The age in which we live is, in access to knowledge, unprecedented. More than any generation before ours, we have the knowledge of the world at our fingertips. The smartphone gives instant access to all the knowledge ever gained by humankind with a few swipes of the finger. Unfortunately, this ease of access comes with serious pitfalls.
Paul closed his first letter to his young friend Timothy with a stern warning, which perhaps rings as true today as it did in its original context: “O Timothy, guard the deposit entrusted to you. Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called “knowledge,” for by professing it some have swerved from the faith” (1 Timothy 6:20–21).
Notice carefully: Some had “swerved from the faith” by professing “what is falsely called knowledge.” Because they had allowed their pursuit of knowledge to crowd out the truth of God, they had abandoned the faith once for all delivered to the saints.
Martin Luther King, Jr. observed that our idols are rarely entirely evil. They are attractive to us precisely because they appear good and useful. It is this goodness and utility that ultimately supplants the place that Christ alone should hold in our lives.
Writing of the allure of scientific knowledge, King observed,
It was quite easy for modern man to put his ultimate faith in science because science had brought about such remarkable advances, such tangible and amazing victories. He realized that man through his scientific genius had dwarfed distances and placed time in chains. He noticed the new comforts that had been brought about by science, from the vast improvements in communication to the elimination of many dread plagues and diseases.
Because of the incredible benefits brought about by scientific advancement, humans tend to project scientific enquiry and knowledge to the status of God. Knowledge has its place in our lives, but when we allow knowledge to take a higher seat than it deserves, we have fallen into the trap of idolatry.
How do we know if we have allowed knowledge to become our idol? Here are four diagnostic tips to help you evaluate in this regard.
First, knowledge may be your idol when it no longer draws you closer to God or spurs obedience. Things that are worth knowing come from God and he reveals them to us in order to produce in us faithfulness to him. “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law” (Deuteronomy 29:29). If you thirst for knowledge that does not help you to obey God, knowledge may be your god.
Second, knowledge may be your idol when it fails to produce in you a passion for making disciples. In his high priestly prayer, Jesus tied knowledge to disciple-making (John 17:7–8, 18, 23). Now that his disciples had been filled with all knowledge, it was time for them to be sent into the world with the gospel. If your pursuit of knowledge does not strengthen your commitment to making disciples, knowledge may be your god.
Third, knowledge may be your idol when it does not result in sacrificial love. “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love” (1 John 4:7–8). Worthwhile knowledge causes us to love God more deeply, which results in sacrifice for others.
Fourth, knowledge may be your idol when it stops humbling you. Knowledge tends to puff up (1 Corinthians 8:1). God-driven knowledge, on the other hand, humbles us because it forces us to look at ourselves in light of who God is. When our growing knowledge produces in us a I-cannot-possibly-be-wrong type of attitude, it is the god of knowledge, and not knowledge of God, that has become our pursuit.
This morning, thank God that he has given us the gift of such immense knowledge at our very fingertips. Then ask him to help you avoid idolising that which should ultimately help you grow in your devotion to him.