Education With a Purpose
“Impart knowledge to someone righteous and he will increase in learning.”—PROVERBS 9:9.
1. What does Jehovah expect of his servants regarding knowledge?
JEHOVAH is “a God of knowledge.” (1 Samuel 2:3) He educates his servants. Moses foretold that contemporary peoples would say of Israel: “This great nation is undoubtedly a wise and understanding people.” (Deuteronomy 4:6) True Christians should likewise be knowledgeable. They need to be excellent students of God’s Word. Showing the purpose of such study, the apostle Paul wrote: “We . . . have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the accurate knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual comprehension, in order to walk worthily of Jehovah to the end of fully pleasing him as you go on bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the accurate knowledge of God.”—Colossians 1:9, 10.
2. (a) What is necessary in order to acquire an accurate knowledge of God? (b) How has the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses addressed this matter?
2 Study with a view to acquiring an accurate knowledge of God and his purposes requires at least a minimum amount of education. But many people who have come to learn the truth of God’s Word live in countries where they had little or no opportunity to receive proper secular education. They were at a disadvantage. To overcome this problem, the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses has for many years now instructed that, where needed, literacy classes should be organized within the congregations. Over 30 years ago, the Brazilian newspaper Diário de Mogi published an article entitled “Jehovah’s Witnesses Wage War Against Illiteracy.” It stated: “A qualified instructor sets about . . . to patiently teach others to read and write. . . . The pupils, because of the very circumstances impelling them as ministers of God, must develop their knowledge of the language in order to give discourses.” Thousands of people all over the world have thus been enabled to become good students of God’s Word. They undertook this basic education with an elevated purpose in mind.
Skills Needed to Be Effective Ministers
3, 4. (a) Why are true Christians interested in education? (b) What was the situation in Israel, and what basic education is indispensable within our congregations today?
3 True Christians are interested in education, not for its own sake, but in order to become more effective servants of Jehovah. Christ gave all Christians the mission to “make disciples of people of all the nations, . . . teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded.” (Matthew 28:19, 20) To teach others, they themselves must first learn, and this requires good study methods. They must have the ability to examine the Scriptures carefully. (Acts 17:11) To fulfill their commission, they also need to be able to read fluently.—See Habakkuk 2:2; 1 Timothy 4:13.
4 As we saw in the previous article, there is good reason to believe that, by and large, even young ones in ancient Israel knew how to read and write. (Judges 8:14; Isaiah 10:19) Christian ministers today need to make neat notes as they witness from house to house. They write letters, take notes at meetings, and annotate their study material. All of this requires legible handwriting. Keeping records within the Christian congregation calls for at least a basic knowledge of arithmetic.
Advantages of Proper Schooling
5. (a) What is the origin of the word “school”? (b) What opportunity should young ones seize?
5 Interestingly, the word “school” comes from the Greek word skho·leʹ, which originally meant “leisure” or the use of leisure time for some serious activity, such as learning. It later came to designate the place where such learning was done. This indicates that, at one time, only the privileged class—in Greece and most other lands—had the leisure to learn. The working class generally remained ignorant. Today, in most countries children and young folk are given time to learn. Young Witnesses should certainly buy out the opportune time to become knowledgeable and capable servants of Jehovah.—Ephesians 5:15, 16.
6, 7. (a) What are some of the advantages of proper schooling? (b) In what ways can learning a foreign language be useful? (c) What is the situation today among many young people when they complete school?
6 A basic knowledge of history, geography, science, and so forth will enable young Witnesses to become rounded-out ministers. Their schooling will teach them not only many subjects but also the learning process. True Christians do not stop learning and studying when they leave school. What they get out of their studying, however, will greatly depend on their knowing how to study. Both secular and congregation schooling can help them to develop their thinking abilities. (Proverbs 5:1, 2) When they read they will be better able to discern what is important, what deserves noting and memorizing.
7 Learning a foreign language, for example, will not only develop the mental capacity of young people but also make them more useful to Jehovah’s organization. In some of the Watch Tower Society’s branches, a number of young brothers have found it advantageous to be able to speak or read English fluently. Moreover, all Christian ministers should endeavor to be articulate in their mother tongue. The good news of the Kingdom deserves to be expressed in a clear, grammatically correct manner. The facts show that in the world today, many youngsters when completing school still have difficulty in writing and speaking correctly and in doing even the simplest arithmetic; and they have only the vaguest knowledge of history and geography.
