Education: Why Bother?

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Why Bother?

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King Solomon of Israel, a man of great wisdom, wrote, "Of making many books there is no end, and much study is wearisome to the flesh" (Ecclesiastes 12:12). Just a few sentences prior, he had also denounced life as "vanity of vanities," wearily adding, "All is vanity" (verse 8).

That settles it, then. If the man with wisdom imparted by God Himself describes learning as wearisome and vain, who are we to argue? The only conclusion to draw here is that education is a waste of time, right?

Well, not quite. Also recorded in the pages of the Bible are God's laments over backsliding Israel, namely, "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being priest for Me; because you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children" (Hosea 4:6).

What we need to understand about Ecclesiastes is that Solomon wrote it after seeking knowledge and understanding through all kinds of physical pursuits. In the end, he cautioned his readers that one cannot be truly happy and successful apart from God. The melancholy overtones of the book stem from his realization that a life without God is empty.

We can see this with learning. Suppose, for example, that you dedicate your life to becoming the foremost expert on the matter of breeding whippets (we are also supposing that, for some inexplicable reason, you are big on whippets—a breed of dog). At the peak of your career, you are renowned across the globe for your invaluable contributions to the field of whippet breeding. When the world thinks of whippet puppies, they think of you. You are Dr. Whippet, legend.

But at the end of your life, you are a very dead Dr. Whippet, however legendary. Even supposing your eager students compile your veritable hoard of whippet wisdom into The Analects of the Late Dr. Whippet, Legend and garner you an impressive cult following within whippet circles, you have no idea. Six feet under, you can no longer enjoy the fruit of your whippet labor.

In other words: Congratulations, you accomplished something and then died.

Which brings us to that age-old question: Why bother? What's the point of learning if the end result is that you still end up as a corpse in the ground?

Here's the answer: When you factor God into the equation, that whole death problem disappears. When you take into account that God's plan for all humanity involves ultimately giving eternal life to those who choose to follow Him, and establishing those called in this life as kings and priests in His perfect, everlasting Kingdom, the question becomes not "Why should I learn?" but rather "What should I learn?"

What follows is practical advice for becoming an effective learner now in order to maximize your experience in this life—and the next.

Remember the Source

It's all well and good if you want to gain a better understanding of the world around you, but you won't get very far unless you recognize where both the understanding and the world comes from. Solomon wrote, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge" (Proverbs 1:7).

Without a healthy respect for and knowledge of the God who created the universe, we are limited in what we can understand about His creation. While the world's scientists have intimate and detailed knowledge about certain pieces of the puzzle, they do not understand that what they are looking at is a puzzle.

Understanding the character and plan of God allows us to look at the same pieces that are mysteries to the world's top minds, examine them and see where they fit in the big picture.

Class is always in session

American historian George Iles once said, "Whoever ceases to be a student has never been a student." In other words, being a student is a lifelong state of mind, not a role limited to classrooms stuffed with desks and with posters of atoms, prepositions and of famous battles. A true student's classroom is life and everything in it. His or her goal? To find the lesson in every situation and apply it personally.

When our approach to any scenario we encounter is, "What should I learn from this?" we will haul away treasure troves of useful knowledge. We may learn conflict resolution skills, refine communication skills or even come to understand ourselves better. We may learn patience, trust, self-control and kindness. There is no end to the possibilities as long as we keep our eyes open for them.

Pursue what you love

True, not everyone is excited about breeding whippets (sorry, whippet breeders). And although we all have different tastes and interests, there is bound to be something that excites you—something that, at your core level, you just connect with and enjoy.

Once you've found that something, I urge you to pursue it. Don't just dabble in it every now and then. As much as possible, integrate it into your day-to-day life. Whatever your something is, it can strengthen your relationship with God.

Why? Because "from the time the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky and all that God made. They can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature" (Romans 1:20, New Living Translation).

God's handiwork is present in all His creation. Science teaches us about the myriad intricacies of His designs. Math teaches us about His detailed sense of order and consistency. History shows the perils of disobeying His commands and His faithfulness to His people. Languages teach us the beauty and depths of the communication He has enabled between mankind and Himself. Art gives us a glimpse into the creative ability He has designed into us.

The list goes on, but the point remains: In pursuing the fields we enjoy, we will come to understand with increased clarity who God is and grow closer to Him as a result.

By the time this article goes to print, I will be returning from a 2 1/2 week trip to Africa. I'm going because it's an opportunity to serve. But I'm also going because it's an opportunity to grow. I have no doubt that there will be much to learn from my brothers and sisters in Christ living halfway across the world—and I can't wait to learn it.

I can think of no better way to conclude an article on the importance of learning than by borrowing from the apostle Peter's conclusion in 2 Peter 3:14, 18: "Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless...[and] grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen." VT