor. Or as Chrysostom very nicely sums it up: Χριστιανὸν αὐτὸν ποίησον: Make him a Christian.

Painting: Christ Blessing the Children, by Lucas Cranach the Younger, c. 1545-1550

Quotes of Large Catechism are from The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, ed. Kolb & Wengert

Scripture quotations are from the King James Version.

Translations of Chrysostom are my own.

The Goal of Education Part I: Educating for Mammon?

To the Point

What is the goal of education? Or another way of putting it, What is the touchstone by which we know that the education of a child was successful? The common standard for judging an education is the ability to make money: Can the educated child get a job and make a living? Now perhaps this is a selfless goal on the part of parents; they want a good life for their child. This goal can have selfish motives, “I want him self-sustaining so that he’ll move out,” or really selfish, “I want him to be able to take care of me.” And yet even when the goal of educating for the sake of money is selfless on the parents’ part, this goal has two flaws. First, it treats the child as if he has no soul, as if this body and life are all there is. And second, it pretends that it’s acceptable, and even good, to live for oneself, to amass a pile of Mammon and be satisfied.

In order to understand the flaws with Educating for Mammon we must have a proper opinion of Mammon, and also rightly understand the chief characteristics of the Christian life.

Mammon, the Terrible Master

So first, what is Mammon, and how should we regard it? Mammon is the sum total of money and possessions that exceeds what we need for our daily bread. Rather than trusting that God will provide for all our needs of body and soul as he has promised, much more often we trust Mammon for security. Martin Luther comments on this in his Large Catechism when discussing the First Commandment, “You shall have no other gods”:

There are some who think that they have God and everything they need when they have money and property; they trust in them and boast in them so stubbornly and securely that they care for no one else. They, too, have a god – mammon by name, that is, money and property – on which they set their whole heart. This is the most common idol on earth. Those who have money and property feel secure, happy, and fearless, as if they were sitting in the midst of paradise. On the other hand, those who have nothing doubt and despair as if they knew of no god at all. We will find very few who are cheerful, who do not fret and complain, if they do not have mammon. This desire for wealth clings and sticks to our nature all the way to the grave.
(Large Catechism, I.5-9)

And Luther is merely expounding what Jesus himself had to say on the topic: “Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth” (Lk. 12:15), and, “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon” (Mt. 6:24).

The Apostle Paul also comments on Mammon when writing to Timothy: “But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows” (1 Tim. 6:6-10).

From this common testimony we have a very clear Christian perspective: while we acknowledge our need for daily bread, we hold Mammon in great suspicion as a potential idol. Owning Mammon is not in itself a sin, so long as we own it and it doesn’t own us. And that latter possibility is a very real danger. Mammon may take the form of inanimate objects, but Jesus speaks of it as a prospective master with a will of its own that speaks imperiously and makes demands and forcibly compels.

Mammon, the Fallen Angel

John Milton captures this living and willful nature of Mammon very well in his epic poem Paradise Lost. Toward the end of Book I, the demons, having somewhat recovered from the initial shock of being thrown into hell, and spurred on by a rousing speech from Satan, prepare to build their evil city Pandemonium:

…Mammon led them on,
Mammon, the least erected spirit that fell
From heaven: for even in heaven his looks and thoughts
Were always downward bent; admiring more
The riches of heaven’s pavement, trodden gold,
Than aught divine or holy else, enjoy’d
In vision beatific: by him first
Men also, and by his suggestion taught,
Ransack’d the centre, and with impious hands
Rifled the bowels of their mother earth
For treasures better hid. Soon had his crew
Open’d into the hill a spacious wound,
and digg’d out ribs of gold. (Let none admire
That riches grow in hell; that soil may best
Deserve the precious bane.)…
(Book I.678-692)

After the demons have completed the city, they all assemble in the spacious hall in secret conclave. Satan sits on a throne, gives a brief speech, then opens the floor to debate concerning their best course of action. Moloch speaks first, then Belial. Third, Mammon gives his advice: War will result in defeat. Even if God is gracious and receives the demons back to their former posts (on pledge of their obedience), Mammon cannot abide the thought of singing “warbled hymns” and “forc’d hallelujahs.” Let us not war, nor return to subjection, “but rather seek Our own good from ourselves, and from our own Love to ourselves; though in this vast recess, Free, and to none accountable; preferring Hard liberty before the easy yoke Of servile pomp…” (II.252-257).

Mammon deludes himself into thinking that God’s creatures can be independent of God, autonomous, self-sufficient. He teaches all who will listen to him to think this way: to look to their own hands instead of God’s, to live from themselves and to themselves, to prefer a selfish life in hell over a creaturely life in heaven. He points to the burning ground, just as he now points to earth, and says, “This desert soil Wants not her hidden lustre, gems, and gold; Nor want we skill or art, from whence to raise Magnificence; and what can heaven show more?” (II.270-273). The demons didn’t take Mammon’s advice, but human ears are easily persuaded to his blasphemous words.

Mammon, the Fool

Is Educating for Mammon starting to sound foolish, and even dangerous? I really hope it is. And what’s the alternative? Continue reading: The Goal of Education Part II.

Painting: Croesus and Solon by Johann Georg Platzer, 1704-1761

Quotes of Large Catechism are from The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, ed. Kolb & Wengert

Scripture quotations are from the King James Version.



A man who knows how to work, knows how to enjoy leisure, and who doesn’t confuse the two.

A man who is neither idle nor overcommitted.
A man who would rather be content with little than ambitious for much.
A man who is faithful in all he does.

A man who lives to serve others and does not selfishly use others to serve himself.
A man who is compassionate and merciful, who neither passes by on the other side of the road nor promises to do what he cannot.
A man who is generous with his money and possessions, but not prodigal.
A man who is not oblivious to others.

