“And if anyone thinks that he knows anything, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know” (1 Corinthians 8:2).
WHEN WE’VE JUST GOTTEN PAST THE BEGINNING STAGE OF SPIRITUAL LIFE, THERE IS A PARTICULAR DANGER WE FACE. It is the danger always encountered in the second stage of any endeavor: the danger of thinking we know more than we do. If we don’t deal with this danger in the proper way, we will find ourselves blocked from any further progress.
The greatest barrier to gaining greater knowledge is the illusion of knowledge, the mistaken notion that we already know much, when in reality we know very little. This barrier is often met by the “sophomore” in any field of learning. This is the individual, hardly more than a beginner himself, who looks down on others who are just starting out. The sophomore has gone far enough to have just a little wisdom (sophos, wise), but he’s a fool (moros, foolish) for failing to see how far he has yet to go.
One measure of our attitude with respect to knowledge is the amount of listening we do compared to the amount of talking. If those who know us best observe that we’re more eager to talk than listen, then we’ve probably overestimated how much we know. It’s good to have learned a thing or two, but it’s not good to see every person we meet as a potential audience. Solomon said, “A fool has no delight in understanding, but in expressing his own heart” (Proverbs 18:2). And James advised, “Let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak . . .” (James 1:19).
There is so much more of God than any of us have ever experienced, even in our moments of greatest maturity. His bounty is beyond what any of us have ever sought from Him. Let us not be so proud of what we know that we keep ourselves from learning what we still need to know. If the truth be told, most of us are not yet even in the second stage of spiritual understanding. There are many leagues yet to travel before we leave the first. Let us be humbled at the thought of our ignorance. And having been humbled, let us have a grander vision of what there is yet to know about our great God. The half has not yet been told.
“If you have lived far from God, you may think you are very near him when you finally start a life with him. The peasant thinks he has been to court because he saw the king pass by one day” (François de Fénelon).