The Heart of True Education

I have graduated several times in my life, not counting elementary or Sunday school of course. There was high school, Bible school, Bible college, and, finally, seminary. Although they all were very different, there was at least one similar question, “What are you going to do when you graduate?” That question is still asked of grads today.

It seems like a fair question. People are curious. They like to know. But I've noticed the emphasis is always on doing, as if all education is meant to do is to simply help you do a job like teach, manage, or write.

Consider graduation from the side of the graduate. The graduate often tells herself something like, “Once I graduate, and get a job, then I will be able to get stuff—money, my own business, car, house, vacations, toys!” I don't believe there is anything wrong with things, but the emphasis is often on what one can acquire as a result of education.

God has a different idea about education. According to Scripture real education is not just about doing, or having better options to acquire things. God is more concerned about our hearts and our being, more than He is about our doing—who we are as opposed to what we do.

That sounds pretty radical. Especially in a society and culture that is driven by the need to achieve and accumulate. We live in a world primarily concerned with the externals of doing and having. To say God is more concerned with our heart than He is about our actions runs contrary to prevailing culture and, sadly, the thinking of many Christians.

Even Christians can fall into this trap, albeit we dress it up in religious garb. We all too easily believe God is more concerned with our religious performance than He is with our hearts. We can be thoroughly knowledgeable about the Bible, say all the right words, be at all the right Christian events and do all the right things. But in all that we can still be worldly because our hearts are not honouring to God.

Certainly God wants us to live righteous lives and do righteous acts, but having a righteous heart is primary. Even in the Old Testament where external acts were legislated in the law, God was more concerned with the hearts of His people. Jesus reinforced that idea in Matthew 15:1-20 when He said, “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me” (v.8 NIV).

According to the curriculum for God's school, Proverbs, the first and most basic principle of all education and knowing how things work is having a heart that fears the Lord (Proverbs 1:7). Without that foundation, all knowledge will be incomplete. One can understand all the intricacies and mysteries of the universe, but without knowing the God who created it, that knowledge is incomplete. One can study human nature but without understanding man is created in the image of God that knowledge is only partial. When one fears the Lord, one can then go on to become wise and properly use the knowledge acquired through education.

Solomon was wise. Despite his extensive knowledge he understood the core of true education begins with a heart that is right before God and sees and responds to life from God's point of view. He knew that it is from the heart, not the head that all the issues of life flow (Proverbs 4:23). He wrote, “Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding” (Proverbs 4:7).

Our sense of identity, self-awareness, and self-confidence are forged through education. Education develops our strengths, weaknesses, limitations, personality, and character. Our awareness of others and the world around us, the kind of person we are and how we think are all things education helps improve in us. And all those benefits of education are good.

But all these things must find their root in a heart that fears the God who made and owns the world and everything in it (Psalm 24:1).

The world is full of highly educated brilliant people whose training has enabled them to have much and do much. Are these the people who have high marks with God? No. He says, “These are the ones I look on with favor: those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at my word” (Isaiah 66:2).

To graduate from God's school, to be the kind of person He uses and who pleases Him, we have to have hearts of wisdom. That's the heart of true education.