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Tell X To Do Y - Christian Education thinking from The Stapleford Centre

When your students try to use you as a referee in your disputes, do you use this as an opportunity to teach? See how Jesus did it and think about whether this is something we can follow in our teaching!

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Tell X to do Y

Tell X to do Y - Christian Education Thinking from The Stapleford Centre 

“Tell [name] to [undertake an action]”

Have you come across this sentence in school? I suspect it is quite a common sentence among children! In fact, it is quite a common sentence among adults too - and I reckon this is not what Jesus meant when he asked us to be "childlike"!

Jesus came across this very sentence, as recorded in the gospel of Luke:

“Someone in the crowd said to him, ‘Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.’” (Luke 12:13)

When you come across this sentence in school, how do you respond? It can be slightly more complex than is obvious at first sight. Factors come into play such as wanting justice to be done but also wanting children to learn independence by sorting it out themselves, etc. And, of course, do we really want to become embroiled in this stuff?

Jesus’ response is very interesting, in that he clearly doesn’t want to get embroiled either:

“Jesus replied, ‘Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?’” (Luke 12:14)

Rather than directly sorting the situation out, he then goes on to speak about the ethics that should lie behind our interactions with each other:

“Then he said to them, ‘Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.’” (Luke 12:15).

And, to reinforce this point, he launches straight into a parable about finding our security in material possessions vs finding our security in God (Luke 12:16-20) which, presumably, addresses what lay behind the man’s request in Luke 12:13 in the first place.

So... How does this apply in school? Next time you get the “Tell X to do Y!” treatment, are you going to tell a parable? Probably not! But I think it does illustrate a few very helpful lessons in how Jesus taught.

He liked to come side-ways at problems to address under-lying issues, rather than simply replying to a problem head-on.

He also liked to use questions asked of him (such as the one in Luke 12:13) as opportunities to teach about related issues.

Just a few ideas to hold at the back of your mind for the next time you encounter “Tell X to do Y!”


  • How does this apply in your school?
  • Next time you get the “Tell X to do Y!” treatment, how will you respond?
  • Do we use questions as an opportunity not only to teach facts but also to teach ethics?
Robin Staple is the Stapleford Centre coordinator

Robin Staple is The Stapleford Centre's coordinator. He is passionate about God, theology and coffee - and especially about how the Christian vision for holistic and wholesome education can offer a real contribution to the common good of society.

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