What’s Wrong with Knowledge?

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
Default article daily reflection

Now regarding your question about food that has been offered to idols. Yes, we know that "we all have knowledge" about this issue. But while knowledge makes us feel important, it is love that strengthens the church.

1 Corinthians 8:1

Christians care deeply about knowledge, or at least we should. After all, we were created with the ability to know. Through our understanding, we are able to fulfill the first lines in our human job description: "Be fruitful . . . and have dominion." Moreover, God has chosen to reveal himself to us so that we might know him in truth, even if our knowledge is incomplete. In words, in deeds, and ultimately in Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, God helps us to know him so that we might have an intimate relationship with him and so that we might serve him in every facet of our lives.

So, knowledge can be a very good thing, something for which we rightly strive. But knowledge can also trip us up, especially when the knowers are immature and self-absorbed. In 1 Corinthians 8-10, Paul deals with a tricky issue in the Corinthian congregation, the issue of whether or not Christians should eat food that has been offered to idols. In the first three verses of chapter 8, he begins by identifying a fundamental problem in the Corinthian church. Certain members are boasting about having knowledge, knowledge that guides their behavior with respect to eating food offered to idols. About their proud claim, "We all have knowledge," Paul comments, "But while knowledge makes us feel important, it is love that strengthens the church" (8:1).

Paul is not saying that all knowledge is bad or that we should try to have right knowledge. Rather, he is pointing to a problem with knowledge, or, perhaps more accurately, a problem with those who claim to have it. One who has knowledge can feel overly self-important. Knowledge can make one "puffed up," to translate the Greek of verse 1 more literally (gnosis phusioi). If I think I know something important, and especially if I think I know something that you don't know, then I might get a big head and start thinking that I am better than you.

Knowledge, by itself, is inadequate. Something else is needed if we are going to have and use knowledge appropriately, and that something else is love. Whereas knowledge puffs up, "love builds up" (8:1, agape oikodomei). Knowledge can be a powerful tool in God's service, but it will only be wielded wisely if the one who knows is first and foremost one who loves.

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: Do you ever get puffed up when you know something that others don't? When have you experienced knowledge being well used because the knower was a loving person?

PRAYER: Dear Lord, the opening of 1 Corinthians 8 always hits me between the eyes, so to speak, because I like knowledge. I like to know things. And, if truth be told, and there's no point telling you anything but the truth, Lord, I can get rather puffed up when I know things that others don't. Rather than seeing my knowledge, and even my capacity to know, as a gift from you, I can claim it as my own accomplishment. Forgive me, Lord.

Help me, I pray, to be a person who loves. Help me to use the tool of knowledge for your purposes, guided by love for others. May my knowledge all be used, in love, for your glory, so that your church might be built up, and so that the world might come to know you.

All praise be to you, God of knowledge, God of love. Amen.