Anyone who has asked the question, “why study?” is met with the standard answers:
– To get a degree
– To get a good job so you can enjoy life
– To not end up as a road-sweeper (or trash collector, cleaning aunty or insert your own perceived demeaning job here: _____________)
It’s a narrative that has been ingrained in many of us from young. And so we jump into the stormy seas of the national exams and try our best to keep afloat with the life buoys of enrichment classes and tuition. Some do really well. Some barely survive. But have we ever asked ourselves, “What’s the point of all of this?”
As a student growing up, I certainly didn’t. School was something we all had to do to survive in this world, no questions asked. Exams were endured; while my school days were spent juggling schoolwork, CCAs, ballet and piano lessons, and Chinese and Math tuition classes that I absolutely hated.
SCHOOL WAS SOMETHING WE ALL HAD TO DO TO SURVIVE IN THIS WORLD, NO QUESTIONS ASKED.
I gave due diligence to my studies, and one could say my efforts paid off because I graduated from university without much ado and got a comfortable, stable job as a teacher. Not that I really wanted to become one — it was more a matter of limited choices (what can you do with an English major?) and securing a job upon graduation. It was only in my 5th year as a teacher that the questions began. I enjoyed my colleagues and the students, producing good results on the whole and had even been selected for the leadership track. Despite all this, something began to bother me. Batch after batch of students were herded through the system. My job was to ensure that they did well enough to get into a university of choice which would then ensure their pathway to a good job and consequently, a good life. If they got married and had kids, they’d send their kids through the same stressful system in order to achieve the same goal. Was this really the abundant life (John 10:10) that Jesus said he came to give us?
After months of praying and soul-searching, I decided to leave the service. It was not an easy decision, and many told me that I was crazy to give all this up, but I had to find out if there was anything more to life than this endless paper chase.
In the end, my journey of wondering and wandering led me to this life-giving truth: education is not solely a ticket to a good job; for Christians, education has everything to do with God and His kingdom.
EDUCATION LEADS US TO A DEEPER WORSHIP OF GOD
Firstly, education deepens our worship of God. Colossians 2:3 tells us that in Christ is hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Christ, the Word of God (John 1:1), who created the world and all that is in it (John 1:2), is the Author and Designer of all things (Gen 1:1). Our time in school is a wonderful opportunity to discover more about the world that God created and, in turn, to discover more about the One who created it.
For example, maths is not just about numbers and equations; it reveals the order and beauty of God who graciously gave us a language that would help us understand and explain His world. History is not about memorising boring facts, but a study of God’s involvement in our world and faithfulness to His covenant. The sciences reveal His precision, ingenious creativity, and tender care toward all creation, and the arts explore what it means to be created in the image of a Creator God.
When we begin to see through eyes of faith, we realise that every subject we learn in school presents us with the opportunity to marvel at the greatness of God and to worship Him anew.
EVERY SUBJECT WE LEARN IN SCHOOL PRESENTS US WITH THE OPPORTUNITY TO MARVEL AT THE GREATNESS OF GOD AND TO WORSHIP HIM ANEW.
EDUCATION EQUIPS US FOR THE KINGDOM
Secondly, education equips us to partner God in His mission. The Fall of humankind (Gen 3) caused a disordering and distortion of God’s original design. But through Christ, all things have been reconciled to him (Col 1:15–20) — that is, brought back into wholeness. A complete restoration will only happen when Christ comes again (Rev 21:5). But in the meantime, as co-heirs with Christ (Rom 8:17), we are called to bring wholeness to our broken families, societies, policies, and structures in all spheres of life. Education becomes a key component of this process, as it prepares us to fulfil our roles in His kingdom mission well.
In school, we learn about teamwork, discipline, and how to overcome challenges — that’s an equipping in fortitude, character, and social-emotional skills. We learn about the building blocks of knowledge and how to apply them — that’s an equipping in knowledge and skills.
In school, we have many opportunities to discover more about our strengths and talents, and to work on our weaknesses. Are we better at maths or English? Do we prefer abstract concepts or to work with our hands? Are we team players or lone rangers?
Our schooling years are the best time to find out. Sadly, when the goal of education is only about getting good grades, we miss out on the many opportunities presented to us to be able to discover these gifts.
The fact is that each of us has been uniquely gifted for a part in God’s kingdom. We are his workmanship, created for good works in Christ Jesus (Eph 2:10). God has gifted some of us with the compassion that is suited for nursing or social work. God has gifted some of us with business acumen or an entrepreneurial spirit. God has gifted some of us with agility and strength, others with finger dexterity or sensitive taste buds. Some have the gift of the gab. Just like the parable of the talents (Matt 25:14–30), each of us has been given different talents — some have more, some have less, but each is called to wise stewardship of these resources.
God is asking each one of us — what will you do with what I’ve given you? Hide it away? Complain that you have less than everybody else? Or steward whatever gifts have been given you for the glory of God and the benefit of the world?
A BETTER VISION FOR EDUCATION
As Christians, we need a better vision for education — one that moves beyond the stress of exams and points us to love God and seek His kingdom. I wish I had known this when I was growing up. I don’t think it would have made maths any easier for me, but it definitely would have allowed me to have a better attitude toward it!
THE FACT IS THAT EACH OF US HAS BEEN UNIQUELY GIFTED FOR A PART IN GOD’S KINGDOM.
Whether you have two or ten years left to your educational journey, I encourage you to make the most of your time. No doubt, it can be really challenging at times, but don’t let the system rob you of your God-given curiosity and the joy of loving the Lord with your mind. As students, and even parents and teachers, may the words of this hymn by Tom Troeger be our prayer:
Blend, O God, our faith and learning
Till they carve a single course
While they join as one returning
Praise and thanks to you, their Source