It is easy to mistake amassing information for gaining knowledge. While it is wonderful to have the precious tidbits necessary to win a game of Trivial Pursuit, or answer the questions on Jeopardy, real knowledge is much more than a mind full of facts, no matter how interesting those facts may be.
The wrong understanding of knowledge can lead to negative consequences. It is this type of knowledge that “puffs up” giving us a false view of ourselves and the world. Most of us have heard the phrase, “a little information is a dangerous thing,” and it is true. A little information can lead us to believe we have more understanding and more ability than we actually do. We begin to think too highly of ourselves and pride edges out the much needed common sense that asks for help before our need for it becomes desperate.
The same attitude many of us faced when we graduated, believing we knew everything and there was nothing we could not handle on our own, can still emerge from within us. We can be so impressed with the facts we know, the degrees we earned, and the life-experience we possess, that we fail to see our weak points. This intellectual blindness can lead us in the wrong directions and leave us wounded by our own choices.
In the book of Proverbs, we find an oft quoted treasure that has real-life impact. Early in the first chapter, the writer says, “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.” (1:7) Real knowledge originates from a right understanding of our place in relationship to God. The word “fear” is not about being frightened by God, but rather, respecting God. Filled with awe and wonder, we look to God to define what real knowledge looks like.
Putting God first in the pursuit of knowledge helps us avoid the pitfall of pride. It keeps us grounded in reality. We are not swayed by popularity or popular opinion. We are not impressed by what we know, nor do we expect others to be. Instead, we rejoice in God and the wisdom the Holy Spirit imparts. Then, the information we accumulate, the training we experience and the life journey we take can blossom into the fullness of truth within our lives. Instead of being prideful in our accomplishments, we offer them as gifts to God, to be informed by God and transformed into tools of ministry in our lives.
We should seek wisdom, knowledge and understanding. We should be life-learners who continually grow in these ways, but we should grow by being firmly rooted in God. James wrote, “If anyone lacks wisdom, he should ask God.” (1:5) if we want to truly develop our knowledge, we should start by asking God and then, rooted in him and led by the Spirit, we can truly mature our understanding.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. May our eyes be opened and our spirits awakened to the awe and wonder of God so that we may become truly knowledgeable and wise for our sake and the sake of the world.