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“Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies.” (1 Corinthians 8:1, NKJV)
When I was young, I was very preoccupied with knowing things. You could say I was a very curious child. I loved asking questions and I wanted to know everything. I was top in class in primary school every year. By my family standards, I was very nerdy and bookish.
Growing up, I loved nothing more than to be in a bookstore or a library. I was constantly in my own world of encyclopedias, novels and penpals. Imagine my delight when I attended university in England, with their penchant for pub quizzes and TV shows like QI and University Challenge.
Many times as I was growing up, I used my knowledge against other people. It was my only weapon to “win” over others in conversations and arguments. When I became a Christian I was even more concerned with knowing Bible verses, Bible knowledge and Bible trivia. I sometimes judged others by how much, or how little, they knew.
Today’s devotion in 1 Corinthians 8:1 says that knowledge makes us proud, but love encourages one to grow. In one translation, it says that knowledge can be risky. It promotes overconfidence and arrogance. But charity of the heart, or love, looks to build others up.
In this text, Paul is speaking to the Corinthians, who lived in Greece. The Greeks were lovers of wisdom and knowledge. Socrates, Plato and Aristotle were classical philosophers long before Jesus was born, and they played a huge part in influencing much of the Western world’s politics, society and daily life.
The Christians in Greece were constantly arguing about whether they should or should not be eating food offered to idols. On this question, Paul prescribes caution and responsibility to those “in the know”, who are living in the freedom of a life in Christ.
With this newfound freedom, there is a responsibility to our brothers and sisters who may not have have the knowledge – the knowledge that there is no other God but one. This was especially true (and difficult) for the Greek Christians, who grew up in a polytheistic culture, where there was a god for every element in life.
On this question, Paul says we are not to use our superior Bible knowledge to prove our point, to win an argument or to justify our behaviour. Instead, we are to be considerate of others’ level of understanding, because love makes us helpful to others. It is love that strengthens the church.
For whatever a man may know, he still has a lot to learn, but if he loves God, he is opening his whole life to the Spirit of God. We never really know enough until we recognise that God alone knows it all.