Do good grades really glorify God?
It's such a common saying. Study hard, do well in your examinations, and so you glorify God with your results. There isn't actually anything in the Bible that literally commands this, but for obvious reasons of course. Formal education wasn't so pervasive throughout society in those times. What is often used to justify this saying are verses about giving our best, about doing things for God, and excellence in general.
Which is all good, and to that extent I agree that working hard for your examinations is something that glorifies God. At the end of the day though, God looks at the heart. I think before we can declare that good grades glorify God, we need to take a step back and ask ourselves, why are we studying?
Are we getting good grades to glorify God, or are we doing it in pursuit of our worldly desires but masking that as honouring God?
I have recently been privileged to receive the biz study award. Honestly, some of the feelings I felt were pride at my accomplishments and being happy that I got some 'free money'.
Is the sole reason for me studying hard to glorify God? No. I work hard because I like doing well. It feels good to do well. It's also one of the things that I seem to be able to do better at in life than other people. On top of that, good grades are part of what opens up future career choices, which allows me to generate good income in the future.
Sure I mean, at the end of the day I thank God and all, and I know that this was not my effort alone...but glorifying God was but part of the reason why I did it.
At this point one might object. At the end of the day you still did things with excellence, and it was still something that glorifies God. Sure you get some additional benefits in this world, but that's perfectly alright!
True, I won't deny that.
The problem is...the education system here is not simply learning. I'm not being cynical here but...we really need to understand what education is. Ironically as I have entered university and been learning new things, a common idea appears throughout the various fields I dabble in. Economics, sociology, political science, anthropology, business. They all tell me that education is a really a workshop which produces people who can earn money for the economy. In our capitalist society, education has been commodified.
We study hard, to be able to get a good job, to be able to earn money. Career planning starts with education.
And this is something you hear the layman say from time to time, and you might think they are being cynical, but it's true. You could dig into sociology and study the macrostructures that make it so, or you could take a look at economics and understand why a government desires to raise human capital.
So...if I am studying for the purposes of furthering my education...which in turn is in order to further my career...which is to earn good money...does that not mean at the end of the day I am still making an idol out of money?
Either that, or I'm not thinking too much about why I am working hard and am just doing it for the sake of it. Because if you think far ahead about why you are working hard, that is the natural conclusion you reach doesn't it.
Yes, yes I understand this is too simplistic and its possible to learn for the sake of learning, career doesn't mean money and so on.
But what I am saying, is that education isn't that great noble thing. Our thoughts of it being noble are not based on the Bible but on how we have been taught by society to believe it. And sure because we have been taught to believe it that way we can surely find meaning in it, but the fact is that education is not always positive. It can be a negative thing.
Good grades are not always positive. If you are making an idol out of grades, money or success, then getting good grades can be a bad thing.
Grades are a form of personal assets isn't it? Like money, it is part of the things of this world which don't last. Just like how you can make money your god, you can make grades and success your god. They're close relatives really.
And so we trap ourselves in this rat race, busy studying all day long and being stressed up over it.
"I have too much work...sorry can't meet you"
"I am too busy studying...can't go to Church"
"I don't have time for quiet time"
For the pursuit of grades, we neglect the truly important things.
Who do you serve? God or your grades?
One last thing which I didn't mention. Every time we tell someone to get good grades to glorify God, and we celebrate the achievements of those who did well while feeling sorry for those who did not. Are we saying that those who did not do well have failed to glorify God?
For every Christian who failed their major examinations and could not move on to the next phase, swept away by the swift merciless economic currents in our meritocratic society. Did they fail?
On an unrelated note, it's a pretty scary thing to realise how many things in this world are commodified. How the symbolic meanings we attach to them are a result of capitalism. How social norms are crafted by the economy.