An Institution of Lower Learning
By Paul Anderson
I’ve had four years of graduate study beyond my college degree. I’ve already been educated beyond my intelligence. I read with concern the words of Jesus, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children” (Matthew 11:25). Am I in the “learned” category? Is God hiding truth from me because of my education? When I left childish ways, did I also lose childlike ways?
Education can be a dangerous thing. St. Paul writes that “knowledge puffs up, but love builds up” (I Corinthians 8:1b). Knowledge makes me proud, while love is humble. Knowledge is self-serving; love is other-serving. Knowledge makes me independent; love makes me interdependent. Knowledge makes me competitive; love makes me cooperative. Knowledge makes me more aloof from others, while love makes me dependent upon God and others. Knowledge causes me to rely on what I know; I become self-reliant. Love connects me to others. Which do I need more?
James says that earthly wisdom, the kind that harbors “bitter envy and selfish ambition,” is “unspiritual, of the devil” (3:14,15). I saw plenty of that as a student at UCLA, people using their learning and degrees to put down other people, to go one higher, to validate their existence, to prove their gifting. In an age in which we are evaluated based on brains, brawn, and body, “higher” learning is an asset.
But Jesus rejoices that His Father sees it differently. He is not neutral toward the learned. He purposely hides truth from them. Why? Because in their search for learning, they are not after truth. They are researchers, not searchers. Jesus just denounced some of the cities of Galilee. They had seen the miracles, and yet they had closed their hearts to the truth, refusing to humble themselves and repent.
God hides things from adults who think they know. They are not humble; they are competitive. They want to be great, and they feel the peer pressure. They want to improve themselves. They work hard at looking good. They do not want to reveal the dark side of their lives. Because they are hiding, God “plays their game” and He hides things from them. They don’t experience His revelation. Who does? Little children: those who are humble, unpretentious, dependent, relational. To receive revelation, one needs to be open to receive it. What potentially blocks our reception is our learning. Others have taught us things that we find hard to shed. These things have made us adult-like, sophisticated, knowledgeable, expert. Those who are wise and learned in this sense are less open to God. In fact, they are blinded to the truth from heaven. Not that God values stupidity, but He abhors pride and independence.
There will be only children in heaven. No adults are allowed. There are no experts, no learned people, no degrees-only children of the Father. If you are not a child, don’t even apply. And this causes Jesus to rejoice in the Spirit. God looks for little children to reveal truth to. Does He find you? The word for little children (“napios”) is used for nursing children, infants, those absolutely dependent upon others. They were carried to Jesus for a blessing (Matthew 19:13).
It is not what you know but who you know. It is a relationship, not a course for graduate students. We are absolutely dependent upon the revelation of the Father and the Son for our salvation and sanctification. Salvation is a relational knowing, not a factual knowing. Jesus said, “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent” (John 17:3). And knowing depends upon our openness to the revelation from heaven. “No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him” (Matthew 11:27).
So Jesus invites us to His school of lower learning. He says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (11:28-30). He tells us to do three things: come, take, learn.
We come to Jesus because He is lowly. The only way we can get to Him is to go down the ladder, not up the ladder. We come to Him because He is gentle, unlike many we learn from, unlike the Pharisees, who spoke some right things but did not do them, who loved laying burdens on people without lifting them themselves. They knew more about demand than supply.
We take His yoke. Apprentices were yoked to their teacher, their Rabbi. They learned to do as their teacher did, speak as their teacher spoke. Jesus said of this process, “Everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher” (Luke 6:40). Being yoked to Jesus means that we go where He goes and do what He does. We stay close to Him and learn to be like Him. Independence is not an asset when yoked together. One needs conformity, not creativity. Would you like to be yoked to Jesus? Would He pull His weight? Could you count on Him?
We learn from Him. If an adult said to me, “I am humble,” I would probably regard him as proud. But when Jesus says, “I am humble,” He is humble. No one was ever higher, and no one went lower. Therefore, God has highly exalted Him. Is there anyone you would rather learn from? Is there anyone who could more adequately bring rest-from competition, from attempts at self-validation, from trying to climb the ladder, from the fear of failure, from thinking you are dumber than your co-workers. Let’s face it: academic institutions are places of intimidation. Everyone’s trying to make it, trying desperately to succeed. Failure is crushing, shameful. Flunking out gives you a bad name. It mars your future, raises doubts about your capability.
In Jesus’ school, we move from spectator to participant, from adult to child, from the complex to the simple, from reason to revelation, from pride to humility, from higher learning to lower learning. Does this mean that we don’t use our brains? No, but it means that we use them to bow in reverence to the Father, the Lord of heaven and earth, not to ascend foolishly as Satan did, mounting an attack on the Almighty. We use our brains to believe, not to be cynics or skeptics.
The Master’s Institute is taking applications from children, those who want to be open to revelation. Don’t apply if you are proud, if you want to impress people with what you know. Would you rather be among the learned or the learners? Here’s the difference:
Jesus is confident that if you come to Him, you will find rest, rest from unrealistic expectations, rest from worldly striving, rest from a shattered identity. He will not measure you by your degree or your dissertation but by your humility. It’s not a matter of how high you get but how low you go. His institution is one of lower learning.