The Pursuit of Knowledge

Man has often sought more knowledge and wisdom, and that is not always a bad thing — but it can be, depending on the motivation of the one seeking. It is the motivation that often determines the propriety of actually gaining that knowledge or wisdom, and that is, of course, something we may not ever know. I cannot know the heart of anyone else but self and, likewise, no one can know my heart and what my motivation is, unless I choose to be honest and open and reveal it to others.

      And, with the whole of mankind, our collective knowledge is the result of centuries upon centuries of accumulated bits of knowledge that have been built upon what we have learned and discovered in the previous generations. On an individual level, no one person can retain all the knowledge ever accumulated — not by a long shot. Even the best estimates come with the caveat that much of the information we gain is also lost or simply forgotten. With that said, it would be supremely foolish for any man to make the claim he has anywhere close to the same knowledge as our Creator, of whom it is said, “knows all things” (1 John 3:20), and even “knows the secrets of the heart” (Psa. 44:21).

      And, let it be said here [quoting from the wise writer], “For in much wisdom is much grief, and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow” (Eccl. 1:18). The pursuit of knowledge just to acquire knowledge is not necessarily a good thing and is, quite often, a pursuit that leads to misery, rather than comfort and peace of mind. Some men, deep into their pursuit of knowledge, have come to realize the old adage, “The more you know, the less you want to know.”

      But men will continue to seek out more and more knowledge for some false hope that their increased knowledge will unlock the secret to happiness and world peace, or just the praise and recognition from their fellow man; they do so believing the warning about increased grief and sorrow applies to someone else, and that they will be the exception. Some pursue knowledge in an effort to eliminate the possibility of any higher intelligence [i.e., God] and concurrently declare man is the highest intelligence, and that we have no need for those old “superstitions” that arose among men who did not have the same level of knowledge we do today. In their eyes, we don’t need God because we are “smarter” than those of old, we have more knowledge, and we are simply superior.

      Since human knowledge and — more importantly — wisdom is mostly learned from experience and from the experience of others [history], we would do well to learn something about the pursuit of knowledge itself. What is the proper motivation for learning more? What are some motives that should be avoided? What happens when some men seek and gain more knowledge? What kind of knowledge should we be seeking? What is the difference between knowledge and wisdom, and which one should we seek more? Let’s try to answer those question in the space remaining.

      Knowledge, or Wisdom? Knowledge is defined in its most simple terms as “something that is or may be known; information”; wisdom, on the other hand, is “knowledge of what is true or right coupled with just judgment as to action.” Someone once noted the difference between knowledge and wisdom this way: “Knowledge is knowing some fact; wisdom is knowing what to do with that knowledge.” I would have to agree [and so do the Scriptures], so it is better to pursue wisdom than just merely gaining knowledge. Knowledge is all about gaining information, but wisdom is knowing what to do with the information you gain. And that is where man quite often fails.

      The wise writer, in fact, admonished his son, “Get wisdom! Get understanding!” (Prov. 4:5), and, “How much better to get wisdom than gold! And to get understanding is to be chosen rather than silver” (Prov. 16:16). To emphasize the value of wisdom, he writes, “Happy is the man who finds wisdom, and the man who gains understanding; for her proceeds are better than the profits of silver, and her gain than fine gold. She is more precious than rubies, and all the things you may desire cannot compare with her” (Prov. 3:13-15). Pursue wisdom, rather than mere knowledge.

      What Knowledge Should We Seek? While there are many worthwhile pursuits, the knowledge we must seek, if any, is the knowledge of God and His ways, and of Christ. Science is certainly fascinating, but it will not find the answer to sin or get you into heaven. To this end, Paul wrote, “I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ…that I may know Him” (Phil. 3:8-10). The psalmist would also write [speaking to God], “Give me understanding, that I may know Your testimonies” (Psa. 119:125). This would agree with what the wise writer would say when he wrote, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Prov. 9:10). If you seek knowledge, there is nothing more important to know than God and His plan for your salvation.

      What Happens When Some Men Gain Knowledge? Whether it is knowledge from the secular and scientific world, or knowledge of God and His ways, sometimes men obtain that knowledge and the result is anything but what it should be. Some, gaining some degree of knowledge [again, minuscule compared to God’s knowledge], reject a knowledge of God and, “became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools” (Rom. 1:18-22).

      The sad fact is, some seek knowledge, and quickly then consider themselves “too smart for God,” rejecting what knowledge they do have of Him, and declare themselves the highest intelligence and authority and do whatever they want, because God is no longer over them.

      Let us not deceive ourselves into thinking we can get “too smart for God” and reject the knowledge of God and not face the consequences. Paul stated plainly that when Christ comes again, He will come “in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thess. 1:8). At that moment in time, everyone who had rejected the knowledge of God will be wishing they knew Him, and all other knowledge will seem worthless.

      The Proper Motivation for Gaining More Knowledge. If we are seeking the right knowledge [of God and Christ and their ways], then even that must be for the right reason. We all probably know someone who seems to have gained a lot of knowledge of God and His word, but only to show others how much knowledge they have, or to point out what everyone else is doing wrong. Friends and brethren, that is the wrong reason to gain greater knowledge.

      Paul sought to know what Jesus would have him do (Acts 22:10), and he did so because he wanted to please God in all he did (2 Cor. 5:9). Whatever knowledge he gained was done that he might then share that knowledge with others that they might be saved, also. We must first know what God’s will is and then do it, but we must then use that knowledge to save others.

            Knowledge can be a good thing if it is the right knowledge, gained for the right purpose. What do you know!     — Steven Harper