Old Pencils

The pencils I bought four years ago for my third and fourth grade Sunday school class are getting shorter while the children who have wielded them are growing taller. The school bus yellow paint is chipped and worn. The pink erasers, rubbed to the brass ferrules, are capped by colorful and increasingly darkened rubber replacements. These humblest of writing instruments become more humble as time advances. I hope their youthful masters who first held them four years ago do likewise.

Discussing the First and Second Commandments one Sunday morning I startled the kids to illustrate a point: How foolish we are to grow up and ignore the First Commandment—“You shall have no other gods before me”—and break the Second Commandment by creating and worshiping idols. People throughout history, I said, have fashioned gods from wood and metal and worshiped them. Pencils, too, I noted, are made of wood and metal.

“Look! I am holding in my hands ‘almighty pencil god,’” I exclaimed. Admiring almighty pencil god, I paused for effect. SNAP! I broke the graphite god in two. How foolish to worship false gods. The pencil god hangs in our classroom today as a reminder of the futility of creating and worshiping idols.

As you grow older, I warned, beware of making gods of money, clothing, people, entertainment, success, and career. We adults, me included, tend to do that. Worse, far worse, we make gods of ourselves while failing to realize that self-proclaimed gods are certain to break.

Unlike the short Sunday school pencils, we do not grow naturally in humility.

Asking who would be the greatest in heaven, the disciples must have been surprised when Jesus said, “Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” When Christ’s Spirit changes our hearts, He calls us back to the humility of childhood. Yet becoming childlike is against human nature. Rather than resting in Christ’s love—and the security that we are who He created us to be—we too often succumb to the temptation of making ourselves into gods. How foolish; God is not impressed. We sin; we reap agony and exhaustion. The good news is that He forgives and He restores.
Several students in my first Sunday school class of four years ago will be freshmen in high school soon. Adulthood is approaching fast. They too may be tempted to fashion themselves as gods. I should show them their old pencils and remind them of almighty pencil god. Knowing their salvation to be secure, I want them to seek Christ and His kingdom, to grow in childlike humility, and rest joyfully in His love.