8. What scriptures bear on the subject of secular education and a person’s ability to support himself?
8 This seems, therefore, to be an appropriate time to consider the Christian’s attitude toward secular education. What Bible principles bear on this subject? First, in most countries proper submission to “Caesar” requires Christian parents to send their children to school. (Mark 12:17; Titus 3:1) As for young Witnesses, in their schoolwork they should remember Colossians 3:23, which states: “Whatever you are doing, work at it whole-souled as to Jehovah, and not to men.” A second principle involved is that Christians should be able to support themselves, even if they are full-time pioneer ministers. (2 Thessalonians 3:10-12) If married, a man should be able to provide properly for his wife and any children that may be born, with a little extra to give to those in need and to support the local and worldwide preaching work.—Ephesians 4:28; 1 Timothy 5:8.
9, 10. (a) What appears to be a trend in many lands? (b) What might a pioneer minister consider to be an adequate wage?
9 How much education does a young Christian need in order to respect these Bible principles and meet his Christian obligations? This varies from country to country. By and large, however, it seems that the general trend in many lands is that the level of schooling required to earn decent wages is now higher than it was a few years ago. Reports received from branches of the Watch Tower Society in different parts of the world indicate that in many places it is difficult to find jobs with decent wages after completing simply the minimum schooling required by law or in some countries even after finishing secondary or high school.
10 What is meant by “decent wages”? It does not indicate highly paid jobs. Webster’s Dictionary defines “decent” in this context as “adequate, satisfactory.” What might be termed “adequate,” for instance, for those who wish to be pioneer ministers of the good news? Such ones generally need part-time work to avoid putting “an expensive burden” upon their brothers or their family. (1 Thessalonians 2:9) Their wages might be termed “adequate,” or “satisfactory,” if what they earn allows them to live decently while leaving them sufficient time and strength to accomplish their Christian ministry.
11. Why have some young ones given up the pioneer service, and what question is raised?
11 What is often the situation today? It has been reported that in some countries many well-intentioned youngsters have left school after completing the minimum required schooling in order to become pioneers. They had no trade or secular qualifications. If they were not helped by their parents, they had to find part-time work. Some have had to accept jobs that required them to work very long hours to make ends meet. Becoming physically exhausted, they gave up the pioneer ministry. What can such ones do to support themselves and get back into the pioneer service?
A Balanced View of Education
12. (a) With regard to education, what two extreme views will a Christian avoid? (b) For dedicated servants of Jehovah and their children, what purpose should education serve?
12 A balanced view of education can help. For many young people of the world, education is a status symbol, something to help them climb the social ladder, the key to a prosperous, materialistic life-style. For others, schooling is a chore to be dispensed with as quickly as possible. Neither of these views is appropriate for true Christians. What, then, might be termed “a balanced view”? Christians should regard education as a means to an end. In these last days, their purpose is to serve Jehovah as much and as effectively as possible. If, in the country where they live, minimal or even high school education will only allow them to find jobs providing insufficient income to support themselves as pioneers, then supplementary education or training might be considered. This would be with the specific goal of full-time service.
13. (a) How has one sister in the Philippines been able to continue her pioneer service while meeting her family obligations? (b) What warning is timely?
13 Some have taken training courses that have opened up job opportunities enabling them to engage in or resume full-time service. One sister in the Philippines was the family breadwinner, but she wanted to pioneer. The branch reports: “She has been able to do this because she has received additional education to qualify as a certified public accountant.” The same branch report stated: “We have quite a number who are studying and at the same time have been able to arrange their schedules to pioneer. Generally they become better publishers as they are more studious, provided they do not become overly ambitious in worldly pursuits.” The last remark should give us reason to reflect. The purpose of the extra schooling, where this seems necessary, must not be lost sight of or change into a materialistic goal.
14, 15. (a) Why should no hard-and-fast rules be made with regard to education? (b) What secular education did some responsible brothers receive, but what has compensated for this?
14 In a few countries, secondary schools provide vocational training that can prepare a young Christian for some trade or occupation by the time of graduation. Even when this is not the case, in some lands enterprising youngsters with only basic schooling do find part-time work that enables them to earn enough to pioneer. So no hard-and-fast rules should be made either for or against extra education.
15 Many who are now serving in responsible positions as traveling overseers, at the Society’s headquarters, or in one of the branches had only basic education. They were faithful pioneers, never stopped learning, received training, and have been entrusted with greater responsibilities. They have no regrets. On the other hand, some of their contemporaries chose to get a university education and fell by the wayside, subjugated by the faith-destroying philosophies and “wisdom of this world.”—1 Corinthians 1:19-21; 3:19, 20; Colossians 2:8.
