Faith and Study

For Those About to Study

It is very nearly time to return to school. For those who are about to hit the books again I have three helpful thoughts. Well, they helped me:

“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Cor 10:31)

Education systems are usually based on achieving some kind of honor. You are honored for your work, praised for success and spurred on by merit. This might be a motivating factor for academic achievement, but for those who love God it is the honor of God that takes primary place. As Paul implies, even a Math quiz can be done for the glory of God. And if it is possible to glorify God in a Math test, then doing it well is not just a matter of gaining merit, but of giving glory to the one from whom we receive all numbers. It also implies that failing a Math test (something I can say a lot about) can be done to glorify God (by, perhaps, reflecting a humble spirit, praising those who did well and trying harder next time).

“For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Eph 2:10).

It is tempting to see education as merely preparation, something that only has value in as far as it produces something in the future. Better, I think, to regard one’s education as part of the work that God has prepared for us to do. Every essay, every quiz, every well thought out question, is a work that God has prepared for you to do. And that is where the value of those things lie – in God’s plan, in his work.

“When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, “Repent” (Matt 4:17), he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance” (Martin Luther, 95 Thesis, Thesis #1).

Repeneting is often seen as being sorry for something, but it actually means to turn. And a turn to something entails a turn from something else. Luther’s idea was that the whole Christian life was to be a continual turning from sin, self, idolatry, self-sufficiency and the former life of the flesh to God. In practice this might mean that refraining from cheating is not merely seen as obeying the rules or avoiding the punishment, but as a turning away from one’s sinful nature, one’s predilection for lying and cheating, and to the truth found in God and his Word – to our new nature (Eph 4:24).

May God bless you as you serve him in your studies.

For further reading try chapter 16 of The Westminster Confession of Faith on good works. 

Assistant Professor of Philosophy and History of Ideas at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and The College at Southeastern.