1 Corinthians 8:1 “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.”
There is no virtue in being spiritually ignorant. It is God’s will that we grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. Knowledge about God’s word helps us to get to know him better. It feeds our faith. It guides our lives. Bible knowledge is good and necessary.
But all by itself, a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing. God does not want us to study the Bible as an academic interest, or to keep us entertained. Its purpose is not to stretch our minds and challenge our intellect, though it may do so. Bible class serves a higher purpose than preparing us to be contestants on Jeopardy.
When Bible knowledge makes us feel superior to all the Biblical ignoramuses, it merely “puffs up.” It’s the same picture we use when we say someone has a “swelled head.” In that state we become no use to the people around us and absolutely intolerable to God. We need someone to let the air out, to insert a release valve, so that we channel all that knowledge in a useful direction, before we burst and spiritually destroy ourselves.
That release valve is love. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. Christian love is not so concerned about self. It cares for others. It is not looking for ways to be superior. It wants to be a servant. It does not seek ways to make me look good. It seeks ways to make God look good, and it seeks ways to do good to others.
Love like this also does some enlarging, but what gets bigger is not my swelled head. It’s my heart. Love builds up. It is a servant. It builds up the kingdom of God. It builds up brothers and sisters in their faith. It builds by humbly sharing knowledge about Jesus with others. It does not waste time trying to build some sort of monument to myself.
Where do we get such love? Not in that know-it-all knowledge that inflates our egos. “The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know. But the man who loves God is known by God.” The most important thing is not how much we have come to know about God, but that we are people God knows as his very own. And what kind of people does he know as his very own? Jesus said that he came to call not the righteous, but sinners to repentance. He told Simon the Pharisee that the sinful woman who anointed his feet loved him much, not because she was so good, but because she had been forgiven so much. Jesus called Peter to discipleship, not when Peter was the know-it-all fisherman, but after the miraculous catch when Peter fell at Jesus feet and admitted that he was a sinner. The prodigal son was welcomed home not because he had spent his inheritance so wisely, but when he came home with empty hands to a forgiving Father. Jesus says that the tax-collector, whose only prayer was “God have mercy on me, a sinner,” went home justified by God, not the super righteous Pharisee bragging about his victorious life. Those who are known by God know that they are sinners, but they also know by faith that God forgives them.
Are you ready to have your spiritual pride and puffed-up knowledge crushed under God’s holy condemnation? We are never ready, but when he does so, he also assures us he forgives our sins. He pick us up in faith. He claim us as his own. Then it can be true of us that “the man who loves God is known by God.” This is also something we know from God’s holy word. But when that word convinces us God has so loved and forgiven us, our knowledge will no longer be a dangerous thing, because knowledge will be tempered by love.