Many of our young people are faced with a number of difficult choices when it comes to getting an education and
finding a suitable job. All sorts of questions arise. Should I finish high school? What job am I best suited for?
Should I go to business college? Should I take an apprenticeship? Is it right to pursue further education at TAFE
or university? Will this job interfere with my commitment to God? And so the list goes on. There are no straightforward
answers to any of these inquiries, because each individual is different and what may be a suitable course
of action for one may, in fact, be disastrous for another. How then should we tackle these very real issues? This
series of articles is intended to provide helpful spiritual advice of value to parents and young people.
One of the best ways to tackle the issue of Higher Education is to reflect upon some key scriptural principles and examine the wonderful example of men like Moses and Daniel. Both these men were subject to a gruelling educational process, one that was inflicted on them against their will, and yet they were still able to maintain their integrity in the things of God. We need to discover their secret and adopt their attitude towards life.
Firstly, let us put the whole question into perspective and look at the purpose of working in employment. The Scriptures are very clear :
- “Labour not to be rich” (Prov 23:4)
- “Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of Man shall give unto you” (John 6:27)
- “But if any provide not for his own, and specially those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel” (1 Tim 5:8)
- “Ye cannot serve God and mammon” (Matt 6:24)
- “But godliness with contentment is great gain… and having food and raiment let us be therewith content” (1 Tim 6:6,8)
- “Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not high-minded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; that they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute (eumetadotos— ready to impart to others), willing to communicate (koinonikos—ready to fellowship) (1 Tim 6:17–19).
Clearly then, employment is not an end in itself. It is not a means by which we can become wealthy for wealth’s sake. It is a blessing from God which allows us to provide for our households. It mercifully removes the anxiety of unnecessarily worrying about material things and allows us valuable opportunities to use our time and resources in His service. It permits us to focus on implementing the Lord’s counsel; “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matt 6:33).
If these principles are kept in mind, our expectations about employment, our reasons for seeking a specific type of work, our motives in developing employment skills will be more likely to be spiritually based. Without them we will fall prey to the philosophy of the world which encourages the pursuit of the most prestigious and the best paid jobs despite the devastating cost to family life and personal health.
Complexity in Diversity
There is a great deal of diversity in our natural preferences and abilities. Some are suited to outdoor work; others to desk work. Some are skilled with their hands; others have difficulty performing simple maintenance tasks. Some enjoy meeting different people, marketing, retailing, selling, receptionist work; others like to work alone or enjoy hard physical labour or feel right at home sorting through balance sheets and ledgers. Some are very technically orientated, whilst others are unable to feel any excitement at all in working with a computer for most of the day or standing in front of a classroom for a term.
All of this means that in today’s age there is a great diversity of opportunity, but that very diversity introduces a number of problems into our Brotherhood. Society has given the perception that the better the education you get, the more successful you will become. Hence no education, no worth. If you leave school before year 12 you will never succeed. On the contrary the more you undertake post-secondary studies the more likely you are to get on in life and earn good money. High school students are bombarded with this modern formula for successful living in the last years of high school and what it does is create a material expectation about getting a job which excludes God.
We need to correct this balance. Yes, it is true that many employers require employment skills that can only be taught in post-secondary environments. Yes, it is true that state run high schools are not meeting employers’ requirements in numeracy and literacy. Yes, it is true that our young people face increasing competition from more highly educated peers. But what is the real solution to the problem of education and job-seeking?
The real answer lies in ensuring that God is the focus of all our aspirations. Like many things in life, we need to bring God into the practicalities of daily living as an active participant. There has to be a blend of the practical with the spiritual. Making decisions without taking the matter to God in prayer and without seeking His guidance through His answering providence is tantamount to ignoring Him.
Basic Scriptural Principles
- “Commit thy way unto Yahweh; trust also in Him; and He shall bring it to pass” (Psa 37:5)
- “Trust in Yahweh with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding” (Prov 3:5)
- “In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths” (Prov 3:6)
- “Whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor 10:31)
- “Cast all your care upon Him; for He careth for you” (1 Pet 5:7)
What does this mean in a practical sense? It means that we have to act with wisdom mingled with humble and sincere trust in God. Here are some suggestions to help you to determine the best course of action to take when looking at education and jobs:
1 Take the matter to God in prayer. This makes you conscious of His providence and the outworking of His guiding hand. Not everything that will occur will necessarily be a result of God at work, but by introducing the Father’s interest into your perplexity you are more able to evaluate the options before you in a Godly spirit. You will be better able to view the problems from God’s perspective, be more likely to see the hand of God at work in the answers you are seeking, and be more ready to offer thanks to Him when you can perceive the direction you should take.
2 Talk to other brethren and sisters who have had experience in the type of work you are looking at or the course of education you may need to pursue. Find out the good and bad points about the job or the course. Determine any potential problems that might be peculiar to your circumstances and temperament. Don’t be afraid to accept the warnings and advice that older brethren and sisters may offer. It may bring some long-cherished ambitions crashing down to earth, but in the end it could save you from making a disastrous choice.
3 Try and gain some work experience. Often a week’s exposure to a job will tell you a great deal about whether this is the right course for you to take.
4 Be honest and realistic about your capabilities. Don’t attempt to aim too high if you are not capable of achieving the high scholastic requirements or specialised skills needed to do the job. Don’t fall into the trap that the best paid jobs are always the best to strive for. Often these type of jobs entail very long hours and the things of God suffer accordingly.
5 Moderate your ambitions. Appreciate that often the road to a satisfying job does not come immediately. Don’t think that you have to have the best of everything or that it is beneath you to take a job which doesn’t require formal qualifications. Often integrity, honesty, hardwork and faithfulness will lead to openings and opportunities that you never imagined possible.
6 Remember that a job is not an end in itself. The development of godliness has to take precedence.
7 If you feel that you have to undertake further education to gain employment skills, ask yourself these questions:
- Will it mean missing out on Sunday meetings and Bible classes?
- Will it mean leaving home?
- Will the environment impede my spiritual development?
- Am I going to get caught up with the social life of the institution?
- Will I be influenced by subjects that contradict the wholesome morality and doctrinal teaching of the Word of God?
- Will the study work load mean that I will neglect my own personal Bible study?
- Do I have the stability and sustainability to perform the work asked of me?
- Can I effectively withstand the ungodly behaviour of worldly students?
- What is the cost going to be in my service to God?
If the answers to these questions mean that you will falter in your spirituality then the price you have to pay to gain employment is not worth the cost. You would be better off seeking different avenues to gain employment. What would it profit you if you gained the world but lost the Kingdom?
When we examine the various occupations of those in Scripture we find that there are many who worked in seemingly humble pursuits. There is no shame in this. They were men and women who had a higher sense of duty and a great appreciation of eternal values and were more able to devote their lives to their God.
However, if you feel that you can cope with the additional requirements of further education, be it business college, TAFE, apprentice workshop, university or whatever, and still maintain that level of total commitment required by the Word of God, then contemplate the examples of men like Moses and Daniel, seek God’s guidance through prayer and proceed in faith.