“Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. 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,” (I Corinthians 8:1-2, NIV).
Here are a couple other translations:
“But while knowledge makes us feel important, it is love that strengthens the church,” (NLT).
“Knowledge makes us arrogant, but love edifies,” (v. 1, NASB).
These verses are profound, and not only because they were written 1950 years before modern psychology documented the “ignorance of one’s own incompetence” phenomenon. (i.e. Most students scoring at the low end of tests in grammar and logic, for example, believed they had scored in the top half. Since they didn’t know what good grammar was, they were unaware that their grammar was poor.) And these verses resonate closely with me, because I’m a person who loves to learn. I love random facts; I love understanding aspects of the world better; in short, I love to gain knowledge. And I’ve seen first-hand how it can puff up.
But as personally convicting as verse 1 is, it’s verse 2 that’s truly profound. “The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know.”
Verse 1 causes me to wince, to realize that this is an area of my life in which God still needs to work. But verse 2 is the one that gives us a course of action. Possessing knowledge is okay; it’s when we grow arrogant in our knowledge and think we know more than we do that we’re in danger. How do we avoid falling into arrogance and conceit? Looking up. No, not looking it up in a how-to book; looking UPWARD. Only when we look at the Creator of all knowledge and realize how vast His knowledge is—and how infinitesimal ours is—are we able to pursue learning without growing falsely proud.
And then, just in case we happen to fully grasp how minute our cognition truly is but feel discouraged by this revelation . . . there you have the final part of the verse: “But the man who loves God is known by God.”
In other words, God’s huge! We’re tiny! God’s understanding is infinite! Our comprehension is miniscule! But IT’S OKAY, because we are KNOWN BY GOD. Sure, we aren’t as smart as we think we are, and never will be. But really, how dissatisfied can we be with that in light of the fact that the only One who knows as much as we wish to know happens to know and love us personally? That’s SO exciting! So much more exciting than a high test score or a graduate degree.
I’ll suppose I’ll end with the well-put words of The Message:
“We never really know enough until we recognize that God alone knows it all” (MSG, v. 2).