Mark Twain once opined that “soap and education are not as sudden as a massacre, but they are more deadly in the long run.” The world chuckled, but not Solomon. “A wise man will hear and increase learning. . . . But fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Prov. 1:5,7).
Our Lord Jesus was no fool, nor was He born with mature wisdom. Luke records that “Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men” (2:52). Almost the same words were used to describe the child Samuel. Hence Christ’s education was no sham, and examining His can teach us about ours. Having been ‘found in fashion as a man,’ Jesus needed an education which embraced the whole of His human life.
Christ’s education involved physical development: He increased in stature. There have been those who have viewed the sinful human body with contempt, even assuming God is more pleased with bodies that are frail and ignored. Some might yet down-play physical education. Nowhere does Scripture describe Jesus as being puny, as contemptuous of His body, or as a morbid ascetic. He may not have pumped iron as a teenager, but He surely did use His developing physical strength and health to the glory of God. Having been made fearfully and wonderfully, Christians especially (who are also ‘the temple of the Holy Ghost’) need to be trained to serve God and men with bodies that are strong, healthy, and active.
While Jesus was always divine, His humanity was real–with human limitations. He had to acquire wisdom and information by the learning process. So He did. There have been those who have belittled the human mind, arguing that since the mind is sinful–and since God Himself speaks disparagingly of human reason–why cultivate the mind? Salvation is by faith, and reason is the enemy of faith; therefore, education is bad and ignorance is bliss (was Mark Twain riding in this boat?).
In Favor With Men
But Jesus dignified our minds by growing in wisdom. Apart from our immortal souls, our mental capabilities may be God’s greatest gift to us, for with the application of reason to the laws of nature, man can subdue the earth; with renewed minds, sinners can begin to comprehend the things of God. Sound Christian learning always proceeds from the fear of God. Willing ignorance is contempt of God.
Can we not say Christ’s education also included a social aspect? He did increase in favor with man. Indeed, God has created us as social beings, and Christians especially are to have an impact on others–none of us living only to ourselves. A complete Christian education includes social development.
Even as a boy Jesus was attaining the social skills which we all need in order to cultivate God-pleasing relationships. Our Lord was not a popularity seeker, but He learned to be all things to all men. There is a certain social grace in interacting with people so as to not break the frail reed and snuff out the smoking wick. Jesus learned those graces, and no doubt was the most polite, helpful, considerate, respectful youngster Nazareth had ever seen. No wonder He found favor with men.
So our Christian education must include a constructive set of social values and graces. (Ours is not a social gospel; but neither should our social skills, or lack of them, be a hindrance to our proclamation of the gospel.)
In Favor With God
Jesus also increased in favor with God. More and more the Father was pleased with the loving, obedient conduct of His Son, which culminated with His sin-sacrificing death on the cross. This was the eternal, saving plan. Even as a boy, Jesus’ all pervading purpose in life was to do the business of His Father. While Jesus probably attended some sort of elementary school, there is no hint that He later sat at the feet of some learned rabbi. No, the pages of Holy Scripture were His tutor. No wonder God was pleased.
The education of the soul has been called the soul of education. Man’s greatest needs are spiritual. We need to know our sin and how to be free from it. We need to know the grace of God to fully bask in it. We need to be taught the will of God to do it.
And Christians of every age need to keep on ‘growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.’ This is education for time and eternity. This is education with true meaning and purpose. Only Christian education does justice to the character of God. All else is only an appeal to, and an exercise in, human pride.
–Pastor David Fuerstenau