I recently had a conversation in which the topic was life priorities. It was put forth that this order was correct, God first, then family, then work, then school. It was also put forward that school was in conflict with spending time with God, and far from being a unique perspective, this is normal in Christian circles.
I immediately thought of Eric Liddel, the famous missionary who said, “When I run I feel Gods pleasure.” If you know his story you’ll know that the joy of bringing pleasure to God through his running led Eric to train for, and compete in the Olympics, rather than go back to the mission field with his family. He won, but he also almost lost his chance because in the midst of his competition he refused to dishonor God by competing on the Sabbath. What an act of worship and self sacrifice! For the whole story the movie Chariots Of Fire is a MUST watch.
That is what study is for me. A worshipful adventure of feeling the pleasure of the Lord as I pursue Him. Not everyone one will feel the pleasure of the Lord as they study of course. For some it is natural, but for most it must be LEARNED. Is learning to worship the Lord in our studies of him, his word and the aspects of his creation in conflict with a relationship with him? I’d go as far as to say that it is necessary! We are commanded by the Lord to KNOW his word and to learn it. How much better is it if we learn to make our study and meditation an act of worship as well?
But what does the Bible say. “Your word is sweeter than honey”, “I meditate on your word day and night.” “Fear of the Lord is the beginning of Wisdom…fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge and understanding.” The entire book of Proverbs is dedicated to teaching us the importance and necessity of receiving instruction, Proverbs 1:1-7. “Fools despise wisdom and teaching.” Meditating on the word of God is an act of profound worship and adoration! So why, then, is the formal application of that study thought to be in conflict with ones relationship with God?
I think many people think this way about formal education. Firstly, it is a direct result of the crumbling school systems and the myriad of stories from young people who were mistreated by teachers or by peers, told that they couldn’t learn and given negative preferential treatment for supposed disabilities. The second problem is our national tendency toward idolatry. For several generations in recent history, getting the RIGHT kind of education at the RIGHT places has been worshiped as an idol, even by Christians! Naturally the gut response of the next generation is to avoid it, and that response is followed shortly by the scorning and shunning of formal education altogether.
Today we have a dichotomy church movements where one part is still upholding the necessity of education in the RIGHT place by the RIGHT people, and the other movement really believes that formal education is not necessary at all.
We need to get back to the basics of what education is in the first place. Paul says, “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind, ” but even more than that, both Paul and Jesus came from a culture, built by God, where the teachers, the Rabbi’s were the most honored members of society. And to be a student of a Rabbi was another exceptional honor! You NEVER insulted your teacher or criticized them OR their methods. Children were taught to trust them, and to learn how to learn from the worst as well as the best. I’d love to personally from a member of the Jewish faith about the treatment of your teachers and your perspective on the value of learning.
The biblical exhortations for formal education and instruction stem from WHERE they came from, and are extended to us where we are today. “Honor your father and mother (the primary teachers) that your days may be long” Exodus 20. “Hear, my son, your fathers instructions and do not forsake your mother’s teaching” Proverbs 1:8.
When our Christian families reacted to the worship of education and institutions we had the unintentional result of teaching our children that they don’t need to learn, and they don’t need to honor their teachers. We can change that.
Let’s do education the way it was meant to be done. Let’s teach the next generation how to worship THE LORD through our studies no matter what they may be. Let’s honor The Teacher who gave us the ability to learn by learning how to join a classroom that is basking in the presence of His word! It starts with you. Will you make time to learn again?
(A few additional thoughts about what education looks like practically, to follow.)