The peril of knowledge

A few days ago, one of our staff came into the office and as usual, we chatted about things other than work. He announced gladly that he would have to quit within the next 2 months because he was going on to fulfill his dream of further education. He was considered the black sheep of his family and had been told several times that he would never amount to much, because of his delinquent past. I was glad for him because he was fulfilling what he always wanted to do. We had a long conversation and I gave him a big hug and told him he has a mentor and provoker in me, whose desire is to see him soar beyond the clouds and become more than he or any member of his family dreamed he could be. That incident got me thinking more about a thought that had been stirring in me for a while: the peril of knowledge. Ignorance is dangerous but knowledge can kill too.

This may seem to contradict my earlier writings on the primacy of knowledge but it does not. In fact, it is possible to detect its undercurrents in my previous writings. Knowledge can be very dangerous if we get stuck in what we know, refusing to move from there, not realizing that we only know in part. Anything that originates from God, especially a human being, is much more complex and full of potential than we sometimes realize, especially if they intentionally or mistakenly open themselves up to their maker. As observers, we look most times, only at what we see, not allowing for the possibility of emergence of potential, which is usually present beneath the surface, hidden from plain view. Many times we take a snapshot of what is visible, and it usually is a true picture. However, a snapshot of a moving object might be a true picture but it is not truth and should not be taken as truth. The truth is that life is not only on the move, which would require a movie rather than a photo, but most of the time in the depths, something stirs, invisible even in the motion picture.

My staff’s family members took a snapshot of him as a delinquent and formed their view of him – past, present and future. They did not think he could be in an environment like ours – and I say this with all humility – where tendency towards dishonor gets transformed into tendency towards honor or where the potential for honor is nurtured and allowed to thrive. They thought what he was yesterday is what he is today and what he will be tomorrow. This is the peril of knowledge. True knowledge is dangerous if it is static and if it does not delve beneath the surface. In essence, you do not truly know anyone, not even yourself, your spouse or children or siblings. It is disadvantageous to think that who or what you saw yesterday is all there is and all there ever shall be.

Life, the universe, human beings are so dynamic and multidimensional especially if God is in the mix, that knowledge must be undergirded with humility and unknowing. People who knew Jesus as a baby could not bring themselves to accept that he was anything more than Mary and Joseph’s son, when he started to display divinity. They did not realize that even though they knew him as a baby, there was much more to him than they knew. He was the Infinite, their Creator, the Yahweh they claim to worship. They were right about him being Mary and Joseph’s son and that is why they missed Him. Their knowledge of him prevented them from knowing Him and benefiting from His divinity. The safest place to be regarding knowledge of anything or anyone in this place called the universe, is to know that you do not know who or what you know.

This applies even more to God than to his creation. Knowledge of God must be accompanied with unknowing. One of the mysterious prayers in the new testament is that we would know the love of God, which surpasses knowledge. Everything about God, I think surpasses knowledge so when you know it, know that you do not know. When you think you know, you stagnate and miss the infiniteness of God. One of the truths in mathematics that somewhat bothered me in high school was,

Infinity – x = Infinity, where x is any number.

Infinity cannot be subtracted from or added to. It is not quantifiable and therefore mathematics as we know it, cannot apprehend it or act on it. This equation is another way of saying that whatever we know, there is an infinity unknown. Apostle Paul said, “for we know in part”. Knowledge is always partial and while it may be true, needs a heart of meekness. I do not know you, you do not know me. I do not know me, you do not know you. To properly relate with myself and with you in truth, I need to open myself to the possibility of being surprised by you. I need to open myself up to the possibility that the lowly, very familiar human being before me could be a vessel through whom God reaches me or through whom the Creator expresses Himself in the world.

We also sometimes look for God outside of what is familiar when He is trying to reach us through the familiar. Someone may be looking to God for an idea or help when it is staring them in the face all the time. A widow in the old testament had economic challenges in a time of famine and the solution to her problem came from within her own house and she could have died of starvation right next to her salvation and I think there are many of us in those same shoes per time. My Pastor in Nigeria says, “You should not be in the midst of destiny and be destitute.” My ‘salvation’ may depend on jettisoning my knowledge of the seemingly ordinary thing or person and seeing through God’s eyes, before whom all things are possible. Dead bones can live and stand up on their feet as an exceedingly great army but never insist that they cannot live because all your life, they have been dead. Your insistence may hurt you. It is safe to simply say like Prophet Ezekiel, “Lord, thou knowest”.

