Around the Knowlton house, we’ve had a few air mattresses through the years, but I don’t think we’ve bought one lately. As far as I can tell, they aren’t worth whatever money you spend on them. Just one nick, one tiny little hole, and you’re sleeping on the cold, hard ground. I know you can patch it, but how long does that last? No. give me a firm, real, mattress on an actual bed any day.
I bring this up because of 1 Corinthians 8:1…
This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. (ESV)
Knowledge is the air mattress; love is the real bed.
Now, the whole chapter is about eating food sacrificed to idols, which is something we obviously don’t think anything about today. But in that culture, it was a huge deal, perhaps akin to the kinds of social questions some evangelical Christians in North America ask today, say about drinking alcohol. In this case, eating food sacrificed to idols was not a problem, Paul said, because an idol was nothing anyway, but some people didn’t see it that way. If these folks had eaten such meat, their consciences would have cried out in horror.
Now apparently, at least some of the Corinthian Christians knew along with Paul that idols were a no-thing. These believers had knowledge and were thus “wise” about these matters. And because of this…they were proud. Their knowledge had puffed them up with conceit. And as a result, they looked down on brothers with weaker consciences who felt the need to abstain.
Paul was not impressed. These believers may have had better ethics, but their love was lacking. And so the Apostle was basically saying, “If you have a choice between knowledge about right and wrong…or acting in love, choose love every time.” Love is like a firm bed; it’s solid and firm, building up others and helps them grow in grace long term. But on the other hand having knowledge is like an air mattress – it may make you feel good in the moment, but it often only helps for the first night, and that restful feeling wIll soon give way to the hard and uneven ground.
So the application? Well, of course, we should study God’s word and understand the truths of the Christian life as much as possible. But there is a tendency for knowledge, even knowledge about God and His ways, to inflate our ego and make us think we are better than others. And that’s a lie. In fact, ironically, the moment we start thinking we are wiser and thus better than others, we fall behind them in the race for holiness.
So give yourself to loving others, and forsake pride by remembering that you are a sinner like everyone else. And if you do have knowledge, well, remember it came from God, and others probably have knowledge where you are yet ignorant.
For Friday, May 15th: 1 Corinthians 9