Purchasing a Degree

The time of graduation is here.

There may be a few of our readers who graduate this month from the eighth or ninth grade.  More numerous, however, will be the number that graduate from the twelfth grade.  This is simply due to the fact that the age-group to which Beacon Lights is directed is the high school level and higher.  Although, of course, we welcome the younger readers and even recommend to our parents that they train their children early in reading the pages of Beacon Lights.

But graduation days are here regardless of who the readers of Beacon Lights may be.  And therefore we have been requested to write a few lines in connection with graduation.

We have one thing which we wish to say in that connection, and that is this:  Congratulations, graduates!  Congratulations whether it is from the eighth, ninth, twelfth grade or even college, university, or seminary that you graduate.

Another thing which we wish to say about graduation is expressed in our theme.  That theme is not as far removed from graduation as it might be first seem.  When you consider that gradual means by small steps or degrees you begin to see that to speak of a degree at graduation time is not so far fetched.  And a graduated scale is one that ascends in marked degrees or steps.  So also a graduate is one who has reached a certain degree of scholastic attainment.  We sometimes speak of a child passing or of being promoted to the next grade.  Well actually he has graduated.  He has gone up a degree, a step in his formal education.  And when one has continued to go forward degree by degree, class by class, course by course, in due time he also is given a degree of Bachelor of Arts, Master of Arts, Doctor of Medicine, Doctor of Law or any of the other degrees conferred by institutions of higher learning.  But the kindergarten child who has done his work well also gets the degree of First Grader, the First Grader in process of time receives the degree of Second Grader.  And thus it continues as long as he continues his formal education.

But for that very reason our title above may seem out of place.  In these days of payola and of underworld rackets, of rigged quiz programs and the like, we are inclined to be suspicious of a title that speaks of purchasing a degree.  No, rest assured, we are not advocating “polishing the teacher,” bribing the school board, buying one’s way into a profession.  Such advice would not be a beacon light for covenant young people.  It would be a sin to recommend this even to the world.  Our title, however, is borrowed from Scripture, even though it is not used in the same way and concerning the same thing.  Paul writes of it to Timothy when he is speaking of the office of the deacon in I Timothy 3:13.  He says, “For they that have used the office of a deacon well purchase to themselves a good degree, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.”  He speaks even of a good degree.

Paul does not teach us here that we can purchase anything from God.  Salvation by grace is the theme of all his teachings.  And he emphasizes in his epistle that it is not of our works, not of him that wills nor of him that runs but of God Who shows mercy.  In that light, what he means is that a man obtains a good degree.  And the youth who graduates also obtains a degree.

Whether the graduate obtains a good degree or not depends upon the instruction that he has received and has accepted.  Not all are privileged to attend a Christian high school, college or university.  And even those who are so privileged do not always appreciate the tact.  Intellectual progress seems profitable.  To get a degree in respect to knowledge of earthly things is considered worth the effort.  The knowledge of the truth, to know God and Jesus Christ whom He has sent, is not placed on the same level with the knowledge of this world and life in this world from a natural viewpoint.  Yet the Word of God declares that the Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.  One does not obtain a good degree without that wisdom.  It may seem to be a good degree to mankind in general.  It is sought after and deemed essential for many types of work and positions.  But without the fear of the Lord this is a foolish degree and not a good one.  It is not a degree that God calls good.  It is not attaining something that He judges to be worthwhile.  To know all the things of creation and not to know the Creator in love is nothing short of folly.  And the more one learns of this world without the fear of the Lord in his heart the more he graduates into folly upon folly.  Degree by degree he obtains knowledge.  But degree by degree he also progresses in folly.

Well, maybe some of our readers have been taught the folly of the world.  Some may have put the spiritual in the background and concentrated upon the natural.  And let us understand that to obtain a degree and to graduate in our catechetical instruction is more important than our obtaining of a diploma in regard to natural things.  We can place so much emphasis upon school and upon graduating from school.  But how much do we place upon the catechetical instruction in the truth of God’s Word?  Let us be concerned, also in the days of our youth, with graduating and obtaining a degree in these things of spiritual instruction.  It is too bad that it is our custom to place children in a catechism class according to their ages.  They graduate and go a degree higher according to their birthdays and not according to how well they have assimilated the truth.  And now especially we have in mind our young  people, our Beacon Lights readers.  Be concerned with a good degree in this catechetical instruction.  Apply yourselves faithfully and as before God’s face to the memorization of the truth placed before you and listen carefully to the lesson explanation.  Be as much, yea more concerned with making progress in these things as you are in making the grade in regard to the earthly things.  For without this fear of the Lord there is not even the beginning, the principle of wisdom.  And that fear of the Lord He works in us through His truth.

Having that fear of the Lord your graduation from grade school, high school or college will mean that you are purchasing or obtaining a good degree, one pleasing in God’s sight and one for your own spiritual good.  Otherwise your graduation is not an occasion for rejoicing.

If you have neglected these things, let these lines be an admonition to turn from this way.  By God’s grace resolve to apply yourself so that you obtain a good degree in catechetical instruction.  Frequent the house of God faithfully on the Sabbath and listen attentively to the proclamation of His Word.  Be an active and faithful member of your Young People’s Society, being prepared for the Bible discussion.  And apply all this spiritual knowledge to the natural things of which you have learned in school.  Then you have purchased to yourself a good degree.  You have attained to something worthwhile.  And do not stop there.  Always we must be graduating.  Always we must be going forward in our knowledge of the truth until God calls us home and we obtain the good degree of glory that He has prepared for us in His Son.  May you graduate to that glory.