I think of another situation in the old testament when the Prophet prophesied in a time of extreme famine and unimaginable hardship in Samaria that food will become plentiful within 24 hours. The King’s official insisted that there was no way in heaven and on earth that the prophecy could be fulfilled. It did happen and as was predicted, the official was trampled to death in the stampede. His knowledge killed him. He should have accepted the possibility that his knowledge was incomplete. I need to accept the possibility that my knowledge of God, of myself, of even my immediate family members, of anyone or anything, is incomplete because it is incomplete. Only one person has complete knowledge of anyone or anything and that is the Omniscient one called God.

There is much more to you, to me, than meets the eye and there is much more to God than meets the eye or believe it or not, meets the spirit. For the scriptures say, “Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, neither has it entered into the heart of man, what God has prepared for those that love him…” Even the things which God has prepared are too much for our hearts to grasp without the help of God, how much more God himself or people made in His image. Even if you have read the Bible a thousand times, you do not have a clue, for “the letter killeth and the spirit (which is infinite) giveth life.”

The exciting thing about unknowing is that God reveals himself to “babes and the unlearned”. Unknowing creates hunger, thirst and submission. Knowledge sometimes leads to pride. The way to know more of God and keep growing day to day, is unknowing and the best way to deal with people is to “know no man after the flesh”. If a human being for any reason commits themselves to the Infinite, not religiously but in spirit and in reality, even if you know him or her like the palm of your hand, be wary, whether that human being be you or someone else. Even if you do not know that they have submitted themselves to God in reality, still be wary, very wary. Paul the Apostle, who probably knew more than anyone else about God since creation still said, “that I may know him…” He was not being pious, he was being very real. It is time to put aside religion and just take the Creator not as the founder of a religion but as The Creator, the Infinite One who has all the answers to everything including how to lose weight, how you or your baby can sleep better at night, precisely how to eliminate trillion dollar deficits in the US, how to move your organization from languishing to flourishing, or (really) how to keep the earth He made green.

It is much wiser to have an unknowing approach to God and to life. You go in pursuit of knowledge only if you do not know, you seek water only if you are thirsty and you seek food only if you are hungry. “Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the LORD: his going forth is prepared as the morning; and he shall come unto us as the rain, as the latter and former rain unto the earth.”

8 thoughts on “The peril of knowledge

  1. HII TOLOU…this post is one of your best…I think about this phrase so much " I need to open myself to the possibility of being surprised by you."…it's very beautiful…I really couldn't reach to the depth of it's meaning,but I'm still thinking about it and it's joyful.

  2. Believe it or not Bahar, I do not know the depths of its meaning. But i agree with you, it is joyful, very joyful. You are really going beyond the surface to the spirit behind the words. There is a sense of joyful anticipation that this being, even though presently in rags on the dung hill, will wear princely clothing and sit and dine with God's princes. That is joyful and I believe it speaks to God's heart about his images, whatever decadent state they may be right now. Thank you for reading reflectively and for opening yourself up to being spoken to by an 'ordinary' human.

  3. I also think it speaks to being open to surprise at all. It is about believing all things, hoping all things, according to scriptures, and that is a joyful thing.

  4. I have to say THANK YOU….your words are as much joyful as the time you wake up in the morning and see a huge amount of light coming through your first you may not be able to see very well because of that much light,but slowly you will get to the truth.I hope the light of GOD comes to my window soon…so soon.

  5. I need to get to the depths of your words too. Truly, as the Psalmist said, "Deep calleth unto deep at the noise of thy water spouts: all thy waves and thy billows have gone over me" and even those words are soundless because they are from a source whose thoughts, the Psalmist said, "are very deep."You are God's heartbeat. You can be sure that any iota of desire for Him on your part will meet with His grace. Also, because God is always previous, any iota of desire on our part is itself His amazing grace. The Light is beginning to dawn and soon the day will break. Because you hope, be assured that "Then shall you know, if you follow on to know the Lord. His going forth is prepared as the morning; and He will come to you as the rain, as the latter and former rain unto the earth." I guarantee you. Jesus said, "Blessed are they that hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled" – enough said.

  6. Thank you very much Tolou…tonight I got my energy from your last answer to my comment…I will stay hopeful, believer and faithful…I believe GOD will touch me in next few weeks….the day you see my ticket in my hand ,will be the day that I dedicate the deepest layer of my heart to GOD.

  7. Pingback: Beginning with wonder | Tolulope's Musings

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