1. What do you call a group of crows?
2. Often seen at the end of a sentence, the three trailing dots that indicate the omission from speech or writing of a word or words that are superfluous or able to be understood from contextual clues are known as…
3. How many kingdoms are part of the United Kingdom?
4. Solve the following equation: 5 + 3 * 4 / 2 – 1 = ?
Can you answer these questions? All were featured on the show Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader? What made the show funny was that college-educated adults went head-to-head with fifth-grade students and usually had to admit, “I am not smarter than a fifth grader.” Only two contestants actually won the $1,000,000 grand prize. Of course, the students had more recently studied all the subjects, and as the expression goes, “If you don’t use it, you lose it.” I am never more aware of that than when I’m helping my middle-schooler with math. Every time I have to look up the difference between rational numbers, irrational numbers, whole numbers, and integers. My son will ask, “Mom, didn’t you have to learn all this?” And I reply, “Of course, but that was years ago.”
If this principle holds true for subjects like math and science, why should we expect any different for religion? What if there were a Bible or catechism version of Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader? To be fair, we should probably up the grade level to eighth grade, since that’s the age when most students are confirmed. Can the average adult parishioner in the pew on any given Sunday still quote for memory the six chief parts of the catechism, complete with meanings, as they once had to for confirmation, or recall the Sunday school lessons they learned?
Oh, what mad, senseless fools are we! While we must ever live and dwell among such mighty enemies as the devils, we still despise our weapons and defense [2 Corinthians 10:4], and we are too lazy to look at or think of them!
What else are such proud, arrogant saints doing who are unwilling to read and study the catechism daily? … Are we not the finest of all fellows to imagine that if we have once read or heard the catechism, we know it all and have no further need to read and learn?
Large Catechism, preface
Mind you, the Bible is not mere trivia. Nor is the catechism, which instructs and explains the doctrines of the Bible. It’s not a matter of how much information you retain or whether you can still quote the books of the Bible for memory. The stakes are much higher than those for a contestant on a game show, because the Bible tells us about Jesus, the only way to eternal life.
The Bible also equips us for life in this sinful world. When Jesus was tempted by Satan, the only rebuttal He needed was to quote Scripture back to Satan. Such is the power of God’s Word. “For the Word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart,” Hebrews 4:12 tells us. Through His living and active Word, we are given the armor of God and are strengthened against all that would tempt us to fall away from Jesus.
So why wouldn’t we want to be immersed in the Word daily? Why would we neglect to study the catechism? Why would we ever think we know it all because we learned it years ago in Sunday school and confirmation class? My own fifth grader is working her way through the Bible she got for her birthday and is currently in 1 Samuel. That’s a lesson many people could stand to learn.
And it only took a smart fifth grader to teach it.