For every single one of us in this room and for every single person outside this room, there is at least one thing (and likely many things) that we just cannot handle. Whatever that thing is, we are "handled" by it instead of "handling" it.

For some, that thing is money. For others, it is credit. For others, it is power. For others, it is control. For others, it is popularity. For others, it is pleasure.

For everyone, it is knowledge. May I anticipate the response of many people? "David, that is absolutely ridiculous! Knowledge is basic to existence! Knowledge is highly valued in this culture! We seek to educate all our children because knowledge is important. We stress knowledge on our jobs and careers. We even have Bible classes because we want children and adults to have Bible knowledge."

I definitely agree that knowledge is basic to existence. I understand the value of an education. I realize how essential knowledge is on jobs and in careers. I totally endorse the pursuit of knowledge in seeking to be a godly person.

Listen to me carefully. I did not say knowledge was unimportant. I said people cannot handle possessing knowledge. The most ungodly problems each of us have are created by what we know.

I challenge you to think about that truth. When are you powerfully tempted to feel superior to someone? Is it not when you know something they do not know? When are you powerfully tempted to "look down" on another person? Is it not when you regard them to be incredibly ignorant? More than money, more than power, more than control, more than popularity, knowledge creates an arrogance that makes self big and important and makes others small and insignificant.

Consider a specific illustration. All I ask you to do is be honest with yourself as you answer to you silently. Do you personally "look down on" many people in the Middle East? If you do, why do you? See if any of these statements sound familiar. "I do not understand how anyone could be a suicide bomber!" "I do not understand how people can hate people so intensely just because of their nationality." "I do not understand how people can attack jeeps and guns by throwing stones!"

You do not understand those things? "NO!" Why do you not understand those things? "Bottom line, those are stupid acts!" Would you do any of those things? "NO!" Why? "I know better!" So, what you know makes you superior?

Please pray with me: "God, teach us how to have minds and hearts filled with the love that comes from you. In our love for You and others, never let us use our knowledge to destroy those for whom You sacrificed the Jesus."

  1. Both Christianity and Judaism traces the root of all our personal problems and all the world's problems to humanity's inability to handle knowledge.
    1. The first book in the Bible makes two bold declarations.
      1. The first temptation was based on the human inability to handle knowledge.
      2. The first act of evil was based on the human inability to handle knowledge.
    2. Read with me from Genesis 3:1-10.
      Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, "Indeed, has God said, 'You shall not eat from any tree of the garden'?" The woman said to the serpent, "From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, 'You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.' " The serpent said to the woman, "You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings. They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. Then the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, "Where are you?" He said, "I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself."
      1. We could spend a lot of time focusing on talking snakes and eating a fruit that provides knowledge--but if we did, I fear we would miss the lessons.
      2. "What lessons?"
        1. In contrast to God, humanity has never been able to "handle" the knowledge of evil.
          1. In contrast to God, the knowledge of evil deceives us--not God, but us.
          2. In contrast to God, the knowledge of evil tempts us--not God, but us.
          3. God can handle the knowledge of evil because He cannot be deceived (Galatians 6:7) or tempted (James 1:13).
        2. Before humanity had the knowledge of evil, there were some basic problems we did not have.
          1. It was the knowledge of evil that produced shame.
          2. It was the knowledge of evil that produced a sense of guilt.
          3. It was the knowledge of evil that produced fear.
          4. How different would your life be if you never felt shame, never knew guilt, and were never afraid?
        3. Nothing good resulted from the human knowledge of evil.
          1. Why?
          2. We could not handle knowing what evil was!
          3. Evil deceives; God does not; and we are easy prey for skillful deception!
      3. The highest form of deception is an addiction.
        1. I am speaking of any form of addiction: to alcohol, to drugs, to sex, to power, to money, to control, to pleasure.
        2. Either an addict denies an addiction, or an addict abandons himself or herself to an addiction.
        3. Basically an addiction is any form of destructive escape--the attempt to flee rather than face or endure.
        4. The addict often becomes a powerful advocate for his or her addiction.
        5. He or she often does so with the words, "If you only knew. . ."