Counting the Cost
16. (a) Who decides whether further education is desirable, and what should be kept uppermost in mind? (b) What should be taken into consideration?
16 Who decides whether a young Christian should undertake further education or training? The Bible principle of headship comes into play here. (1 Corinthians 11:3; Ephesians 6:1) On this basis parents will surely want to guide their children in the choice of a trade or occupation and consequently in the amount of education that will be needed. In many countries educational and occupational choices have to be made early on during secondary education. That is the time when Christian parents and youths need to seek Jehovah’s direction in making a wise choice, with Kingdom interests uppermost in mind. Young people have different propensities and aptitudes. Wise parents will take these into account. All honest work is honorable, be it blue-collar or white-collar. While the world may elevate office work and disparage working hard with one’s hands, the Bible certainly does not. (Acts 18:3) So when parents and young Christians today, after carefully and prayerfully weighing the pros and cons, decide for or against postsecondary studies, others in the congregation should not criticize them.
17. What choice do some Witness parents make for their children?
17 If Christian parents responsibly decide to provide their children with further education after high school, that is their prerogative. The period of these studies would vary according to the type of trade or occupation selected. For financial reasons and in order to enable their children to get into the full-time service as quickly as possible, many Christian parents have chosen for them short-term study programs in vocational or technical schools. In some cases youths have needed to be apprenticed to some trade but always with a full life of service to Jehovah as the goal.
18. If additional courses are taken, what should be kept in mind?
18 If additional courses are taken, certainly the motive should not be to shine scholastically or to carve out a prestigious worldly career. Courses should be chosen with care. This magazine has placed emphasis on the dangers of higher learning, and justifiably so, for much higher education opposes the “healthful teaching” of the Bible. (Titus 2:1; 1 Timothy 6:20, 21) Further, since the 1960’s, many schools of advanced learning have become hotbeds of lawlessness and immorality. “The faithful and discreet slave” has strongly discouraged entering that kind of environment. (Matthew 24:12, 45) It must be admitted, however, that nowadays youngsters meet up with these same dangers in high schools and technical colleges and even in the workplace.—1 John 5:19.*
19. (a) What precautions should be taken by those who decide to take supplementary courses? (b) How have some used their education to good advantage?
19 Should supplementary education be decided upon, a young Witness would do well, if at all possible, to take this while living at home, thus being able to maintain normal Christian study habits, meeting attendance, and preaching activity. At the outset a proper stand should also be taken on Bible principles. It should be remembered that Daniel and his three Hebrew companions were captives in exile when they were obliged to undertake advanced studies in Babylon, but they consistently kept their integrity. (Daniel, chapter 1) While placing spiritual interests first, young Witnesses in a number of countries have taken courses to equip themselves for part-time work as accountants, tradesmen, teachers, translators, interpreters, or other occupations that supported them adequately in their primary career of pioneering. (Matthew 6:33) A number of these youths have later become traveling overseers or Bethel volunteers.
A United, Educated People
20. What worldly distinction has no place among Jehovah’s people?
20 Among Jehovah’s people, whether a person’s occupation is white-collar, blue-collar, farming, or services, all need to be good students of the Bible and able teachers. Skills acquired by all in reading, studying, and teaching tend to dispel the distinction that the world makes between manual and office workers. This makes for the unity and mutual respect that is particularly visible among the volunteer workers in Bethel homes and on Watch Tower Society construction sites, where spiritual qualities are all-important and required of all. Here, experienced office personnel work joyfully with skilled manual workers, all displaying appreciative love for one another.—John 13:34, 35; Philippians 2:1-4.
21. What should be the aim of young Christians?
21 Parents, guide your children toward the goal of becoming useful members of the new world society! Young Christians, use your opportunities for education as a means of equipping you to lay hold more fully on your privileges in serving Jehovah! As taught ones, may all of you prove to be well-equipped members of the theocratic society both now and everlastingly in God’s promised “new earth.”—2 Peter 3:13; Isaiah 50:4; 54:13; 1 Corinthians 2:13.
Test Your Memory
□ Why are true Christians interested in education?
□ What extreme views of education will true Christians avoid?
□ What dangers of added education should be taken into account, and what precautions should be taken?
□ What worldly distinction has no place among Jehovah’s people?
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By studying diligently, young Christians can become more useful members of the new world society
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Further education, if chosen, should be motivated by the desire to serve Jehovah better