Look up “virtue” in a Greek dictionary or lexicon and you are likely to find the phrase “moral excellence,” but this does not do a thing for a ten-year-old or for many adults either. I finally came up with “doing right because it is right, not because someone is watching or you are afraid of the consequences.” Or as the children put it, “Virtue is when you want to be good.” They easily came up with example after example. Probably my favorite was, “It isn’t virtue when you slow down to the speed limit because you see a police car.” Children can be brutal!
Another word we looked up was “knowledge.” We all feel so lacking here. It was such a relief to discover that this use of the word signifies an active searching and desire for the truth—something even the newest Christian can have—and very often has more of than the one who has been sitting on his pew for forty years. The children understood right away that this word was not a measure of knowledge but of devotion, and came up with examples even more easily than they had for “virtue.” Just how often do we sit down for some real study, not just a read-through? Do we spend more time in front of the TV than we do with our Bibles? Are our Bible class lessons done as faithfully as our “homework?”
Then there was godliness. How many times have I heard this defined as “a short form of godlikeness?” Children these days are so worldly wise that even they understood that you cannot make an argument based on the construction of an English word when the word was originally written in Greek! Godliness means my entire life is focused toward God. Everything I say, think, or do must put Him first. If I make any decision in life without first asking how it will affect my service to God, I am not godly.
The children’s example? If deciding to buy a new car means I cannot give as I should to the Lord, then I should not buy a new car! Simplistic, you say? Too much “this world?” Well, they were only children after all, but doesn’t their example clearly show how godliness should pervade our everyday lives? And isn’t that exactly what we adults have the most trouble with—applying spiritual principles to specific circumstances in our everyday lives, even when it hurts?
Virtue, knowledge, and godliness: hard to define? Not to a ten-year-old. Hard to do? That depends on us.
Virtue: Servants, be obedient unto them that according to the flesh are your masters with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ; not in the way of eye-service, as men-pleasers, but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, with goodwill, doing service as unto the Lord, and not unto men, knowing that whatever good thing each one does, the same shall he receive from the Lord… Eph 6:5-8.
Knowledge: Putting away therefore all wickedness, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes long for mother’s milk, you long for the spiritual milk which is without guile, that you may grow thereby unto salvation. 1 Peter 2:1,2
Godliness: For they that are after the flesh mind the things of the flesh, but they that are after the spirit, the things of the spirit. For the mind of the flesh is death, but the mind of the spirit is life and peace. Rom 8:5,6