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A Letter to a Friend

This article was a letter in response to Rachel’s request for advice as she was contemplating college. Since I sent her the letter, several people (Rachel included) have encouraged me to submit the contents of that letter for publication in the Beacon Lights. With some minor editing, therefore, I present for your perusal my answer to the spiritually motivated question of our sister.

Dear sis Rachel,

In the Name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the Author and Finisher of our faith, Who for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame and is set down at the right hand of the God, greetings.

I want to address the question in your last letter concerning whether a girl should go to college. I have told you that I feel that she should if the door is open to her. Since I have no wisdom in and of myself, and our fellowship must be around the word of our God, I shall share with you what I believe from that Word is pertinent to your question. There are three reasons for my position. Firstly, Christians have an obligation to develop in their talents; secondly, the call to Christian motherhood is a high calling; and lastly, women are called into service in passages like Prov. 31, etc.

When we speak of talents, the parable of the talents told by our Lord Christ comes readily to mind. In Matt. 25:14-30, we have an account of this parable. I am not going to deal fully with the parable as that would take up the entire letter. (For a thorough treatment of this passage of Holy Writ, I recommend Prof. Hanko’s ‘Mysteries of the King­dom’.) We need to note, first, that the parable is about the kingdom of God. This is attested to by Matt. 25:1 which prefaces the parables in the chapter. This being the case, we do not have here an exhortation to exploit what we know of as Common Grace. Indeed, there is no such thing. The agents of the parable are the people within the church of our Lord. Second, take note that the ‘talents’ mentioned in our text do not refer to gifts as such. This is evident in that these talents are given according to the several abilities of the servants. That which is given according to one’s abilities clearly cannot be the abilities themselves. What is true, though, is that each of us have been given certain abilities or gifts. For those of us who are physically in the church, we have been given far, far more than those that are outside. We receive the teaching of the word of God over the pulpit. We bask in the benefits of the word of God which have been fixed in the hearts of His servants to confess them in our creeds. We hear and speak daily of the Christ. We have many abilities physically and intell­ectually. We can do many things. By ourselves, we can only use these things against the Lord. Paul says in Col. 1:21 that naturally we are alienated and enemies in [our] minds by wicked works. This means that man can only use these gifts that God has given to him in sin and rebellion against God. We use our mouths to curse, our minds to think wickedly etc. Even the gift of holiness which He had given to us in Adam we have in Adam abused and lost so that we no longer are in the image of God but the image of the devil.

Our ‘talents’ are given to us accord­ing to our gifts and several abilities. They are those duties to which God has called us in His church, our homes and all our lives.

I said earlier that the servants are those who are physically, or outwardly in the Church. We must look at the parable this way because the third servant spoken of is cast out. He is a wicked and slothful servant. He would rather let his ‘talents’ rot in the scrap heap of disuse rather than use them for the glory of God. He goes his way and is consumed in his own lusts. When the Master returns, this servant is unable to bring any acceptable fruit. His abilities have been employed solely in the service of himself. The other servants are children of God by grace. By grace they believe and love their Master. By grace they are true citizens of the kingdom of which the account is a parable. By grace they use their talents in obedience to the glory of God. The unconverted person cannot do this; but the child of God must.

Let us see the practical implications of this in your case. Certainly the passage speaks, first of all, of spiritual things. I believe that it teaches us to use whatever God has given to us for His glory by grace. We are therefore to develop our gifts and abilities to the fullest extent in contemplation of this; and, college is a means unto this end. It is obvious that God has not given to all the zeal or ability to attend college. I am not saying that anyone who does not attend college behaves like the third servant. What I am saying is that if God has given you the ability and interest in anything, you should develop in it so that you can serve God better wherever He is pleased to place you. College does not make an able person. It simply serves to sharpen whatever a person already possesses from God. For example, a person studying mathematics need not be one who will be a mathematician all one’s life; but, one’s mind may be thus trained and disciplined to think analytically and logically. There are other ways that this analytical and logical mind can be inculcated; but, if God opens the door for this through college, we should use it. I found my studies in engineering helpful to me even in my understanding of scriptures. It is not that spiritual things may be learned by mere human intellect; but, God does use the gifts He has given to, and polished in us for His purpose. (I have not attained neither were already perfect, but I press after a fuller knowledge.) You have a special gift of singing. This was demon­strated only too eloquently at the singspiration where you performed. The raw gem should be polished for the glory of God.

We come to the calling of a Christian mother. This is a rich ‘talent’ or avenue of service which God is pleased to give many women in His kingdom and covenant. We read in II Tim. 1:5 of the training which was given Timothy in his youth by his mother and grandmother. I believe, that Paul mentions them in conjunction to their common faith with Timothy to stress this. Consider, too, the command to “train up a child in the way he should go”. These are spiritual teachings that the mother should give to her children. A girl should therefore prepare as well as she can every area of her life to the fullest extent of her abilities in contemplation of this awesome responsibility.

There are those who say that since a Christian woman’s calling is often to be a wife and a mother in Israel, it is neither wise nor economical for a girl to go to college. Stop for a moment to consider that statement. Does it not imply that the calling of the Christian mother is less than what it ought to be? A godly girl should reason thus: “I do not know what God has in store for me. It may even be a single life. However, it is true that most Christian women are called to be helps meet for their husbands and mothers of their children. This is an awesome responsibility and it is incumbent upon me in my youth to be as well prepared for it as I can.” I do not doubt that Christ trains many women for this task without college. It is also true that He gives us gifts severally as He will. She that has less shall not lack and she that has more shall not have too much. (Indeed of her who has more shall more be required.) We are in an age of advancement and change. It would often be that our children will go to a higher level in school than we have ever attained. College experience would be an asset for those who have it. It is beneficial for a mother to be able to discuss with her children their problems in a well worked out manner from experience. Education also helps one to think carefully and objectively. It enables one for example to know, after research, what drugs contain what chemicals with what side effects when administered. This would definitely be useful should the Lord see fit to give one a sickly child to care for and love.

The wife is called in the Bible a help meet for her husband. It may be that her husband would be one who runs a business where she can help in keeping book etc. If he works for another and faces problems in his place of work she must be to him a comfort. Again, all these things do not require a college education; but, it would be presumptuous for one to whom God has given an open door to ignore it.

Finally, Prov. 31 speaks of a con­scientious wife who does all she can to aid the family both financially and spiritually. She considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard. She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms. She perceiveth that her merchandise is good: her candle goeth not out by night. She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff. She stretcheth her hand to the needy. She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarlet. She maketh herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple. . . . She maketh fine linen, and selleth it; and dellvereth girdles unto the merchant. Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come. She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness. She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness. … I am not advocating that a mother should go out to work at the expense of the welfare of her children. The principle here is that she should make use of whatever abilities she has to the improvement of her family. She should know how to sew, how to cook, how to tend to her home. These things are important. She is also to develop her abilities as well as she can in whatever way she can. Today, we no longer make tapestry. We no longer plant vineyards, weave our own cloth etc. There are other things we can do. During the years before the first child comes, she may go out to work so that she may stretch out her hand to the poor and lay up savings for her children. It may be that the Lord may even withhold children from the family. He may give them few or many. There may be years after the children are grown. In this age of the computer she may even run a business from her home or take a job in data entry from a home computer linked to some company’s machine. In your case, you could teach music either at home or even in your Christian schools. I know all this sounds idealistic; but, the principle of Prov. 31 is that a godly woman works hard at whatever God has given her ability to do for the welfare first of her family, and also of the saints.

Now, after we have seen the whole picture, I shall state what I believe the principle should be. A girl and young woman should conscientiously prepare herself to the best of her ability, through whatever doors the Lord has seen fit to open, for whatever the Lord has in store for her. Because you have asked me particularly about college, and your gifts obviously equip you for that, I have written very much to that theme. It is not necessary, and often God does not open the way, for one to go to college. What is important is your attitude. Whether you go to college or not, your desire should be that you will utilize what gifts God has given to you to the fullest of your ability for His glory. There are those who fear that a young woman will be so lured away by the glitter of economic success and ‘fulfilment’ that she shuns motherhood after college. There is definitely that danger. The problem is not that college is wrong. It is the spiritual outlook of that person which is at fault. If one feels that there is a danger of that happening to oneself, then one may be wise to flee from it by avoiding college. That would be an act of humility knowing one’s own weaknesses. That is something you have to decide for yourself before God. Likewise, you have to decide for yourself whether God has given you both an open door and the necessary interest.

There are those, too, who bring upon the child of God no little confusion by despising the use and cultivation of all gifts. These are spoken of in Col. 2:18-23. They require of saints a voluntary humility . . . intruding into those things which [they have] not seen, vainly puffed up by [their] fleshly mind[s]. They think that they have the prerogative which only God enjoys of fathoming the intents of one’s heart. They accuse any who seeks to apply oneself of pride. They even go so far as to question why you would want to know more of the Bible as though it were an evil thing. You know of whom I write. I tell you that the things they impose upon you have indeed a shew of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body; not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh. Pay no attention to them. They are really not holding the Head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment minister­ed, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God. They know not how our glorious Lord utilizes the several abilities of all of us to cause the Church to increase in the Lord.

This is a matter for you to pray as the psalmist in Ps. 143:10, “Teach me to do Thy will for Thou art my God, Thy Spirit is good; Lead me in the land of uprightness. Whatsoever therefore thy hand findest to do, do it with thy might.”

I shall end here. Please feel free to write me if I have not been clear in anything. I am at your disposal. The grace of the Lord abide in you always as you seek His will.

Your Brother in Christ,

Francis Quek