“Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the LORD and depart from evil.” (Proverbs 3:7, ESV)
An old saying asserts, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” I’m not sure I agree. It may depend more on the dog’s attitude than its age. At least that’s how it works with people. The ones who are most teachable are eager to learn and willing to listen when instructed.
I once showed a friend the best way to perform a certain household task. Eager to learn the correct way, she assured me, “Show me one time and I can do it!” She was grateful for my help and willing to listen. I enjoyed working with her because she displayed a teachable spirit.
After teaching a variety of ages in various church settings, I can tell you one thing I quickly discovered. Attitude counts. I remember a teen in my Sunday school class who loved to push his views, even if there was no logic to what he said. It was simple. He was right; others were wrong! (Have you met someone like that?) He had no desire to learn. He just liked to hear himself talk—and the other students knew it. He eventually moved away, but I’ve often wondered how he succeeded in life if he took that same attitude into adulthood. It is impossible to teach someone who (they think) already knows everything.
None of us would be where we are today without those who were willing to teach us and without our willingness to be taught. One of the most important qualities every learner needs is humility.
Acts 8 relates a desert encounter between Philip, the evangelist, and an Ethiopian official of the queen’s court. This man had been to Jerusalem to worship and was now on his way home. As he traveled, he read from the prophet Isaiah but was puzzled over what he read. He needed a teacher. Philip was the right person to help him.
So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah, and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?” And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he asked Philip to come up and sit with him. (Verses 30-31)
Although the Ethiopian held a high position in his country, he showed humility by welcoming the instruction of Philip, an unknown man he met in the desert. But because he was open to instruction, he learned the soul-saving message of Jesus Christ and went on his way rejoicing.
How do we recognize a person with a teachable spirit? They are eager to learn and willing to ask questions. They are humble, grateful, and respectful. They display a positive outlook. The teachable person embraces Solomon’s words in Proverbs 4:13 (NKJV).
“Take firm hold of instruction, do not let go; Keep her, for she is your life.”
Perhaps it’s time to ask ourselves some probing questions.
- Do I have a teachable spirit?
- Can I accept that the ideas of others may be better than mine?
- Am I willing to make myself vulnerable by asking questions?
- Can I learn from correction or does it make me defensive?
- Am I willing to take responsibility for my failures?
- Can I accept that I don’t know everything and that I can learn from others?
A humble, teachable spirit is an invaluable asset in life and in serving God.
“Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; Teach a just man, and he will increase in learning.” (Proverbs 9:9, NKJV)
Thank You, Lord, for those You placed in my life to help me become a better person and a better child of God. Help me to always have a teachable spirit and show gratitude toward those who invested their time that I might develop and grow.