What Is Education For?

Pastor James
February 17, 2022

"Knowledge is power," said Sir Francis Bacon almost 400 years ago. If that was true then, it is true all the more now in this informational age. The famous economist, Peter F. Drucker, said, "Today knowledge has power. It controls access to opportunity and advancement." 

Isn't that one of the major reasons you are here at UCSD? The job market is getting more competitive. A graduate degree is now what a college degree used to be a few decades ago. With the cost of education skyrocketing, it's hard not to think about the marketability of the field you want to major in. 

But knowledge is not just about career opportunities and landing a great job. Education cannot be just to produce competent professionals and skillful workers. We are not just worker bees. Our society has staked high hopes on education as the ultimate solution for our problems. Nelson Mandela said, "Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world." We look to education to raise new generations of people, who are not only knowledgeable and skillful but also good and wise to change the world for the better. 

I’m sure you can see so many things that are wrong with the world and you want to do something about them. But where do you begin? Michael Jackson wisely said to start with “the man in the mirror.” Is your education helping you in this regard? We have acquired so much more knowledge than all of our predecessors. Are we better as people than those who lived a century or twenty centuries ago? Have we gained a greater victory over envy, hatred, selfishness, greed, lust, and other kinds of evil? 

We must wonder whether our moral problems are due to ignorance. Are we "bad" because we are ignorant? If that were the case, our goodness should be directly proportional to our knowledge: the more degrees we have, the better we should be as people. Is that true? C.S. Lewis, who taught both at Oxford and Cambridge, once said, "Education without values, as useful as it is, seems rather to make man a more clever devil." President Teddy Roosevelt also expressed a similar sentiment: "A man who has never gone to school may steal from a freight car; but if he has a university education, he may steal the whole railroad." This may be why many professional schools are talking about the need for ethics courses in their curriculum. 

Knowledge is only a tool, which can be used for good or evil, depending on the character of the one who possesses it. And that’s precisely our problem--our character. We all would like to think of ourselves as good people. But according to what standard? He who resists his evil, selfish tendencies and doesn’t act on them should be commended. But what about the inner tension between his sense of duty and his desire? Doesn’t this indicate a certain flaw in our character, often choosing what is easy over what is right? This flaw may be far more serious than we’d like to think. History has shown that no philosophy, no set of laws, no system of government or ethics, no education or knowledge can cure it. 

The Bible tells us that what we need is not just more knowledge, not just a better teacher, but a Savior. Knowledge can make us competent, but it can’t make us good. The good news is that "God has done what the law [or our education], weakened by the flesh [i.e., our moral corruption], could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us" (Romans 8:3-4). 

We need a Savior to take care of the penalty we must pay for all the wrong and shameful things we have done. We need a Savior, who can also do all the good things God requires us to do--loving God with all of our being and loving our neighbors as ourselves--as our Substitute. To do these things, our Savior must be sinless. Our Savior must also be Someone, who can make us good on the inside. Which religious founder or leader can do such things? They may have given us great insights and new moral instructions but they cannot save us! 

That Savior is Jesus, the Son of God! By His sacrifice, he removed our debt. By His life of perfect goodness, He fulfilled God’s requirement for us. By His Spirit, He gives us a new birth and makes us good on the inside. This gift is yours the moment you acknowledge your need for a Savior and place your faith in Jesus Christ. The knowledge and skill you obtain here at UCSD may give you greater access to opportunity and advancement. But what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul (Mark 8:36)?