A Warning Concerning Education

The Bible warns against men in too high esteem.

You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men? For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere men? What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe – as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow (1 Corinthians 3:3-7).

We are also warned not to hold ourselves in too high esteem.

Do not deceive yourselves. If any one of you thinks he is wise by the standards of this age, he should become a “fool” so that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: “He catches the wise in their craftiness”; and again, “The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile” (1 Corinthians 3:18-20).

Too often in the scholarly realm the man is put on the pedestal. It then becomes more important what men say than what God says. Besides holding men and their teachings too highly, many educated men and women become proud of their status of wisdom in the eyes of the world. But the Bible tells us that God’s idea of wisdom is radically different from man’s.

Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?… Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things – and the things that are not – to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God – that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:20, 26-31).

So we are not to boast in worldly wisdom but in the gospel of Jesus Christ, for it is the work of the gospel that has made us who we are today in Christ Jesus.

We are given many warnings in the Word of God about what happens when we boast in our own wisdom. “Knowledge puffs up, but loves builds up” (1 Corinthians 8:1b).

If I speak in the tongues of men and angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I posses to the poor and surrender my body to the flames but have not love, I gain nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).

If we miss the point of the gifts God has given us – if we do not love God with all we are and love others as Christ loves us – our work is meaningless. It doesn’t matter how many books you’ve read, if you have a college degree, or if you have climbed the academic ladder as high as it goes. It is possibly to completely miss God and what he’s doing if you become puffed up about yourself. We are warned, “Do not think more highly of yourself than you ought” (Romans 12:3).

Do you need proof that God delights in using people this world views as foolish to confound the wise and to do his work? Look at D.L. Moody. Moody only had a sixth-grade education, and he went on to lead hundreds of thousands of people to Christ. More than that, our Lord used him to found a Bible college that is still standing today. Or look at A.W. Tozer. Tozer wasn’t educated either, but he was a man who knew God better than most scholars, and his life, preaching and writing showed it. A.W. Tozer preached by the power of the Holy Spirit. No education can replace that.

I’m not saying that education in and of itself is a bad thing, but that basing one’s worth on education is unbiblical and sometimes idolatrous.

Ecclesiastes, that great book of the Bible themed on meaning and futility, ends with these words:

Of making many books there is no send, and much study wearies the body. Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil (Ecclesiastes 12:12-14).

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