A Theology of Studying

Author’s note: As I study for midterms and begin studying for finals, it is good to keep a biblical perspective on my studying (and my studies). This post is edited and expanded from some writing that my small group leader had me do.

“His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master’” (Matthew 15:21). Christ insists that we be good stewards of what we have been given. All material possessions are meant to be used for the furtherance of His kingdom. Taken one step further, all opportunities and experiences and talents are to be used to advance God’s kingdom, and this includes our education. We are not to squander it, to waste it, to bury it away. Christ will accept nothing less than a return on what we have been given. In that regard, we are called to be faithful stewards of the education that He has given us.

So what does it look like to be a faithful steward? Certainly it means to value and take seriously the gift that has been entrusted to us. It means that we ought not to disregard studying as something inferior to “fellowship,” especially when “fellowship” is not fellowship at all, but simply hanging out and having fun. There is nothing wrong with fun, but such pursuit needs to be balanced against the insistence of Christ that we be good stewards of the possessions and opportunities we have been given. We do need to take school seriously, and we do need to put effort into our studies. We ought to have a desire to see God glorified as we seek to do the most with the intellect He has given us.

Almost paradoxically, our stewardship of our education must in turn be balanced against the command to glorify God (1 Cor. 10:31). That is to say that the glory of God does not depend on the success of our stewardship, nor is the glory of God in our stewardship confined to the act of studying. The furtherance of the kingdom of God depends on so much more than how much we study, or how concerned or motivated we are to do well in school. Let me phrase it as a question: Is God glorified through our education if all we do is eat, sleep, go to class, study, go to church and Bible study? Is God glorified if all we do apart from the most necessary activities is study? God is glorified in our stewardship of education more than simply by the act of studying. Though it is important to be concerned about our academic well-being, I think it is more important to be concerned with how our handling of academia works toward the glory of God. So what it look like to glorify God through the stewardship of our education?

The answer that I find as I wrestle with that question is that how we glorify God in our education is no different from how we glorify God in everything else. In all other areas of our lives, we strive to glorify God by trusting Him, depending on Him, and working to make His name known. This ought to be no different in how we approach our education. Think of the Great Commission: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). One of the ways He can be glorified through our stewardship of our education is through the seizing of opportunities in our education to share the gospel with those on our campus.

Another way God will be glorified in our studies is by our attitude. Certainly our attitude should be one of gratitude, since we know that we do not deserve the education we have been granted. But more so, we can differentiate ourselves from non-believers in the way we react to our studies. Since our grades are not the measure of God’s glorification, we are not enslaved to them. Our lives ought not to revolve around how well we do in school. When we do well, we should rejoice, since God has graciously allowed us to excel. But it will not always be so, and for the times when God decides that our struggle is more necessary than our success, we ought to ready ourselves. We need to affirm that our stewardship is measured in faithfulness, not in success. We need to know that our trust is not in our grades and our abilities, but in the blood of Christ to present us  holy and blameless before the Father (Ephesians 1:4, Colossians 1:22).

Our trust when our grades are not what we want them to be should be in God. Not only in a continued faith in the sacrifice of Jesus, but also in the goodness of God today. Paul assures us that “for those who love God all things work together for good” (Romans 8:28). In our lack of academic success–indeed, even in our academic failure, in the literal sense of the word–God is working for our good. Perhaps it is not in a way that is perceivable to us now, but God assures us that He is working for our good. Faith in that fact glorifies God, and a lack of faith displays a lack of trust in the goodness of God and in His truthfulness.

Stewardship of our education is important, but we need to know that it involves more than just studying. We also need to know that it is measured in faithfulness and trust, not in our grades. Thus our fixation should not be on how well we do, but solely and constantly on how we can glorify God through our education. In doing so, our education will be God-glorifying and us-sanctifying.

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