1Now concerning food sacrificed to idols, we know that we l have knowledge. Knowledge makes us proud, but love builds up. 2If any regards himself as knowing something,he doesn’t know as he ought to know. 3But if anyone loves God, that one is known by him. — 1 Corinthians 8:1-3
[Today I’m again matching our Running Toward the Goal Podcast and this devotional. This is a essentially a transcript of the devotional, which I first recorded in 2003, but I think is relevant every day.]
Everybody wants to get the advantage over someone somehow. If it isnâ€™t strength, we try our brains. Perhaps we have a skill. Something! Anything that will let us feel superior.
We should be crucified with Christ. We should be dead when we enter the church, but no, the same things seem to happen again. In the church it might be doctrinal knowledge that we thing makes us ever so special. Or perhaps itâ€™s training in theology or Biblical languages. Could I be tempted to think that heaven has a hierarchy in which those who read Greek and Hebrew are higher up than those who donâ€™t?
But in the church thereâ€™s another, often subtle, way of getting the better over our fellows. Itâ€™s called â€œspirituality.â€ Now donâ€™t get me wrong. We ought to be spiritual. We should grow in our relationship with God. We should make use of the gifts God has given us.
But what happens when we start to make a scale of whoâ€™s more spiritual, whoâ€™s closer to God, whoâ€™s more gifted? Is this not very much like comparing ourselves for knowledge, or training, or money, or any one of the many things we choose in order to rank ourselves in the sight of the world?
But then we read Paulâ€™s letter to the Corinthians. Not only are we perhaps not so spiritually matureâ€”was that *me* who created a ruckus at the last church council because I wasnâ€™t getting my wayâ€”but we arenâ€™t even supposed to feel so superior. Weâ€™re not supposed to put our knowledge or our spirituality on display as a reason why people should feel that they are less than we are.
In fact, Paul gives us the terribly frustrating statement of 1 Corinthians 8:2â€”if you think you know, you donâ€™t know as well as you should.
So when do I get out of this loop? Never. Not until the kingdom. Any time you get to feeling that youâ€™ve attained, youâ€™re in trouble. Feeling that weâ€™ve attained is a much greater danger than any other. Why? Because it makes us decide to quit trying for something more and start basking in the light of our own glory. It makes us decide that others are much less enlightened than we are. It makes us put the blame on them any time they canâ€™t understand our superior wisdom.
And whether your superiority comes from how spiritual you think you are, or how knowledgeable, itâ€™s all just filthy human pride when it comes down to it.
Should I not then try to gain more knowledge? Of course you should try to gain knowledge. But donâ€™t ever conclude that you know everything; that your learning days are over.
Should I not then try to be more spiritual, to get closer and closer to God? Of course you should try. But the closer you get to God, the more youâ€™ll realize how little are the differences between you and your brothers and sisters when compared to the distance between you and God. And again, you must not get complacent, thinking that you have already attained, that you are the one, superior spiritual being.
What is Paulâ€™s alternative? Love.
Love, the alternative to knowledge? How is that? Love is a guiding motive. People with knowledge can use it to build or destroy. Those who are spiritualâ€”or think they areâ€”can use their gifts to edify or to tear down. But those who are motivated by love will build, whether it is through their knowledge, or their spirituality.
Do you know as you ought to know?