From infancy, we are so focused on education and gaining knowledge that sometimes we forget that's not the real goal of life. Many people even think that learning more and more about God is the highest goal on earth.
We are tempted to think that. After we receive Christ and God's wonders are unveiled to us little by little, we hungrily go after truth like a starving dog with a food wrapper. There is so much to learn, so many marvelous truths and promises and commands to get our minds around that fervor for them can become consuming.
This is all good. For a while. Knowledge is one of the vital steps of spiritual growth outlined in 2 Peter 1: "...add to your faith virtue, and to your virtue knowledge..."
The problem comes when we stay there. I Corinthians 8 warns us that "knowledge puffs up, but love builds others up." Nothing is more annoying than a know-it-all. Especially a spiritual know-it-all. But the knowledge step is one where many Christians choose to live, because it seems so right.
Learn those rules, memorize those commands, develop God-honoring convictions---and then look around for everyone else who needs to know what I know and "lovingly" set them straight. OR...I'll just live it around them until they see where they are in error.
Funny thing is, the list doesn't stop with knowledge. If knowledge was the goal, you'd think God would have put it at the end. Instead, the building blocks keep going up. "...and to your knowledge, add self-control, and to your self-control, endurance, and to your endurance, godliness, and to your godliness, brotherly kindness, and to your brotherly kindness, love."
If we don't move on past the knowledge step, we run the risk of becoming legalistic without even knowing it. Pharisees in the New Testament were great little legalists. They had the rules down pat. Couldn't stump them on Bible Jeopardy. And the rules became their god, rather than God Himself.
Are you in danger of staying in the Land of Knowledge?
Here are some handy little questions to ask if you're wondering:
- Do I believe God accepts me more when I'm doing what I should?
- Do I study all the do's and don'ts so nothing catches me off guard?
- Do I have a mental list of what a "good" (Christian, church, family) looks like that isn't clearly stipulated in Scripture?
- Do I consider myself more spiritual than others who don't have my same convictions?
- Do I tend to be more accepting of other Christians who think like me?
- Do my convictions ever get in the way of connecting with and loving new Christians?
- Am I ever afraid to be my real self around certain people for fear they would not think me spiritual enough?
If you had to answer yes to any of those, you might be stuck in the knowledge step without realizing it.
God doesn't want us to stay there. Notice what he puts at the end. What he considers the ultimate goals: compassion for our Christian brothers, and then when we get that down, Agape love. The kind God has. The kind that would die on a cross for people who were spitting on him.
It's easy to settle in on the knowledge step and plan to stay, but God doesn't want us to stay there. It's really not much fun. It's exhausting trying to be perfect in your own strength, criticizing everyone who is not like you, being right all the time...
I should know. I was great at it!
Thankfully, God didn't let me stay there and with his help, I've moved on to the greater steps. You can too. Gaining knowledge is important, just don't get comfortable there. "...add to your knowledge..."