Admittedly, what follows is not an evaluation of the topic the apostle Paul addresses when he makes the statement, “Knowledge puffeth up” (1 Co.8:1 – KJV). I offer the following based on observations I have made as I interact with a range of people.
Within the pages of Scripture, the importance of proper mental activity is emphasized. Within this emphasis, there is reference to knowledge, understanding and wisdom. In my experience with preaching, teaching and counseling, I would also add the category of mere information.
A very specific and somewhat distinct mental function is what the Bible calls the heart. A right heart is key to properly dealing with all other information, knowledge, understanding and wisdom in reference to the kingdom of God and right relationship with the King of the kingdom. The specific function of the heart involves making an intelligent decision about one’s ultimate commitment of life. Upon this foundation, one can begin constructing a proper mental perspective (and eventual lifestyle) in all other areas of life. Without this foundation, truth tends to be mere information. It might be interesting information, entertaining information and/or exciting information, but it is merely information nonetheless.
It is possible that such information is capable of producing a level of knowledge. However, knowledge without a right heart tends to produce arrogance. Such arrogance interferes with the transformation that leads to conformity to the image of Christ.
Knowledge for knowledge sake is an expression of arrogance. According to Matthew 13:23, Jesus emphasized that understanding the word of the kingdom is necessary for one to produce new, good fruit. Understanding is not simply the result of increasing one’s knowledge; it is a matter of recognizing the deeper, meaningful levels of the knowledge possessed. In Luke’s account of this parable, he states, “…the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance.” We can see that understanding and the condition of one’s heart go hand-in-hand.
One might have a lot of information without knowledge or an amount of knowledge without understanding.
My interest in investigating these ideas is to challenge the Christian community to understand how such things apply to ministry. Our goal is not simply to dispense information and knowledge upon soil “beside the road,” in “rocky places,” nor “among the thorns.” Many have the assumption that the point of the parable of the sower is that we can only expect a 25% return on our ministry efforts. I would suggest that the point is, we need to be aware of what kind of soil we are dealing with and make a wise effort to prepare the soil before we begin tossing seed (which should be the way a farmer understands such information). According to Matthew 13:23, we should expect a hundred, sixty or at least thirty fold as a result of sharing truth wisely.
I currently recognize this concern having application to two groups of people. One group is those active in some area of ministry while justifying careless efforts by assuming that God “magically” takes any seed we toss out and does something significant with it. I commend them for being active and yet challenge them to understand the need to be wise as Proverb 11:30 states, “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and he who is wise wins souls.” The second group is those who love to talk about and defend their doctrinal and theological curiosities without actually being involved in ministering to the hearts, minds or lives of people on any identifiable level. Such people run the risk of using knowledge to produce an arrogance that not only fails to produce fruit, but often becomes an obstacle to the production of fruit.
“Break up your fallow ground, and do not sow among thorns.” Jer.4:3