True Knowledge

Jerry Sittser

READ : 1 Corinthians 8:1-13

Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. (v. 1)

I serve as a college professor. I spend much of my day trafficking in the heady world of ideas. I introduce students to early Christian intellectuals like Origen, heresies like Arianism, medieval popes like Innocent III, reformers like Ulrich Zwingli, and theologians like Karl Barth. Knowledge is a big part of my world.

In the history of Christianity knowledge has never been considered a virtue. Wisdom is a virtue, not knowledge. Knowledge can serve destructive ends, and knowledgeable people can become arrogant. As Paul said, knowledge can puff up. It is love that builds up.

The Corinthians reveled in knowledge. But their knowledge had made them arrogant and abusive, not sensitive and self-sacrificing. As enlightened as they were, they believed that Christ had set them free from silly customs that only ignorant people followed, like refraining from eating certain foods that had been offered as pagan sacrifices. These enlightened elites simply knew better, and let everyone else know!

The only knowledge worth anything is the knowledge that inspires us to love. “What three things must you know?” an old catechism asks. And it answers: First, how great my sins are. Second, how I may be delivered from them. And third, how to show my gratitude to God for my deliverance.


Dear God, teach me how to turn knowledge into love. Amen.