I’m so spiritual and enlightened!
I am all for learning more about God, the Bible, theology, and pretty much anything you can that will draw you closer to God. In my life I’ve noticed a problem that gets bigger the more I learn; the problem is pride. Specifically, the problem is pride as a result of knowledge. It’s easy to think, “wow, I’ve learned so much more than other people; I’m so spiritual and enlightened!” But really, does that sound like a humble heart? Are those types of thoughts even from God? I love my classes, but the biggest, most lethal pitfall I have to avoid is getting puffy.
How can they not know this?!
In 1 Corinthians 8, Paul is addressing the eating of meat sacrificed to idols and he starts his instruction by acknowledging that “we know that ‘all of us possess knowledge.'” (1 Cor 8:1) The Corinthians had developed a prideful attitude with regards to the knowledge they posessed. They were thinking things like, “Well of course, everyone should know that idols represent a God that doesn’t exist. Duh!” Or maybe, “It’s obvious we can eat the meat because their gods don’t exist; how can they not know this?!” But really, does that sound like a humble heart? Are those types of thoughts even from God?
Are you a puffy Christian?
Paul lovingly continues his instruction by cautioning them that “This ‘knowledge’ puffs up, but love builds up.” (1 Cor 8:1b) A modern way of saying this, and something I’ve heard several times is “The longest journey a man must take is the eighteen inches from his head to his heart.” Paul continues teaching by explaining how the puffy Corinthians were causing less-knowledgeable Christians to struggle because they were eating food sacrificed to idols. They thought their freedom to eat a steak was more important than the spiritual growth of their brothers and sisters in Christ! This is not a real issue for us in America (although we could talk about alcohol as a modern example), but it’s the idea of being puffy I want to look at.
“The longest journey a man must take is the eighteen inches from his head to his heart.” How very, very true this is for me! Maybe I’m the only dirt bag who struggles in this area, but I have to constantly check to see how “puffy” I’m getting. For example, when you read a verse, is your first impulse to use it against someone else or is it to see how it can be applied to your life? I’ll be honest: my first thought is not always how a verse relates to me but how someone else really needs to hear it! So ask yourself: Are you a puffy Christian?
We can break others down or build them up.
If you think you might be a little puffy from time to time, then I encourage you to use your knowledge to love people and build them up, not to inflate yourself and stay puffy. There’s a difference between knowledge and wisdom. A wise person will use their knowledge to build up those around them. Warren W. Wiersbe, in The Bible Exposition Commentary, says it like this:
“The little child who is afraid of the dark will not be assured by arguments, especially if the adult (or older brother) adopts a superior attitude. Knowledge can be a weapon to fight with or a tool to build with, depending on how it is used.”
Do you see the two options we’re given? We can either use knowledge against others or for them. We can break others down or build them up. Do you use knowledge to puff yourself up or to build others up? Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. In 2 Peter 3:18, Peter closes his teaching the same way I’ll conclude this entry: by urging us all to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.”