What Knowledge Can't Do
“I thought to myself, ‘Look, I have grown and increased in wisdom more than anyone who has ruled over Jerusalem before me; I have experienced much of wisdom and knowledge.’ Then I applied myself to the understanding of wisdom, and also of madness and folly, but I learned that this, too, is a chasing after the wind. For with much wisdom comes much sorrow; the more knowledge, the more grief.” Ecclesiastes 1:16-18
Verses 16-18 are not an argument against knowledge but a warning that knowledge isn’t the answer to everything. In Jeremiah 9:23-24 the Lord Himself reminds us not to boast in our riches, strength, or wisdom, “but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me.” We were made to know God! That is our privilege, our calling, and our very purpose for existing. It is a privilege afforded to every believer and a duty every Christian must pursue.
We can always know God better than we do. No one ever arrives at a perfect knowledge of God. Those who do not know God have missed the central truth of the universe. Second Thessalonians 1 warns us that God will judge those who do not know Him. In that great day, no excuses will be accepted and no substitute knowledge will suffice. Since it is possible and necessary to know God, those who do not know Him face a terrible future.
Well-known scientist Carl Sagan died at the age of sixty-two. He gained his public fame primarily as host of the series “Cosmos” on public television. He is remembered for his oft-repeated statement that “the cosmos is all that ever was, or is, or ever will be.” He was a thoroughgoing secularist, humanist, agnostic, and ardent evolutionist. To the very end he remained skeptical of any claims to God’s existence. He died as he lived-an unbeliever.
After his death his wife said the following: “There was no deathbed conversion, no appeals to God, no hope for an afterlife, no pretending that he and I, who had been inseparable for twenty years, were not saying goodbye forever.”
That statement reminds me of a brief anecdote J.I. Packer told regarding an acquaintance whose career derailed because of his evangelical convictions. When asked if he harbored any ill feelings, he replied quite simply: “I’ve known God and they haven’t.” Packer goes on to note most of us would not feel comfortable speaking in such straightforward terms. But the terms are entirely biblical. Knowing God does make a difference and is the defining characteristic of those who follow Jesus Christ. To know God deeply and intimately more than makes up for the things we lose because of our faith.
Lord of all the universe, save me from the folly of thinking that I know more than I really do. If I boast, let it be because I know You. Amen.