Better Than I Deserve
8/28/13 at 01:27 PM 0 Comments

How Knowledge Puffs Up

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Wikipedia Commons, Public Domain

Blowfish (family of Tetraodontidae) are closely related to the Porcupine fish and Puffer fish. These fish are analytical to the idea of Biblical knowledge that comes without love. These fish are the second most poisonous vertebrate in the known world. They are highly toxic to humans. Their unique and distinctive natural defenses have the ability to inflate rapidly. Some puffers also produce a powerful neurotoxin called tetrodotixon in their internal organs, making them unpleasant, and even lethal.

First Corinthians 8:1 is a popular verse within Evangelical Christianity. The proverbial portion of the verse, "knowledge puffs up," regularly echoes through the corridors of our churches. Normally, the proverb is spoken as a subtle rebuke of a believer seemingly falling in love with learning and correcting or chastising those who know less than they do. Since learning brings forth knowledge and knowledge brings forth arrogance, we reason, and then learning isn't a habit worthy of our love. According to many who voice this proverb, some learning is necessary, but the sole objective of study is the application of that which is learned. Our goal as Christians is not to only know more about God but to know how to be more like God.

We know far more about the Bible (we imagine) than we can possibly obey, and so our focus must shift from that of impractical, pride-feeding knowledge to application and ministry skills acquisition. If knowledge does not build up his brother and it is coupled with love (8:1b), then it is for nothing. Knowledge devoid of love serves only to build up a person’s ego; it demonstrates that person’s selfishness as Paul wrote (I Cor. 13:2) "[if I have] all knowledge . . . but do not have love, I am nothing." Atheists and agnostics are also made in the image of God but to only respond with knowledge without love to those who don't believe as we do is sin. This sin is pride.

Paul says that we should esteem others better than or out of the faith…but having a lot of biblical knowledge tends to make us esteem ourselves better than others. There is no love in this. Christ said that they would be able to recognize by the love we have for one another (John 13:35). It is by our loving one another and non-believers that they will know who Jesus’ disciples are. Jesus didn't qualify this by saying that it only has to do with Christians. I can disagree but still be agreeable. We can agree to disagree. When a Christian is not using his knowledge to build up his brother or sister and also those outside of the faith, and this knowledge is not coupled with love, we are nothing more than a Bible concordance. If love is not the foundation and at the root of our knowledge, Paul says this knowledge is worthless (1 Cor 13:2).

Paul is not trying to discourage us from learning but encouraging us to grow in knowledge and love. One without the other renders it useless and in fact it was better to have no knowledge at all than to have all knowledge with no love. If I only pass on knowledge without love, my children and grandchildren will use that knowledge; but not in love, but in "brow beating" others who don't have such knowledge. They will become pride-filled Christians that no one wants to have anything to do with. I have been a Christian very long time now and have learned much "meat" from my studies, but if I do not show love, then it is worth nothing. We ought not to treat those who disagree with us, inside or outside of the church walls, any worse than we treat ourselves. What do those who don't believe think when they see other Christians criticizing each other about what I consider non-essential issues? I believe it is true: The main thing is to keep the main thing, the main thing and that is Christ and Him crucified (1 Cor 2:2).

I am not guiltless of course, but all too often I have seen Christians attacking one another over gray area matters. Where is the love in that? Where is the esteeming others better than ourselves? I love Christmas, primarily because I get to spend time with family and friends. I also get to relax and take some much needed time off. Someone responded to my reason with the fact that the letters in Santa can also be rearranged to spell Satan. It is true that there are pagan carry-overs in this present world but so is the wedding ring! Here I was defending myself for observing a holiday.

Here's the analogy. Porcupine fish and Puffer fish puff up when threatened. Knowledge without love, like these fish, can be most poisonous. What message to non-believers are we sending? Knowledge without love can also be highly toxic to humans. Knowledge by itself can puff up a person and overly inflate their egos and even our own natural defenses make us inflate rapidly. Like the powerful neurotoxins, we too can be lethal Christians. We have no excuse. Paul warned that “if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another” (Gal 5:15). I too have been guilty of this. God forgive for me for this and forbid that it happen again. Let me resolve to love others and esteem them better than myself, regardless of how much biblical knowledge I have or don’t have or how much they know or don’t know. It doesn’t matter…love matters.


I am a pastor and Senior Writer at What Christians Want to Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believers daily walk with God and the Bible.

CP Blogs do not necessarily reflect the views of The Christian Post. Opinions expressed are solely those of the author(s).