Teachableness: You Can’t Live The Christian Life Without It

Keith KettenringChristian Living, The Uncommon Journey

Yesterday while reading Proverbs chapter 3, it hit me how readily I rely upon my own abilities to navigate life.  “Trust in God with all your heart and do not exalt your own wisdom. In all your ways know wisdom that she may cut a straight path for you, and your foot will not stumble. Do not rely on your own discernment but fear God and turn away from every evil. Then there shall be healing for your body and care for your bones.” Trust God. Fear God. Know wisdom. Don’t rely on your own wisdom or discernment. But, I think I know better.

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You see, one of my problems is that I’m often not teachable. Wisdom comes to those who trust God rather than their own thinking. I’m not good at that.

It is essential that we be teachable. 


Here are some definitions of “teachable” a) capable of being taught. b) able and willing to learn. c) favorable to teaching. Are you teachable? 

I’m talking about a general attitude of desire or willingness to know. Since you can’t learn about everything, you need to limit yourself to what is most beneficial. This is where it gets dicey for Christians who may spend their whole lives learning about things that are relatively useless for their spiritual life. Interests like cooking, auto mechanics, sports, politics, hobbies, or travel can distract from spiritually substantial matters. 

St. Paul points this out to Timothy when he writes that physical exercise is slightly beneficial but godliness benefits all of life – life now and life eternally (1 Timothy 4.8). 

So, why aren’t more Christians interested in the condition of their own souls? Or, in their own relationship with God? Or, in the healing of their sin-sick heart? Or, in their lack of Christlikeness? 

I wish I had a good answer. It would be the key to unlocking the door of stubbornness and ignorance that comes with being unteachable. 

  • Are you teachable about knowing God? Your eternal life depends on it (John 17.3).
  • Are you teachable about experiencing union with Jesus Christ? Jesus prayed for it (John 17.23, 26).
  • Are you teachable about participating in the life of Christ? It is your calling (1 Corinthians 1.9).
  • Are you teachable about the Church? It is the means of your spiritual life (Acts 2.42; Ephesians).

Wisdom & Teachableness  

Being teachable is really a journey of learning wisdom. 

Do not reprove a scoffer or he will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you. Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight (Proverbs 9.8-10).

Get wisdom, get insight…do not forsake her, and she will keep you; love her, and she will guard you. The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight  (Proverbs 4.5-7).

Whoever heeds instruction is on the path of life, but he who rejects reproof leads others astray (Proverbs 10.17).

Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future (Proverbs 10.17).

God is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our WISDOM and our righteousness and sanctification and redemption (1 Corinthians 1.30). 

Wisdom is not pure intellectual knowledge but an ability to live as God designed us to live. Bible scholars Curtis and Brugaletta describe wisdom: 

Wisdom’s method is to stimulate thought and reflection rather than provide exhaustive answers; it encourages the kind of life application of the material that both allows the exploration of the broader dimensions of the principles and generates skills in living. The goal is to produce a craftsman who can respond to the circumstances of life in a fallen world in ways that reflect Yahweh’s order and move a person toward godliness. (Discovering the Way of Wisdom, p. 10, Kregel Publications)

Characteristics of the Non-teachable 

  • Want current beliefs to be affirmed. They refuse to learn anything that challenges existing beliefs, practices or prejudices. 
  • Lack curiosity. They rarely ask questions seeking to further their understanding or gain new insights. 
  • Don’t desire wisdom. They have convinced themselves that they don’t care or wisdom doesn’t matter.
  • Are over-confident in their abilities. 
  • Have difficulty in accepting correction. 
  • Are not part of a learning group or relationship.
  • Are lazy. They want to stay within their intellectual and spiritual comfort zone.
  • Possess a pervasive pride. They’ve convinced themselves that asking questions makes them look ignorant, stupid, or uncertain.

Being unteachable demonstrates an unwillingness and arrogance that has the potential to thwart God’s work within. God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble. 

If you are stubbornly unwilling to consider God’s workings in a way different than your own ideas, then you are more committed to your ideas than you are to God. 

I don’t mean you must be open to every new idea about God that comes down the pike. (I’m not convinced God has any “new” ideas.) But, He does have significant realities that you and I have not discovered – have not participated in – into which He desires us to go. 

In 10 years you’ll be the same person you are now except for the books you read and the people you meet. 

Characteristics of the Teachable

  • Are aware of their limited abilities and understanding.
  • Consistently seek out help, instruction, guidance, and wisdom. 
  • Are open to learn from any source.
  • Possess the ability to see God in everything even what seems to be “bad.” 
  • Are thankful for all things especially those ideas and people they do not currently understand.
  • Have a humility to admit error and wrong along with a willingness to change ideas and opinions .
  • Are willing to try something different, make mistakes, and ask questions. 
  • Listen attentively to others in curiosity. 

Curtis and Brugaletta provide great insight on teachability and wisdom. The first sentence is priceless… 

A wise person is teachable, and this as much as any single characteristic distinguishes the wise person from the fool. The wise person is open to instruction in all of its forms (teaching, correction, rebuke, and discipline), and he learns from it, whereas the fool rejects it and continues to pursue his own self-destructive course. Discovering the Way of Wisdom, p. 51

Ask yourself, “Am I really teachable?” From whom am I learning true information and practices?  From whom am I learning real wisdom and humility? 

How to be(come) Teachable 

  1. Come to Jesus, commune and walk with Him daily. Since He is wisdom and humility in bodily form, learn from Him. 
  2. Embrace your struggles and let them work their transformative powers in you.
  3. Read and meditate on the truth of scripture, living it as you are able. Allow scripture to light your path instead of your own ideas. 
  4. Listen to others around you aware of your own spiritual and emotional condition. 
  5. Ask more questions, express less opinions. 
  6. Ask God constantly for wisdom and then observe what happens in the days and weeks that follow. 

Being a Christian involves learning wisdom and truth. To learn wisdom and truth, we must be teachable. On a scale of 1-10, how teachable are you? 

Dr. K