A man who is brave, who fears God and nothing else, who does not shrink back from a challenge nor run headlong into destruction.
A man on whom others depend in their distress and need, and who is not ashamed to look to others in his need.
A man who is fit to lead and whom others are glad to follow.
A man marked by integrity.
A man who never betrays his friends.
A man who is not shaken by the tiny gusts of hardship nor the puny quakes of slander.
A man who would rather be insulted or fired than break one of God’s commandments.
A man who doesn’t care what troubles or words come his way so long as he can go to bed at night with a clear conscience.
A man who is courteous and well-mannered.
A man who respects his elders and seeks advice from those who know better than him.
A man who looks up to noble men and wants to be one.
A man who is respectable and trustworthy, regardless of whether anyone respects and trusts him or not.

A man who is quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.
A man who is articulate, precise, and brief in his speech.
A man who keeps his word.
A man who is honest, even if he receives nothing but pain for it.
A man who silences the foolish talk of gossipers and false teachers.
A man who does not judge by appearances.
A man who neither slanders the civil authorities nor worships them.

A man who seems to know the future, because he knows well the past.
A man who will humbly admit his ignorance and humbly share his knowledge.
A man who understands that faith, science, and reason are in harmony, not opposition.
A man who can distinguish fact, theory, and wild speculation.
A man who knows that goodness, beauty, and truth are objective, and not a matter of opinion.
A man whose head inclines up to the stars rather than down to a screen.
A man who enjoys the created world.
A man who loves to learn.

A man who understands the nature of mankind.
A man who is not enslaved to his passions, but masters them.
A man who makes his mammon serve him instead of him serving it.
A man who ignores the siren cries of sexual immorality.
A man who is not swayed by desire for power or fame.
A man who knows his faults and takes precautions against habitual sins.
A man who confesses when he is wrong, tries to make the wrong right, and knows that only Christ can atone for his transgressions.

A man who makes time for his family, and would rather be with them than with anyone else.
A man whose arms are a haven for his household, and whose own haven is his home and his Lord.
A man who loves his wife, gives himself for her, is content with her, and keeps his eyes and thoughts from other women.
A man who can praise the beauty of his wife without resorting to clichés.
A man who would rather have a mute tongue than speak an ill word against his wife.
A man who would rather have peace than win an argument.
A man who can change a diaper, rock a baby, sing a lullaby, and be confident that he’s more a man for it.
A man who by word and example brings up his children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
A man who knows how to fast and how to feast.
A man who will get dirty or get cleaned up as needed.

A man who is serviceable to the family, the community, and the congregation.
A man who is a true laborer: who earns what he eats, gets what he wears, owes no man hate, envies no man’s happiness, is glad of other men’s good, is content with his harm, and whose greatest pride is to see his children grow and his infants nurse.


A woman who adorns herself with a humble spirit and good works, and who laughs at the world’s attempts to be attractive.
A woman who cares to be beautiful in the eyes of God and of her husband, and who is modest and chaste in the eyes of everyone else.
A woman who would rather turn away the attention of other men than attract it.

A woman who neither listens to gossip nor repeats it.
A woman whose ears are open and whose lips are tight.
A woman whom other women trust and ask for advice.
A woman who cares enough to tell you so, and is gracious enough not to say, “I told you so.”
A woman who listens to both sides of a matter before drawing conclusions.
A woman who does not hesitate to ask for help when she needs it.

A woman who knows the good stories of old, and can tell the perfect tale for each time and place.
A woman who has been everywhere through good literature, and whose favorite place is the arms of her husband.
A woman who has seen the whole world through the eyes of history, and whose favorite sight is her newborn child.
A woman who has heard the poetry and songs of ages past, and whose favorite sound is the harmonious family voice saying grace before supper.
A woman who is prudent and knows the end of things.
A woman who reads well, writes well, and speaks well.
A woman who is more interested in governing her home than bothering herself with national politics; but who nevertheless could tell the qualities of a good leader and the temptations that accompany offices of civil authority.
A woman who loves to learn.

A woman who wants to be a wife and mother and believes these to be high callings of God.
A woman who is frugal and content.
A woman who makes a bowl a thin broth seem like a feast.
A woman who recognizes the bondage of feminists and the freedom of submitting to her husband.
A woman who is crafty.
A woman who practices justice and equity.
A woman who prays fervently, catechizes her children faithfully, and has no desire to be a clergyman.
A woman who embraces chivalry.
A woman who is hospitable.
A woman who brings joy to those around her.
A woman who turns a house into a home.

A woman who bears hardship patiently.
A woman who resists the allure of passing fads.
A woman who is not a slave to wine, nor to her possessions, nor to the opinion of others.
A woman who has confidence, but not pride.
A woman whom the world mocks in envy.

A woman who upholds the authority that God has given her over her children: who gives consequences for disobedience, who meets repentance with forgiveness, and who shows mercy without affirming wickedness.
A woman who takes seriously the violation of God’s commandments, but overlooks the violation of her own convenience.
A woman who goes to church and gladly hears God’s Word, who acknowledges her sins and believes they are forgiven for the sake of Christ.

A woman who feels compassion when she sees need and has mercy whenever she can be of help.
A woman who is pure, faithful, long-suffering, meek, gentle, graceful, and kind.

Who will build such men and women?

Sir Family and Lady Church, with Christ at their head. Stone goes upon stone and they build a tower whose head is supposed to reach the heavens. Will Education be a faithful maidservant: add her mortar and overlay the edifice with gold? Or will she come with pick and bar and, like Titus and Vespasian sacking Jerusalem, not leave one stone upon another?

Inspired by Rev. Dr. Frank Crane’s essay “Boy Wanted”
Painting: “The Wedding Feast at Cana” by Paolo Veronese, 1563