The Bible says very little concerning secular education involving reading, writing, and arithmetic in contrast to what is said concerning spiritual education (cf. Deut. 6:7; Eph. 6:4). However, secular education is all but a necessity to fulfill one’s responsibility to “provide for his own, and especially for those of his household” (1 Tim. 5:8).
The start of a new school year brings many new opportunities, not only in relation to secular education, but in relation to matters of spiritual importance in our lives as Christians. Certain key principles should be kept in mind concerning these new opportunities. For example, the apostle Paul writes, “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Eph. 5:15-16) and “Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time. Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one” (Col. 4:5-6). It should be obvious that God’s children have the responsibility of making use of each opportunity that presents itself in a wise and honorable manner, particularly in light of the evil that threatens to destroy the faith of each one. With these thoughts in mind, what are the new opportunities presented by a new school year, and how should they be handled? Please consider how each of the following new opportunities should be handled according to the instruction of God’s word.
1. A new school year is similar to a new calendar year. At the beginning of a new calendar year, we often make “New Year’s Resolutions” as we resolve to begin doing certain things that we ought to do, or at least decide to do better than we have done in the past. In a similar manner, the beginning of the school year presents an opportunity to start over fresh with a determined attitude. When faced with the prospect of having to make a new beginning, the unjust steward of the Lord’s parable said, “I have resolved what to do” (Luke 16:4). As a new school year begins it is necessary to resolve what to do in the coming year. A new beginning is a time to resolve to do what is right at every opportunity and to overcome the failures, disappointments, and mistakes of the past, rather than repeat them.
2. A new school year is a new opportunity to serve God. While the new school year demands attention in many different areas, the main objective that must be kept in mind is the need to please God at all times and under all circumstances. For the Christian, the overriding principle is set forth by the apostle Paul as follows: “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ” (Col. 3:23-24). The student is not to live for his or her teachers, peers, or even parents, but for the Lord.
1. Filter everything through the lens of God’s word. The inspired wise man writes, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Prov. 1:7). While studying literature, math, science, and history, do not forget that true wisdom and knowledge begin with a proper view of the God who existed before the history of this world, who created the laws upon which math and science operate, and who has given man the greatest literature ever produced in the Bible. A correct understanding of the world and all things in it begins with a correct understanding of the God who created the world and all things in it.
2. Stand for truth against the evolutionary and humanistic worldview. The educational system, from kindergarten to the universities, is dominated by an anti-God, anti-Bible bias that views man as a highly evolved animal who has arrived on the scene as the result of millions of years of random evolutionary processes. Instead of affecting only the science classes, this sort of thinking has come to dominate every area of education so that students are taught to view the world apart from God and to view the Bible as a mistake-filled book written by men. Paul wrote of a culture that is in many ways similar to ours, saying, “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened” (Rom. 1:20-21). Be prepared to take a stand for God, the Bible, and truth when confronted with a false view of the world.
3. Make room for spiritual growth. In the midst of all of the demands of the school year it is easy to focus on secular education and extra-curricular activities to the extent that no time is left for spiritual things. In His explanation of the seed which fell on the thorny ground in the parable of the sower, Jesus warned that “the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful” (Mark 4:19). Don’t neglect the need to attend worship and Bible study, to pray, and to read the Bible just because there is schoolwork to be done.
1. Choose your friends wisely. “The righteous should choose his friends carefully, for the way of the wicked leads them astray” (Prov. 12:26). The new school year presents new opportunities to make new friends. Make sure the friends you choose will have a positive influence on your life and behavior. “Do not be deceived: ‘Evil company corrupts good habits’” (1 Cor. 15:33). Consider choosing friends like the psalmist, who spoke to God, saying, “I am a companion of all who fear You, and of those who keep Your precepts” (Psa. 119:63).
2. Influence your friends for good. In interacting with your friends, you have a great opportunity to be a good influence toward them. Remember to set the right example by treating others the way you want them to treat you (Matt. 7:12; Luke 6:31), and by doing what is best for them at all times, with the understanding that, “Love does no harm to a neighbor” (Rom. 13:10). You can also set the right example by befriending the friendless, instead of just befriending those whom you think will raise your popularity level or make you look good in the eyes of others.
3. Teach your friends the gospel. The best thing that you can do for your friends is to introduce them to the saving message of Jesus Christ. Take advantage of the new opportunities of a new school year to develop the attitude of the apostle Paul, who said, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek” (Rom. 1:16). Invite your friends to have a Bible study or to attend the worship periods of the church with you. Make sure your new friends know about the “old, old story.”
1. Be the light of the world. As you begin a new school year you will be surrounded by various influences and situations that will present challenges to your faith in the Lord. Jesus said, “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:14- 16). Make sure to shine your light to reflect the glory and purity of Christ to those around you.
2. Overcome temptation. A new school year often presents new temptations. You may face pressure from your peers to use foul language, engage in lascivious dancing, commit fornication, experiment with alcohol and drugs, or behave in an ungodly way so that you can fit in. Follow the advice of Scripture, which says, “You shall not follow a crowd to do evil” (Exod. 23:2). None of the things the “crowd” is doing is worth losing your soul over. Always keep in mind that the Lord will provide the way of escape so that you can overcome temptation (1 Cor. 10:13).
3. Avoid hypocrisy. The school environment sometimes brings with it the tendency for one to act differently around his school friends than he would around his family or around members of the church. Some students act like wonderful godly people on Sunday and then imitate the world for the rest of the week while at school. Overcome hypocrisy by behaving like a Christian all the time (Rom. 12:9; 1 Pet. 2:1-2).
4. Remember your Creator. In the midst of the excitement and busy schedule of the new school year, do not neglect that which is most important. “Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth” (Eccl. 12:1). All of the education, achievements, awards, popularity, and academic success in the world mean absolutely nothing if God is not at the center of your life. As the wise man said, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man” (Eccl. 12:13).
The beginning of the new school year is a reminder of new opportunities that may lie ahead. Let’s make sure that those opportunities are used to the glory, honor, and praise of our Creator and Savior. How will you use the opportunities God places before you?
From the September 2011 publication of Truth Magazine…