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What Does the Bible Say about Education?

 

 

Betty Dunn

 

We live in an age of information overloaded with quick answers and how-to articles. With all of this information, have we become any wiser? Is education a flood of information or the ability to think critically about the information? What does the Bible say about education?

 

What Does the Bible Say about Pursuing Knowledge?

Studying the Torah and other religious teachings is part of our Hebrew heritage. And learning scriptures is a critical part of our Christian faith journey. As Proverbs 1:7 says, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” This verse isn’t merely about a high school student who doesn’t do their homework or an adult who would rather watch a football game than read the Bible. It describes knowledge as a path to wisdom.

 

Note that the phrase “the fear of the Lord” means wanting to honor Him. Seekers of wisdom begin with a yearning to get to know God through his word. The desire to know God leads to a desire to know His son, His people, and His creation. Our world expands with a greater understanding of its spiritual and physical elements. In our pursuit of knowledge, we may become wise and mature spiritually.

 

Jesus’ knowledge went far beyond the physical world. As a result, His disciples and the public struggled to fit Jesus’ statements into their mindsets. The Pharisees, Jewish law scholars, quizzed Jesus on his knowledge of the law and disapproved of His refusal to follow it precisely. For example, Jesus healed people on the Sabbath rather than “keeping it holy” (at least by their definition). The Pharisees insisted on following the laws in the Torah, while Jesus preached and lived the spirit of the law.

 

 

In the longest conversation recorded in the scriptures between Jesus and a person, He tells the Samaritan woman at the well the definition of true religion. They talk personally about her scandalous past: Jesus knows she has had many husbands and now lives with another man. These are facts she is surprised Jesus knows as a traveler through her village. When the conversation quickly moves to spiritual beliefs, the Samaritan woman sets up a smoke screen, telling Jesus the history and traditions of her faith. Jesus knocks down her defenses and responds with a message of worshiping God “in spirit and truth.” The most wonderful truth is that Jesus loves and accepts the woman at the well as one of God’s children. Their conversation transforms the woman’s life. She changes from being an outcast and scorned woman to a Christian. She even becomes an evangelist in her village. True knowledge of Christ’s words leads her to wisdom and understanding (John 4).

 

Though the woman at the well saw the truth in Jesus, His disciples were often baffled by His words about being born again, rising from the dead, and going before them into the next world. However, His words still intrigued them, so they followed Him. Though inspired, they couldn’t keep up with Him spiritually until all things were made clear with Jesus’ return visits to them on earth and the gift of the Holy Spirit.

 

 

While 1 Corinthians 13:12 remind us that humans are limited in their understanding of God, it also tells us that we are not stuck in permanent ignorance. We can pursue wisdom, as the psalmist wrote in Psalm 77:6—communing with God, our spirits searching for Him. Questioning and searching for answers to guide you in your Christian faith may result in answers from God and true wisdom.

 

 

What Does the Bible Say about Applying Knowledge?

One aspect of Jesus’ ministry the disciples did understand was the compassion He showed by healing people from all walks of life. Jesus applied the wisdom of God’s love in His ministry. His actions spoke louder and influenced people more than his words. Jesus told His disciples they could work the same miracles, do “these things and greater,” in John 14:12. And Paul advises us in James 1:22 to be “doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.”

 

Paul also preached about applying God’s teachings to our lives because it honors the one we follow. As 2 Timothy 2:15 reminds us, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (KJV). We study the Bible and follow Christian leaders to learn how to serve as Christians. Even Jesus knew God’s Word—his knowledge of Hebrew law impressed the teachers in the temple (Luke 2). He avoided the Pharisees’ mistake and followed the spirit rather than every tiny ritual. Still, he knew the Word of God and lived it out.

 

Jesus’ interactions with the Pharisees show how he applied his knowledge. When they questioned why he didn’t follow every Jewish law or custom—for example, when he socialized with those on society’s fringes—their questions merely interrupted his work. Jesus did not value knowledge for its own sake. The Pharisees wanted to boast of their purity, be right all of the time, and impress people with their knowledge. Jesus wanted to heal people. Sometimes he warned people he helped to live better, like the woman caught in adultery. Frequently, he healed or rescued and gave those people enough information to pursue him if they wanted to, but he didn’t tell them everything upfront.

 

 

What Does the Bible Say about Being a Good Student?

The Bible gives advice about educating children in passages like Proverbs 22:6, advising parents to raise children in the way they should go. It also gives several prominent examples of people God used who clearly studied well and were wise. Joseph was wise and gave good advice to the Egyptian noble Potiphar and Pharoah. When he became a member of Pharoah’s court, his formal education must have increased even further. King David was a master of the arts, playing music and writing poetry. The early kings and prophets of Israel and Judah were well-educated men. God used thinking and intelligent people to guide the early Hebrew nation. They all must have studied before they fulfilled their adult roles. Many of them failed to lead well either because they did not study well (not paying attention to the law) or did not apply it well (ignoring the law and following pagan idols instead).

 

What Does the Bible Say about Being A Responsible Teacher?

As hard as it was to put quality lectures and lesson plans together for students as a teacher, I think that was far easier than nourishing children’s and young adults’ souls. Our own souls, also growing in God’s wisdom, must direct the education process to raise good students of life effectively.

 

God speaks this wisdom to Joshua when he takes over for Moses as leader of the Israelites: “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it” (Joshua 1:7-9). In other words, if Joshua follows the law himself, he will be an effective leader.

 

Jesus was the ultimate teacher and role model. For example, he gave an excellent lecture on following God in His Sermon on the Mount. Some of His listeners were perhaps “poor in spirit” and didn’t understand His words at that time. His sermon still stands as a guidebook to living the Christian life. Jesus also taught us how to pray in Matthew 6:9-13.

 

What Does the Bible Say about a Parent’s Responsibility to Teach?

In a Christianity.com interview about Christian education, Keith Nix highlights the value of having an education curriculum that prepares people for successful lives. Nix claims that a good curriculum should have aspects of soul formation, not just information. Nix also claims that students need to develop problem-solving, critical thinking, and analysis skills to be useful to society. Furthermore, they need to appreciate the arts and be generalists rather than specialists. Information can be found with a few clicks on a cell phone (or by speaking into an internet application). Discerning what to do with the information is education’s true process.

 

This will not be a simple process. Proverbs 22:6 reads, “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old, they will not turn from it.” Teach by your actions, which always speak louder than words. Pray, attend church regularly, and live a righteous life your children can imitate and understand. And parents teach best if they follow Paul’s words in Ephesians 6:4: “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” It takes patience to teach. It takes time. We are our children’s first and most important teachers.

 

 

Think of Jesus teaching before the large crowd at the Sermon on the Mount or speaking to a small group of disciples, hanging on every word. Let God so guide the words you speak as you teach. Remember the prayer, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Thy sight, O Lord, my Strength and my Redeemer” (Psalm 19:14). God bless your teaching.

Matthias David
Matthias David
Working in His vine, as He does even more at mine.
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