The Puffing Up of Knowledge

I sat at my desk, the words of my professor still tumbling through my head. Knowledge puffs up, but love edifiesIf you are not using your knowledge to love others, it will only make you prideful, which will lead to your fall

My days were spent at my desk writing papers, listening to lectures, reading books, studying for exams, and the occasional glance at the sparkling river out my window. I studied morning and afternoon while my husband worked, but the accumulation of thoughts and understanding from my day never went much further than the doors of our home. 

I loved learning, but I also loved the growth of such knowledge. At times, I found myself frustrated with others when they didn’t appreciate knowledge and learning like I did.

That was my growing pride. 

But I didn’t see that at first, not until my professor spoke that one phrase in my New Testament class. 

My theology-loving friend, I want to warn you of the same pride that could grow inside of you as you grow in knowledge. When we are not using our theology to love and serve God and those he has placed around us, our knowledge could be our downfall. Though you may know the doctrines of grace, you may be living with more pride than grace. Though you may know the essential doctrines of Christology, do you live like Christ lived? Though you know the Greek words for love, are you showing others that agape love? 

The Pride of Knowledge

How does unused knowledge brew pride? When we spend our days with our noses in books, we start to forget about the people around us. We can develop a sort of analytical look at people. We judge them by their knowledge in comparison to ours, we look down on them for their lack of discernment, and we begin to forget that they are people.

In 1 Corinthians 8:1 Paul makes the statement that knowledge makes one arrogant but love edifies. This is in the context of addressing the church on their disagreement about food sacrificed to idols. Those who had knowledge understood that eating meats sacrificed to idols was not a problem because those idols were not real. They understood they were free under Christ to eat whatever they pleased. 

But some who had less knowledge and were new converts from worshipping idols struggled to see that. They felt guilty for eating such foods because they could still remember when they did so as pagans. 

Those who had knowledge of the truth may have felt prideful towards the weaker Christians. They may have looked down their noses at them and thought, “Just get over it!” Or they may have flaunted the fact that they could eat the food without guilt in front of those weaker Christians. 

When our knowledge is only about ourselves, it is bound to lead to pride. The Christians who had knowledge in Corinth only cared about their own freedoms, without considering the consciences of their brothers. 

If you are studying for the sake of growing your own brain, your own library, your own vocabulary, with no consideration of others, your knowledge will eventually lead to pride in a similar way. 

Humble Knowledge

Paul warned them to not let this knowledge lead to such pride. Instead, he called them to love their brothers and sisters. This love may require them to set aside their freedom to eat so that their brothers’ consciences would not be bothered. Paul went as far to say that, “if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble” (1 Corinthians 8:13 ESV). Paul was willing to humbly set aside his freedom to eat meat in order to love his fellow Christians.

When our knowledge centers on serving others, opportunity for pride is removed. When we learn to teach others, we are humbled by the difficulty and greatness of the task. When our knowledge is about growing in love for God, we are humbled by the vastness and incomprehensibleness of our God. Our motive must be to love God and serve others when we learn. 

When it comes to growing in knowledge, we must have the same attitude Christ had: “It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:26-28 ESV). Christ came to earth not to be served as a king, but as a humble servant, to bear the wrath we deserved for our sins. It was this act that brought most glory to God.

When you come to learn, what is your motive? Are you trying to prove someone wrong? Are you trying to look impressive? Are you trying to grow your own personal knowledge? Or do you want to serve those around you and bring glory to God? 

Serving With Our Knowledge

How can we serve with our knowledge? The church presents many opportunities for wise and knowledgeable Christians to serve: teaching Sunday School, leading a Bible study, one-on-one discipleship, Daily Vacation Bible School, hosting a podcast, writing a blog, and counselling are a few.

One of the ways I began using my knowledge to serve was through writing. After that lesson from my professor, I “freshened up” the old blog I had abandoned a year prior and relaunched it with a new purpose: To use my knowledge to love others. I began sharing the truth God was teaching me. 

In the past when I blogged, it was done for the sole sake of getting my words out for the world to see—but that soon wore off. Now, God had sparked a new desire in me: to teach his daughters the glorious truths of his Word. This is why I still write today, whether it’s through sharing a personal essay, writing a listicle, or crafting an article, I want to kill my pride and love those around me with truth. 

When I only learned in the privacy of my own home without the context of the church, I became prideful. But when I started serving others with my knowledge, God quickly taught me about pride. Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies.