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Homework Assignment: Get Education (due tomorrow!)

lawbooks.jpgPublished in the Pentecostal Herald 2.07

Beneath the sketch of snow-covered hills crisscrossed by bungling skiers, the scribbled caption joked, “Learn or Die: A Cartoonist Looks at Skiing.” Succinctly put, the doodler got it right. If you’re going to buckle on a pair of skis and hit the slopes, it might be a good idea to find out about slide slipping, moguling and crud. And it would be nice if you could tell a pole plant from a face plant. A skiing education has spared many adventuresome types some fractured femurs or even an untimely demise or two. Ignorance can get expensive.

It is no accident that Jesus labeled the twelve men he chose to follow him mathetes, or disciples. He could have just as easily called them learners, although disciple is a more appealing term. The bottom line is that discipleship means learning, and learning equals education. Education, then, is the essence of discipleship. Those who disparage education undermine the very process Jesus set up to follow him. The phrase, “learn or die,” may be apropos to skiing, but it also applies to basic Christianity.

Jesus validated the learning process several ways. Besides calling his followers disciples, He spoke of fishing, shepherding, farming and carpentry as honorable occupations during his earthly sojourn. These jobs required a modicum of training if one wanted to provide for his family. He referred positively to merchants, financial investors and landowners, positions in which expertise depended upon learning. Moreover, Jesus related to the educated class of his day—-doctors, lawyers, scribes and others—- demonstrating his healthy respect for education. If Jesus had a problem with the elite, it was with their attitudes, not their professions.

Admittedly, Jesus would not have endorsed much of today’s education industry. Elitist pride, insufferable arrogance and a humanistic mindset have become common by-products of our modern liberal arts education. Godless professors and frat houses have stripped far too many Christian youths of even a vestige of the faith they had as matriculating freshmen. Universities also serve as training grounds for every radical social movement in America. To deny these realities would be dangerous. Still, even factoring in the caveats, our economy makes a good education indispensable.

Farms and factories comprise the bulk of our economic past. The meteoric ascent in the information base during the last century, however, reflects on our continual accrual of knowledge, and it demands an educated populace to sustain it. We may still depend upon the land for our food, but we can no longer exist as an agrarian society. We have even moved far beyond an industrial society that makes its living from tools and machinery. Economists now characterize our world as an information society. What we know has become more important than what we do. This fundamental shift in our economy may not have fully registered on the senior generation, but the transition moves inexorably forward. No one can stop it. Education has become vital to modern life.

Education is important to getting a good job. All of our lives we have heard that we need to go to college to get a good job. This advice has become paramount in the information society. Out-of-work people know that they can hardly walk off the street into a shop or office somewhere and land a great job. Better jobs with higher salaries almost always require a college education. Common laborers and unskilled workers hover near the bottom of the wage ladder. Alan B. Krueger, an economics professor at Princeton argues that an additional year of schooling beyond high school is likely to raise an individual’s earnings about 10 percent. For someone earning the national median household income of $42,000, an extra year of training could provide an additional $4,200 a year. Over the span of a career, that could easily add up to $30,000 or $40,000 of present value. (National Forum for Higher Education, 2005).

Education is important for self-improvement. Knowledge and understanding greatly enhance self-esteem. God created us with an innate curiosity about the world around us, and when we learn, we gain a sense of fulfillment and well-being; when we fail to learn, we stagnate. Generally speaking, societies that have repressed educational progress have suffered from fear, superstition and helplessness. But even on the personal level, the more an individual learns, the more he or she unlocks the vast potential for progress within the human mind. Education is its own reward.

Education is important to technological advances. Few people want to go back to the days of the horse-and-buggy, the quill and parchment or outdoor plumbing. We cannot even imagine a world without electricity or combustion engines. Think of your dentist using no Novocain, your doctor prescribing no antibiotics or your surgeon having no access to x-rays before proceeding with a delicate operation. Yet, none of these innovations would exist without education. Moreover, the shared data from one discipline show intense inter-connectedness with other fields. Automobiles, for example, could not be manufactured without drawing from physics, chemistry, electronics and other sources. It has been said that the value of by-products from space exploration runs into trillions of dollars. On July 20, 1985, in proclamation of Space Exploration Day, President Ronald Reagan said, “The ever-increasing knowledge gained from peaceful space exploration, and the uses to which that knowledge is put, potentially benefit all those aboard Spaceship Earth. The spirit of July 20, 1969, lives on.”

Education is important to a civilized society. Our great country was founded by highly educated men upon Biblical concepts. The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States could never have been framed without these mental giants whose broad knowledge of government, politics and history matched their religious fervor. Education not only made these unprecedented freedoms that we enjoy possible, their maintenance will continue to require educated minds.

Education is important to the work of God. In order for each of us to develop into the person God envisioned us to be, we must grow in knowledge and expand our minds. In Psalm 119:20, 24 David said, “My soul is consumed with longing for your laws at all times; Your statutes are my delight; they are my counselors.” (NIV). This admonition means more than acquiring knowledge of the scriptures. We are also commissioned to exercise dominion over God’s creation. That makes study and learning a necessity. Christians employed as research scientists, medical doctors, finance brokers or music teachers all use their brains to bring glory to God. If all of us were theologians, we would lead meager lives. The world is filled with God’s glory and he invites us to embrace it emotionally, religiously and intellectually. Some of the most prominent figures in the Bible were men of education. Moses studied in the courts of Pharaoh. Daniel was an accomplished governmental advisor and rose to the top of two administrations. Luke was a physician. The Apostle Paul was schooled in the arts and sciences of his day. Others, like Isaiah, used writing skills that show evidence of a good education, although the scriptures do not specifically comment on their schooling. A strong case can be made that these men became even more useful to God because of their education.

Education is not a panacea, and it often gets in the way of the will of God. A popular saying goes, “Get an education and get over it.” Education must always be seen as a means to glorify God. If it becomes an end in itself, it is misguided. Those who pursue education out of intellectual pride are as wrong as those who pursue great wealth because of their greed. Let us remember, however, that the mind is a gift of God as much as any other physical, spiritual or material commodity. It is subject to misuse, abuse, but it may also be refined, cultivated and channeled to produce marvelous benefits to the kingdom of God.

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