Motives for Education

Every activity of mall is normally motivated by a variety of factors whether internal or external, physical or mental. Some of these may even be beyond one’s control. For the child of God it becomes imperative that his every action be properly and soundly motivated. In other words. whatever the Christian believer does should be guided by motives which conform with God’s revealed truth and, thus, render unto Him all glory.

As we think of education, we are reminded that it is a task and process through which every man has to go at some stage of his life, at least for a limited number of years. It is in the process of education that man’s God-given talents are discovered and developed so that man may fulfill his God-appointed tasks in the world -tasks which normally depend on the continual sharpening of those discovered talents. As we further think of education in our modern world we also have to reflect on going to school, since this is the medium provided for the encounter of minds, the impartation of knowledge, and the mental growth of the pupil.

In order to discover and develop his talents, then, man needs to attend a school. In the early years of one’s life going to school depends on the parental guidance and motivation; in some countries it may even depend on the government regulations concerning the minimum of education each citizen is expected to obtain. But there is a time when the pupil has to determine for and by himself whether to continue his education or not. Therefore, motives have to be considered by that individual, explaining the reasons of his decision one way or the other. Among those who go to college or even to graduate school, one frequently finds the following motivations:

(1) Some go to college to satisfy the parents’ desires. The young person himself is not interested in higher learning; perhaps his high-school record or his own consciousness indicate that he is not college material. Yet, because Dad and Mom want him to be in college, he complies with their desire and enters college, remaining there as long as it is possible and, many times, transferring to other schools that would accept him after flunking elsewhere.

(2) Another type is represented by the student who wants to be away from home, and college, of course, is something that Father and Mother would automatically agree as the only ideal place away from home to which their child should go. Perhaps the parents themselves did not have a college education and, thus. are eager to see their children achieve a status which they themselves were kept from reaching.

(3) Not to be forgotten also, especially in the current decade, are the military draft-evaders. These are the young men who are afraid of facing a battle field and all its consequences. Many of them have no interest in education but college is the best place they can go in order legitimately t9 avoid serving their country, at least in war time. Interestingly enough many of these are among the most vocal patriots one can find, but when the time comes for them more concretely to show their patriotism, they run away from duty, and college for some and the theological seminary for others become the places of refuge.

(4) A very common motivation among many pursuing higher education pertains to their Future social and economic betterment. These are the students who know that with more degrees and better education they can more easily get good-paying jobs and advance socially. This in itself is a noble ambition when accompanied by the most basic motivation. Nevertheless, this is usually not the case in our materialistic society.

(5) The only sound motivation, and the one that should guide Christian students in their academic endeavors, is obedience to God’s demands of His children and concern for His honor and glory. Everything a Christian does, whether he realizes it or not, is done unto the Lord. Paul the apostle states, “Therefore. whether yc eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God” (I Corinthians 10:31). If we are expected to do our very bcst at school. in our jobs, for our government, etc., how much more careful should we be in the discharging of our every-task which is also service unto Almighty God! But our best today is not necessarily our best of yesterday, just as our best of today should not be counted upon as our best for tomorrow. As long as we live new doors are open before us to enter, new heights are ahead of us to be climbed, new rough seas remain open for our regaining of land! We are to stir up the girt that is within us for the glory of the Triune God.

As the Creator made the heavens and the earth, He placed man in the world as His vice-regent and said:

“Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth” (Genesis 1:28). This passage has been rightly referred to as the cultural mandate, later on repeated to Noah in Genesis 9:1, 7 and by implication clearly stated throughout the Scriptures. According to Prof. Dr. K. J. Popma, “we could call this task a cultural task, because his duty was to cultivate, to exploit, to develop the created, and by this cultivation to unfold it. This development concerns the entire creation, not only the creation outside of man, but also and first of all man himself. For a man grows with his task, and in the fulfillment of it he proceeds from one stage to the next, until he has reached the complete human development.”

Therefore as Christians we are to strive for excellence in all that we do. Such an attitude should not originate in a proud heart, neither proceed from a selfishly ambitious soul, but in recognition of God’s expectations of His purchased people. It is preposterous to encounter Christian people in the world who claim to “love the Lord” and yet are the first ones to turn their backs on some or “all His commandments.” Because of slothfulness on the part of so many Christian believers both in the past and in the present, because so many have ceased from being “the salt of the earth” and “the light of the world” (Matthew 5:13, 14), many areas of endeavor have been lost to God-denying men and women in the world. Perhaps the field of education has been one of the most seriously affected since scholarly activity as a calling for the Christian has been and continues to be despised by other “Christians” who have lost their vision and, thus, have ceased from exercising their prophetic and kingly functions. They don’t realize that even in academic life we are to “show forth the praises of him who hath called [us] out of darkness into his marvellous light” (I Peter 2:9), thus performing our priestly duty as well. The late Henry Zylstra has brought to our attention the fact that “it is as human beings that we are Christians, in our human nature expressing itself in a natural environment, expressing itself also in cultural activity of all kinds, and, further, in a particular historical situation here on earth. Our being called to be saints does not exempt us from social and political obligation, nor render reason superfluous, nor permit an indifference to art and literature, nor lift us out of history. On the contrary, it is in and through these things that our moral and religious choice for the spiritual kingdom of Christ becomes concrete, real, and meaningful.”

Because all we perform in life is service unto God, this excludes anything we do from being unrelated to Him, even the most menial acts. For this reason we should search our hearts and devote ourselves wholeheartedly unto Him so that the “polishing” of the gifts He has bestowed upon us may result in the continual presentation of our whole beings and not only our souls, as “a sweet-smelling sacrifice” unto the King of Kings for whose glory we breathe, live and fulfill our daily duties. Let us give Him our best who gave us His best!

*With a background that includes education in four continents, two pastorates, and a College professorship in the USA, the author, who is a Presbyterian from Brazil, outlines a vital subject worthy of every Christian’s prayerful reflection.

Professor Lyra is Professor of Education at Shelton College, New Jersey.