This weekend, my daughter and I drove through a parking lot that came up beside a small pond and found that some ducks had congregated by that pond. So we stopped; these ducks were obviously used to the traffic; they expected some kind of treat coming from the car rather than running away back to their water.
That’s when my daughter and I got into a discussion about what exactly a duck eats. We had seen them eat bread, but she also pointed out that ducks will dip their beaks into the water presumably to eat something. But what? Fish? Bugs? Just a drink of water? So we did what anyone would do when they have a question in our day and time: We pulled out my phone and typed in the question, and in two seconds we had the answer.
We live in this age of easy education. Never before has more information been more available to us. You can count on the fact that virtually anything you’ve been curious about, someone else has already been curious about, and has recorded the answer somewhere in cyberspace. It’s a pretty amazing thing when you think about it. And yet the breadth and depth of these facts and figures of all shapes and kinds brings with it a question:
To what end?
Back to the example of the ducks. Now we know what ducks eat, but to what end? We don’t have ducks. We don’t plan on raising ducks. We rarely encounter ducks. So to what end do we now know what ducks eat? This is the danger that we run into because with the wealth of information comes the bloated ego associated with it. What I mean is that because we don’t have ducks, but now that we know what ducks eat, the only real application point for that piece of information is our own pride.
We get to now answer a question on a TV quiz show, or we get to show how much we know in a conversation that for some reason centers around ducks. We get to be the ones who know the answer that others do not, and therefore we get to be the ones who look like duck experts although we have never raised a single water foul. Knowledge without application leads to pride:
“Knowledge inflates with pride, but love builds up” (1 Corinthians 8:1).
In the case of the Corinthians, some considered themselves enlightened with knowledge which enabled them to freely eat certain kinds of food which others considered unclean. It was a data point which led to pride, and the pride led to division. But Paul had a better way – beware the kind of knowledge which inflates the ego so you can float above the crowd. Love is the needle that pops the balloon of pride and sinks us back down to earth.
In this day of easy education, beware the pride that comes with it.