  2. If as a Christian you really doubt the fact that humans cannot handle knowledge, I ask you to consider a couple of statements.
    1. In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul discussed the most important and enduring qualities of human existence.
      1. He named three: faith, hope, and love.
      2. He declared that the greatest of the three is love, which he discussed in detail.
      3. Would you please note that knowledge was not one of the three.
    2. Please read with me as we look at 1 Corinthians 8:1-13.
      Now concerning things sacrificed to idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies. If anyone supposes that he knows anything, he has not yet known as he ought to know; but if anyone loves God, he is known by Him. Therefore concerning the eating of things sacrificed to idols, we know that there is no such thing as an idol in the world, and that there is no God but one. For even if there are so-called gods whether in heaven or on earth, as indeed there are many gods and many lords, yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him. However not all men have this knowledge; but some, being accustomed to the idol until now, eat food as if it were sacrificed to an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled. But food will not commend us to God; we are neither the worse if we do not eat, nor the better if we do eat. But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. For if someone sees you, who have knowledge, dining in an idol's temple, will not his conscience, if he is weak, be strengthened to eat things sacrificed to idols? For through your knowledge he who is weak is ruined, the brother for whose sake Christ died. And so, by sinning against the brethren and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food causes my brother to stumble, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause my brother to stumble.
      1. For us, nothing is more black and white than idolatry--there is only one God or there is not, and there are no ifs, ands, or buts about it.
      2. Those who had knowledge and were quite correct in their knowledge knew there was only one God.
        1. They knew that an idol did not represent an existing, living god, and they were correct in their knowledge.
        2. They knew that a sacrifice offered to an idol was offered to nothing, and they were correct in their knowledge.
      3. And Paul said that correct knowledge was the foundation of arrogance.
        1. Knowledge was the foundation of arrogance.
        2. Love built people up.
        3. Paul said if you are going to know something, know the importance of love.
      4. Then Paul said something else that was most strange to the people to whom he wrote and is incredibly strange to us.
        1. Not every Christian knows there is just one God and idols are nothing.
        2. Some Christians know that, but all Christians do not know that.
      5. So Paul said that he would not wound their consciences by eating a food given in sacrifice to a nonexistent god.
        1. "Why, Paul? If you have correct knowledge and they are the victims of ignorance, why would you let their ignorance control your behavior?"
        2. Bottom line: he understood how much God paid in Jesus' blood for their salvation, and he would not allow knowledge to destroy the saving work of God by destroying someone for whom Christ died.
        3. Love is the ultimate, in God, and in those who follow God.

  3. I want to share a couple of things with you and I have a very specific purpose in my sharing: I want your thoughts to penetrate to the inner core of your being.
    1. I want to begin by stating that I take confidences very seriously.
      1. Unless I have permission from the person, I do not even share confidences with my wife.
      2. The first thing I want to share with you I have permission to share.
    2. When I returned from vacation, a lady I deeply respect told me that while I was gone she acquired a specific set of knowledge.
      1. I have worked with, encouraged, and tried to help people for decades.
      2. I can assure you that the knowledge she learned would have devastated most Christians.
      3. The knowledge she acquired had the potential of bringing major devastation to her life.
        1. There was zero question about the authenticity of her knowledge.
        2. Her new knowledge was based on unquestionable fact.
      4. But in her situation, her love is greater than her knowledge.
        1. So instead of her new knowledge bringing devastation,
        2. Her love is growing in spite of that knowledge.
    3. The greatest challenge that we Christians have is allowing God's love to become the most powerful influence in our lives.
      1. It is extremely challenging to let God's love teach us how to love.
      2. In no situation or in no relationship will any of us be as forgiving just one time as God already has forgiven each of us in Christ.
      3. Never will being compassionate to others cost us as much as God's compassion toward us cost Him--it cost Him the life of his only son WHEN HE COULD HAVE STOPPED IT!

Please do not let this happen to you on judgment day.

Us: "Lord, that Christian who was baptized into Christ was doing something the wrong way--so I stopped him!"

God: "You do realize that I gave Jesus to die for him. Did you love him as much as I do, or did you destroy someone that I sent Jesus to die for?"

1 Corinthians 8:11,12 For through your knowledge he who is weak is ruined, the brother for whose sake Christ died.

Do not let your spiritual knowledge destroy you--or any one else!

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 21 September 2003

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