There are exceptions to almost all moral laws, depending on the situation. What is wrong in one instance may be right in another.” This quote is taken from a high school psychology textbook and underlines the secular humanism prevalent in schools and universities today. But are we to shun education? As in every aspect of our lives, we have the Word of God to guide us.
Throughout the Old Testament there are instances of the children of Israel being gathered together to hear the statutes and judgments of the Lord so they would learn to keep them and would fear the Lord all the days of their lives (Deut 4:10; 5:1). They were to learn so that there would be lasting benefits throughout life. Secular education should prepare us for the days ahead that God graciously gives us on earth. This might mean a career or work that He would lead us into, something requiring special training and preparation. To become a nurse, a lawyer, or an electrician, proper training and licensing is required, so formal education is a necessity. Other types of work may require vocational training with less academic studies, but each is designed to prepare the student for what is ahead. Knowing the mind of the Lord is a topic in itself, but in every case, there should be a deep exercise to know what He has in His perfect plan for us to do, and, then to pursue the necessary education or training.
While there can be a great value and necessity in secular education, students and Christian parents need to be constantly on guard to the existing dangers. The vast majority of educators today are liberal in their thinking and bring this mindset into the classroom. There are very few careers where a person has so much autonomy and is able to close the classroom door on a captive audience and propagate whatever thinking he or she wishes, with little or no accountability. This is particularly true in colleges and universities but also something to be concerned about in every classroom. Students who are not firmly established in the Word of God can be easily led astray and tripped up. Thus, there is the repeated reminder of God to Moses to teach the people so “that they may learn to fear Me all the days that they shall live upon the earth, and that they may teach their children.”
Students may often feel intimidated by teachers and feel hesitant to speak up against error. There is a time and a place for everything: a private conversation with an instructor, or an email to her may be a better way to make your convictions known. A teacher may be more willing to provide alternate readings or assignments if he is first approached in private. On the other hand, a student who is well-versed in the Scriptures may do much good for the name of the Lord Jesus to speak boldly. The disciples in Acts 4 spoke boldly and taught the people even though the religious leaders were grieved with them, but notice the end result was that “many of them which heard the Word believed” (Acts 4:4).
The admonition from God, given by Solomon, is good advice to every student in every aspect of life. “My son, give me thine heart, and let thine eyes observe my ways (Prov 23:26). To imbibe the teaching and philosophies of the unregenerate will only lead to chaos and ruin.
Schools in the USA require 12 grades of schooling in accredited education programs. Parents with children in the public sector, and even in private schools, need to be diligent in knowing what their children are being taught in every class. Satan is an evil and devious enemy and the classroom is not immune from his devices. Insidious and damaging evils are being propagated in classrooms of every grade level and these are being taught as the “norms” of our day with a total disregard for the Word of God.
God reminded Moses of the value of teaching His judgments and statues to the people. It was so they would not learn to do after the abominations of those nations (Deut 18:9). In Ezekiel we are also reminded of the dangers that could result if there was not proper teaching. “And they shall teach My people the difference between the holy and profane, and cause them to discern between the unclean and the clean” (Eze 44:23). Impressionable minds can be easily led astray with wrong teaching when the Word of God is not present to correct and guide in a right path.
Christian schools may provide some insulation from wrong teaching and be a better alternative to some public schools, but we need to remember the sin principle is still active there and not all teachers are necessarily truly born again. The title of “Christian” is easily taken, even when there is no evidence of divine life. While there is still the possibility of evil being taught in these schools, there is a greater danger of teaching which looks like truth or that which fosters compromise. Some have been led astray as a result of this and what was designed to be a preservative in a “better” school did more damage in the long run.
A college or university education is not for everyone. There is a tremendous amount of pressure put on schools today to ensure that every student goes to college. As a result, there is a high percentage of students who never finish the first year and statistics show that only 50% to 60% earn a degree within six years of starting college. The high cost of secondary education today has left many students and parents with huge debt and sometimes there is little hope of a return on the investment. Prestigious and costly schools do not guarantee a better job or higher wages. Alternatives such as community colleges or online degree programs may be better choices, especially for students who are unsure of the Lord’s work for their life.
