A colleague of mine pointed out a quote from Martin Luther concerning education. “Where the Holy Scripture does not rule I certainly advise no one to send his child. Everyone not unceasingly occupied with the Word of God must become corrupt; therefore we must see what people in the higher schools are and grow up to be… I greatly fear that schools for higher learning are wide gates to hell if they do not diligently teach the Holy Scriptures and impress them on the young folk.” That was written almost 500 years ago and to a society far more homogeneous than ours today. Yet there is truth here for Christians. All life is to be guided first, by the truth of the sacrifice our Lord made on our behalf so that we could be a part of Him. And then by an ever deepening understanding of the Scriptures He gave us. That is what makes a difference in all aspects of life.
When one attends college they usually choose a major field of study to pursue. In order to reach the degree level, a specific series of courses are required. They proceed in order from the 100 level, to the 200 level, and so forth. A person can’t obtain the degree by taking any courses that strike their fancy, simply seems easy, or in any order they choose. The educational process simply doesn’t work that way. Earth is our college course for all that comes after. It is the Lord who determines the course load, and the requirements for graduation. He has an eternal purpose for us, and is training us now for that work. He will not work against our will. We have many choices to make, but we cannot follow any old path in this life and expect to fulfill His purpose. We have receive admission through faith in Jesus Christ. He is now our guidance counselor. He knows us personally, and loves us deeply. His desire is the same as that for any student, that we be humble and teachable. We need to seek Him for our direction, and strive to do our best. His Degree is of the greatest worth.
I ran across two important questions in a blog I read last week that really stir one’s thinking. “What is it that we’re trying to accomplish via education and children? Although it might seem like an obvious question,” the author wrote, “surprisingly enough the question is rarely asked. (and) What kind of adults do you want your children to be when they grow up? Figuring out the answer to that question will go a long way in determining the goal and scope of education.” The problem is that we really don’t want to ask these questions because they impact the whole direction of society as well as the lifestyle we’ve created. I think back, at times, to the educational goals of an ancient Jewish father. He had three primary responsibilities toward his son. He would see that he learned to read so that he could read the Scriptures. He would teach him a trade so that he could support his family. And He would find him a wife so he could start a family. I’m not sure that he was all that far off in his goals for life. I don’t think we are going to make drastic changes anytime soon, but it does give us something to ponder.
This is the season for graduation addresses seeking to set graduates on the right course for their future. A prominent writer made the comment a short time ago that he has set through many of these speeches and really can’t remember what any of them said. Their main thrust is usually that the graduate has the ability, and has now gained the education to go out and make a difference in their field of endeavor. There is always something to be said for encouragement to use ones abilities to the fullest. The Apostle Paul was certainly no slacker in his education or his efforts to share the Gospel message. What is missing from most motivational speeches is the need for humility, a willingness to listen, and the need for guidance and trust in the Lord who is beyond themselves. Oh, but we can’t mix religion and secular education! That is just the problem with graduation speeches. Without the encouragement to humbly seek direction from our Lord, graduates will continue to move our world in ways that are far from His will, and far from the best good of mankind. All of the technological, economic, and educational advances mean nothing if they carry us further from the life God desires for us. That is a subject in itself that should occupy a major effort of study.
Years ago (many that is) when I was in seminary, the faculty decided that the students should have more say in determining the courses they took. We always had a few electives, but they started allowing students to choose many of their core subjects. The problem was that most of us didn’t have a clue as to what we would need when we got into the ministry – even if we thought we did. The trend has continued in education in many areas, but young people need guidance. We all need guidance. We really do not know what is ahead in life, and what we will need to meet it. Youth (and the not so young) have always been headstrong in thinking that they know better, but human life is a complicated path to navigate, and none of us has all the answers. Life calls for a real measure of humility, and a willingness to yield to a wisdom higher than ourselves. This is a hard lesson to learn with many painful failures. Our gracious Lord never abandons us as we walk through life, and continues to hold out His guiding hand.
This being April Fools Day, there will be no lack of pranks bandied about. It was interesting though, to do a Bible search of the words fool, foolish, and foolishness. They come up about 175 time throughout Scripture. Do you think maybe God is telling us something? We love to exalt human wisdom, our increase in knowledge, the growth of our technology, and everything we call progress. But is it really progress? The Apostle Paul wrote, “Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.”(I Corinthians 1:20-21) The only real progress comes in understanding, and obeying our Lord. Every other right direction in life flows from this. And that is no April Fools joke!
Man has always exalted in his human reason. Reason is important, and a God given gift, but unless reason is guided by wisdom given from the Lord, it leads to disaster. The problem is not new. Isaiah wrote, “You turn things upside down, as if the potter were thought to be like the clay! Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, “He did not make me”? Can the pot say of the potter, “He knows nothing”? Godly wisdom can only come of God’s Word. Our faith is build on the conviction that God revealed Himself to mankind. The record of that revelation is in the Bible. Above all, His perfect revelation of Himself is in the person of Jesus Christ. As wonderful as God’s gift of human reason is, it must yield itself to the truth God has given in His Word.
It is said that those who don’t understand history are destined to repeat it, and by that, meaning we repeat all of its mistakes and wrong directions. Paul said something similar, and even more important. “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” (Romans 15:4) We place great emphasis on gaining secular knowledge in order to make our way in the world, but at the same time, intentionally or not, diminish the importance of really knowing the Scriptures, which alone lead us in the right direction for our eternal destiny. Because we don’t know the Scriptures as we should, we continue to repeat the same sins, and wrong directions that have led so many away from the Lord. Secular knowledge is important, but only knowledge of Scripture gives us wisdom, and the right direction for life.
I have often taught that God uses many of the natural things of life to teach us about Himself. We are called “children of God”. What does that mean? If we are parents, we know what we have done for our children in bonding, in training, and in discipline. We seek to guide them in the direction we believe is right. We have a goal in mind for them to be mature adults, and we work daily through their growing years to help them get there. We call God, our Father. He, being our parent, means the same thing as we being parents to our children. He has a goal in mind for our lives – that we would share in His holiness. (Hebrews 13:10) He works daily, by the presence of His Spirit, using all of the events of our life to nurture us, and guide us more deeply into His nature of holiness. We know the love and care we have in guiding our children into all that is best for them. How much more our Heavenly Father is doing this for us.