While reading 1 Corinthians 8 with the family after dinner one evening, using a newer translation that can be a little easier for the kids to follow, verse 2 caught my eye:
Anyone who claims to know all the answers doesn’t really know very much.
1 Corinthians 8:2 NLT
Even taken out of context, there’s probably a good lesson in this verse by itself. However, it would be better to read a larger passage within which this verse is contained:
Now regarding your question about food that has been offered to idols. Yes, we know that “we all have knowledge” about this issue. But while knowledge makes us feel important, it is love that strengthens the church. Anyone who claims to know all the answers doesn’t really know very much. But the person who loves God is the one whom God recognizes.
1 Corinthians 8:1-3 NLT
It sounds like the church in Corinth had some “know-it-alls”. (If you don’t know anyone like this in your circle of friends, just beware that you aren’t the know-it-all.) I certainly don’t know everything, but I know that I’ve been a know-it-all…usually right before saying something that was wrong, stupid, or both.
In reality, we don’t know it all. This doesn’t preclude us from teaching what we do know, or in studying and sharing what we learn. However, if millennia of science, philosophy, and brute force has taught us anything, it’s that we – as a civilization – still have a lot to learn.
Even Socrates knew this, realizing that the first step to learning was to admit that one does not know the answer (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Socratic_method, and elsewhere). After all, if you know the answer, why would you seek to learn? If you believe that you know all of the answers, why would you bother trying to learn anything?
Proverbs reminds us of the folly of thinking that we know the right answers, based on our own impressions. It actually mentions this in a couple of places, both in Proverbs 16:25, and in Proverbs 14:12. Apparently, this was a significant enough point to make it twice.
There is a way which seems right to a man,
But its end is the way of death.
Proverbs 14:12 NASB
(See also Proverbs 12:15)
There is good news, though. There is an omniscient (all-knowing) God, who – entirely of His choice – reaches out to us and shares with us. He knows and understands everything, and has provided us with both knowledge and wisdom.
“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the LORD.
“And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.
For just as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so my ways are higher than your ways
and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.
Isaiah 55:8-9 NLT
However, God doesn’t just give us a giant list of things to know and learn, so that we’ll be know-it-alls. Instead, I believe that He teaches us what we need to know, keeps some things from us that we’re not ready for, and strategically lets us wait (to see His plan) when our faith needs to grow.
He does what He does both out of His nature (who He is), and out of His love for us. (See John 3:16, and elsewhere, if you wonder how much God loves us.)
So, following that example, when you are talking with others (whether in-person, or remotely), may we all occasionally remember the passage above from 1 Corinthians 8, and remind ourselves that we don’t know everything, but we know Someone who does.
Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Copyright by The Lockman Foundation.
Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries, Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
Credit to “The College Press NIV Commentary, 1 Corinthians”, Richard E. Oster, Jr. Ph.D. (editor), College Press, 1995. for some thought-starters on this passage, since I didn’t want to read too much into the initial verses without first having some background.