Teens will often feel pressure from peers to be like the crowd and that college is the thing to do, regardless of the realities that may indicate otherwise. Again, a prayerful exercise before the Lord should be the priority before taking any step. If the experience of high school has been a painful struggle with little success, then the reality is that the college experience will likely be more of the same. If fact, some who have done well in secondary education, fall on their faces in college when there may be less parental involvement or accountability. A wise teenager would do well to seek the wisdom and guidance of parents and godly persons in the assembly. “A wise son heareth his father’s instruction: but a scorner heareth not rebuke” (Prov 13:1). Many a problem could have been avoided by heeding the advice of those who have experience in these matters.
Parents, particularly those who may be footing the bills for college, should be closely involved in the process of choosing a college or university. There have been some who have caved in to a child’s desire to attend an expensive university with little consideration given to the costs or true benefits.
Part of the decision making process in post-secondary education is whether to live on campus or at home. Many teenagers are anxious to get away from home, community, and parental influences, and be “free.” There may be situations where the choices are limited. If the Lord has given clear guidance as to an occupation to pursue but no local schools offer the training that is necessary, there may be no option to live at, or close to, home.
The Lord will never call His child to a work that will hinder communion and fellowship with Him. For a teen who is in the fellowship of a local assembly, Scripture would forbid a move that would cause him to be away from the assembly. “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together as the manner of some is” (Heb 10:25). To intentionally put yourself in a position where attendance at the meetings would be impossible does not square with Scripture or with the words of the Lord Jesus. “If ye love me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15).
School workloads can also reach crisis proportions in a student’s life, and right priorities are essential for a life of godliness. Attendance at the weekly or special meetings of the assembly is sometimes sacrificed on the altar of higher grades. A fresh look at the Savior, Who gave everything to purchase us for Himself and His claims on our lives, can help us keep our priorities right. Secular education has value in this life. Education in God’s school reaps blessing in this life and for eternity. “Them that honor Me I will honor, and they that despise Me shall be lightly esteemed” (1Sam 2:30). The relative value of time spent in secular study is nothing compared to having a crown to lay at His feet in a coming day. He is so worthy of our all!
For a young person who may be saved, or even for the unsaved, it would not be wise to remove yourself from the influence of the Lord’s people, the Word of God, or the assembly. Dangers in the world today can easily ruin testimony or turn hearts away from the truth. The Word of God is a preservative in a sinful world. “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” (Ps 119:105), but to turn away from that light is to walk in darkness where you will stumble and fall. Solomon reminds us of those “who leave the paths of uprightness, to walk in the ways of darkness” (Prov 2:13).
The priority of every child of God should be to move in a path of obedience to His Word, even in choices involving education and training, remembering the principle of God honoring those who honor Him.
The benefits of learning in God’s “school” and from His Word are clearly defined for us by the apostle Paul. “Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all” (1Tim 4:15). The principles are the same in secular education for the child of God. It should move us forward in a direction that is honoring to Him and for His glory.
In some cases there may be required classes that would teach things contrary to the Word of God. The student may not have the option to avoid the class; however, every attempt should be made to find an alternate which would not be dishonoring to the name of the Lord Jesus. If a degree program involved a great deal of classes centered on secular humanism or error, then the student should question whether the chosen program is to satisfy self or to honor the Lord Jesus. “If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the Spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part He is evil spoken of, but on your part He is glorified (1Peter 4:14). Choosing a path of reproach for the name of Christ may be costly, but will be well worth it all at the Judgment Seat when we hear His “well done.”
Education can be a profitable and rewarding experience when the ultimate purpose and goal is to use it to honor and glorify the name of the Lord Jesus. In training and studies the student should be diligent and work to achieve high marks, but it should never be at the expense of spiritual growth and the things of God. When Christ has the preeminence and His rightful place in our lives, then we can move in the confidence of His presence. The words of the Lord Jesus Himself would remind us of right priorities. “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness” (Matt 6:33).
The highest priority in our learning is found in the words of Paul to Timothy. “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of truth” (2Tim 2:15).