Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Desiring Knowledge

Today, I wanted to share with you a passage from Thomas a Kempis' Imitation of Christ.

Everyone naturally desires knowledge, but of what use is knowledge itself without the fear of God? A humble countryman who serves God is more pleasing to Him than a conceited intellectual who knows the course of the stars, but neglects his own soul. A man who truly knows himself realises his own worthlessness, and takes no pleasure in the praises of men. Did I possess all knowledge in the world, but had no love, how would this help me before God, who will judge me by my deeds?

Restrain an inordinate desire for knowledge, in which is found much anxiety and deception. Learned men always wish to appear so, and desire recognition of their wisdom. But there are many matters, knowledge of which brings little or no advantage to the soul. Indeed, a man is unwise if he occupies himself with anything save those that further his salvation. A spate of words does nothing to satisfy the soul, but a good life refreshes the mind, and a clean conscious brings great confidence in God.

The more complete and excellent your knowledge, the more severe will be God's judgment on you, unless your life be the more holy. Therefore, do not be conceited of any skill or knowledge you may possess, but respect the knowledge that is entrusted to you. If it seems to you that you know a great deal and have wide experience in many fields, yet remember there are many matters of which you are ignorant. So do not be conceited, but confess your ignorance. Why do you wish to esteem yourself above others, when there are many who are wiser and more perfect in the law of God? If you desire to know or learn anything to your advantage, then take delight in being unknown and unregarded.

A true understanding and humble estimate of oneself is the highest and most valuable of all lessons. To take no account of oneself, but always to think well and highly of others is the highest wisdom and perfection. Should you see another person openly doing evil, or carrying out a wicked purpose, do not on that account consider yourself better than him, for you cannot tell how long you will remain in a state of grace. We are all frail; consider none more frail than yourself.

I loved this passage, even though I found it very challenging. I think I often focus more on gaining knowledge about God, than I actually do on knowing God. I place a high value on learning gaining information and reading lots of books and being 'knowledgeable'. And although there's nothing wrong with that, this passage reminds me that it's not really that important. And sometimes it can actually lead us away from what God wants us to do.


  1. Hey Liz,
    I have that book that my grandmother gave me years ago. I've read bits and pieces but never the whole lot. That was a lovely passage and has inspired me to get it out of the dust and have another read.

  2. Hi Sam,

    I loved that book. I highlighted bits and pieces (and sometimes very lengthy passages) all the way through it. Some of it was pretty challenging though. Because I would read it and think I need to pay attention to that. And I didn't get quite so much out of the last part. But overall, I thought it was brilliant. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.


    PS - I am having trouble sending emails to hotmail accounts again for some reason. As well as a whole host of other email problems. It's starting to really annoy me. Hopefully it will get sorted out soon.

  3. This is a great lesson. I've enrolled in a Pastoral Ministry degree program because I seem to have picked up an insatiable hunger for theological knowledge. The part that sticks out to me is, "The more complete and excellent your knowledge, the more severe will be God's judgment on you, unless your life be the more holy."

    In all of my learning, I pray I can remain humble to others and reverent to God's omniscience. I try to apply what I learn to my life, but it's true that the more I learn, the more aware I am of my great need for God's mercy.

  4. Hi Luke,

    That part stuck out for me as well. I'm currently doing a Bachelor of Theology and I can understand your 'insatiable hunger for theological knowledge'. I feel the same way.

    I need to constantly remind myself that theological knowledge is not as important as the other things God requires from me. And I do think that there is a danger that we can start focusing on that knowledge, at the expense of other things. Such as those people who have memorised 50 bible verses, but don't actually do a single one of them. Or people who do so many bible studies that they don't have the time to help anyone.



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