Now about food sacrificed to idols: We know that “We all possess knowledge.” But knowledge puffs up while love builds up. Those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know. But whoever loves God is known by God.-1 Corinthians 8:1-3
Have you ever met a Christian, or someone who claims to be, where all they want to do is war about words and ideas?
There is certainly nothing inherently wrong with being a man or woman of study. I personally really enjoy studying and gaining more knowledge. God has given us our minds and surely he expects us to know as much information about him and his word as we are able to gather. However, as Paul explains in 1 Corinthians 8:1-3, knowledge alone puffs up and does not accomplish God’s ultimate desire for us, which is to love him and build others up in love.
It’s tempting to be an intellectual Christian. It’s tempting because when you live in your head it is far easier to avoid the real issues in your heart. When you are so preoccupied during the Sunday service with finding a doctrinal error, it is all too easy to not hear the Holy Spirit quietly convicting you over your lustful behaviors that took place the night before. And when you do find a reason to disagree with the preacher or other Christians, and you feel quite right because you have verses you feel support your position, then your feelings of rightness can help you avoid thinking about how you did nothing tangible this week for the advancement of God’s Kingdom.
Studying is worthless if it doesn’t help us love God and people more. Studying is not worthless because it can help us love better, but we must be intentional about it and be on guard against intellectual pride. As usual, it comes down to the motives. You can read books to be smarter than people; or you can read books so you can help people understand, help them with their life issues, and be better equipped to love them from your heart. Reading and gaining knowledge is not the issue, what we do with that knowledge is what God really cares about. He doesn’t want us living in our heads. He wants us living out of our new hearts given to us through Christ.
The big takeaway Paul is trying to make clear is this: If you know God, you will be recognized more by your love for others than you will be by your greater knowledge than others.
If you find yourself going to church, attending small group, watching sermons, and reading books all so you can gain more ammo to argue or have a platform to show everyone how smart you are, odds are you are doing this because you want to avoid the issues within your heart.
When we meet God and he looks at our life, he’s not going to be pleased with us based upon how many big books we read about him or how many debates we won against other Christians. God is going to look at our lives to see how much our love for him translated into loving, forgiving, and being sanctified with other people.
May we use our minds to know as much about God as possible, but may our intellectual study always translate into a deepening intimacy with God that will bear fruit in loving those in our lives for the glory of God.