In my childhood and teenage years, I attended a lot of school. Grade school was required, as was junior high and high school. I attended a university after that. But, beyond the conventional education, my parents also let me participate in other opportunities. Sunday School took place regularly, and there was often Vacation Bible School or church camp in the summers. Beyond that, I got to attend Saturday programs on special topics, and even a couple of summer math / science camps at colleges.
It would be fair to say that I have been well educated. Certainly, I didn’t complete as much post-secondary education as others, and I don’t have the title “Doctor” in front of my name (although that would be funny if I just used my writing initials, like M. D., M.D.), but I spent a lot of hours in school.
In that light, have a look at how a prayer of Jesus started, in the verse below:
At that time Jesus prayed this prayer: “O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, thank you for hiding these things from those who think themselves wise and clever, and for revealing them to the childlike.
Matthew 11:25 NLT
Now, I don’t think that Jesus was opposed to education. After all, as a rabbi, He taught others (both His disciples, and the crowds) on a regular basis. There’s a difference, though, between becoming well-learned, and thinking that you are smarter than you really are.
Notice that Jesus didn’t say here that the message was hidden from those who were truly wise. God’s wisdom is readily available to us, as James 1:5-8 reminds us. Its obscurity was for those who thought that they were “wise and clever”. These over-confident “know-it-alls” had missed the point.
This is a risk of education, whether secular or spiritual: Once we know a great amount of facts, or can even apply algorithms, principles, and processes, we might start to think that we’re pretty smart.
When we think that we have the entirety of knowledge about the world (or even about a specific topic), we may become resistant to the idea that there is always still more to learn. As a result, when we rely only on our own knowledge, we run the risk of missing the fundamental truths that God has given us. There is far more yet to know about this universe than all of humankind today has observed. And, God’s messages often run contrary to those that human beings construct on their own (see Matthew 20:16).
So, what does it mean to be childlike, if we are to find the wisdom and message of God? After all, we are also taught to grow and become more mature, in passages like Hebrews 5:11-14.
I believe that at least part of this answer is to be trusting of our Father in Heaven. Children will believe almost anything. Unfortunately, sometimes that faith results in them believing things that aren’t true (for instance, “if you keep making weird faces, your face is going to freeze like that”). Conversely, when a child is trained in truth, those principles can remain with them their entire lives (see Proverbs 22:6).
As a result, if we choose to have a childlike faith, we must ensure that the source of wisdom that we trust is infallible. Having unquestioning faith in another imperfect human being can lead to problems, especially when children grow up believing harmful things (about themselves, and about others) that they were taught. This is particularly regrettable when those who taught these children wrong ideas did so out of apathy or hate.
However, God is not like that at all. He has shown Himself to be truthful and reliable. He has proven His love for humankind. His nature – what He is like – is shown by the majesty of the creation around us (especially those parts that are still reasonably un-blemished by the curse of sin). See also Psalm 116:6.
As a result, listening to God is the way that we are going to find the real truth: the wisdom that cannot come from a classroom, and the insight that wasn’t invented by a mere human being. God has revealed His truth to countless people who have sought it out, so we can also learn God’s truth when it is shared by teachers, scientists, philosophers, and even those without a formal education. On the other hand, many proposals, postulates, and pontifications of those who purport to know the truth have completely missed the mark, because they believe (just as many of us probably do, including me) that their own knowledge makes them “wise and clever”.
While God created a rational world, and gave us minds to think, we can trust too much in our own ideas, and miss the truth that Jesus offers. Consider that He may have more truth and wisdom for you that you haven’t learned yet, and listen to His guidance, today.
Jesus called a little child to him and put the child among them. Then he said, “I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven.
Matthew 18:2-3 NLT
Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries, Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.