There is no easy way to say this, but someone has got to say it. Ready? Alright...
Education… is… overrated!
Now before you throw something sharp at me, please hear me out. I am not saying that education is unimportant or unnecessary. I am not advocating mental laziness or dropping out of school. I am also not downplaying the problems and shortcomings in our public school system. As believers in Christ, we understand that the way we use our brains and intellect is a stewardship of what God has given us and, therefore, a responsibility that we cannot take lightly. We also understand that as believers we have a responsibility to be careful about where we send our children to school and who will have influence over their thinking. In these ways, education is an important issue.
So then why would I have the audacity to claim that education is overrated? To be straightforward: education—for many of us—has been elevated over the gospel. Specifically, the value placed on education has become an idol that rivals and replaces Christ in our hearts. Our educational identity has been elevated—dare I say it—over our identity in Jesus. This mindset is not a small matter; it is, in fact, opposition to the gospel.
Let me begin to explain by looking to scripture. In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, Paul teaches us that through the gospel God has taken us who “were dead in the trespasses and sins” and “made us alive together with Christ…and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” God brought both the Jew and the Gentile and “made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility…that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace.”
We have been made one with Christ. We who were dead have been raised with Him and made alive. We have been seated with Him in the heavenly places. He is our new identity! If you are not staggered by that then you probably need to take some time and meditate on its truth while praying that God would help you grasp it anew.
What are we teaching our children about their identity when we care far more about their grades than their spiritual appetites and pursuits?
At the center of this new identity in Christ is a group of people with differing nationalities and of different races that are made one new man. This means that you and I have been made one with Christ and by extension one with another in a new corporate identity. This corporate identity in Christ is the most important identity we have. We have gone from being of different distinctive groups and races to being a new unified people in Christ. Therefore, our new corporate identity prevails over every other possible identity group to which we might be tempted to cling. It is more important than our identity as American, Caucasian, teenager, parent, student, doctor, mechanic, ivy-league, or community college.
Sadly, many believers have exalted educational identity over their identity in Christ. This has evidenced itself in three discernible ways.
Parents and students have become much more concerned about educational performance than spiritual maturity. Again, I am not saying that pursuing excellence in education is unimportant, however, it has become for many believers an all-consuming issue. Much emphasis is placed on grades and successfully making it to the next year of school. The thought of a student not graduating from high school is seen as one of the largest failures someone could have in their life. Furthermore, some parents spend an enormous amount of money and time to get their children the best education and to make sure they are doing their work all with the hopes of sending them to the best college possible. This is seen by many to be a matter of extreme urgency. But, where is the urgency concerning spiritual growth and maturity? What are we teaching our children about their identity when we care far more about their grades than their spiritual appetites and pursuits?
Another evidence is that educational preference or conviction has caused division in some churches. When I served on pastoral staff at a church in North Carolina the church campus weekly hosted the largest homeschool co-op in all of the state. Homeschooling was a big deal in that church community. It was such a big deal that it served to have a divisive impact on the church body. Families identified as either homeschool, public school, or private school families. They would associate with one another so much so that they would disassociate from those who were not likeminded in educational choice. Over time they even sat in different sections in the church. Now, I do not intend to deal with the strengths and dangers of each educational option in this article. That will come in a few weeks. What I do want to say here is that to elevate your educational choice over the bond that we have in Jesus attacks our corporate identity. This is no less than an attack on the gospel.
The third evidence is that believers find more meaningful community with their school community than with their church. People’s lives revolve around their child’s schooling. Whether it is the public, private, or homeschool option many parents spend countless hours involved in educating their children every week. This investment forms relationships with teachers, administrators, coaches, and other parents that can be richly rewarding and used for gospel growth. These relationships can be encouraging and helpful as each option has its challenges and needs. However, the problem is that these relationships and connections can become stronger and more defining for you than those you have with believers in your local assembly. This is a sign that your educational identity has become more important than your identity in Jesus.
Make no mistake about it, education is an important issue that demands our faithful stewardship. Let us not, though, forget the truth and reality of the gospel and our corporate identity in Christ.
This article is Part 1 of a three-part education article series.