Proverbs 14:6 ESV
A scoffer seeks wisdom in vain, but knowledge is easy for a man of understanding.
Any parent who has tried to teach math or grammar or colors or table manners to their kid can tell you one thing with certainty: the student’s attitude matters a lot. A kid that wants to learn can sometimes leave your expectations in the dust, but a kid who doesn’t want to learn, who resents it… he’s going to do his best to make a sloth look energetic. Attitude affects learning, and it’s true for adults too, though it may be less unreservedly dramatic (may be). If I want to learn something, the attitude with which I approach that task and all its parts will play a large role in determining how long it takes me or if I ever manage it, as well as if what I learn is the truth, what I ought to have learned. What attitude, then, is necessary to learn well?
Let’s ignore the clear instructions of today’s proverb and trying scoffing. We’re going to scoff at what we’re learning, maybe who we’re learning from, regarding it all with extreme skepticism and a fair serving of distaste. What are the results?
Well, we’ve gotten a lot better at scoffing, but not much else has changed. Our teacher has skipped out, we’ve learned diddly-squat, and (due to indulging our rancor all day) we’re feeling either vaguely burned out or a bit angry, looking for a target. Anger is not, it turns out, a productive emotion. Generally speaking, anger does better at destroying than building up, an admirable quality when something needs destroying (Is. 5:25) but useless otherwise. Anger, for men, is not to be a perpetual state (Ecc. 7:9). We are to focus not upon evil (which it is right to be angry towards, as per the prophets); instead, our thoughts’ tenor is to be towards good, towards God (Phil. 4:8).
So, that didn’t work. Option two is the other end; instead of scoffing at everything, letting knowledge roll off us like water off a duck’s back, we’re going to accept every little bit as Gospel truth. Where does this course get us?
We learned quite a bit, this way. The teacher, unless he has the experience and wisdom to see what’s really happening, is likely quite happy, and we don’t have that same icky anger festering in our guts. Some unfortunate side-effects, however, will become clear as we assimilate and apply this knowledge. Some of it, it turns out, was incorrect. Some of the knowledge we gained, the stuff we pulled off of sources we don’t know as well, was downright false. Furthermore, because we just accepted what we heard, we accepted some stuff that contradicted truths we already knew, like combining Arminian semi-Pelagianism with a pre-existent belief in the absolute sovereignty of God. The problem here could be termed ‘laziness’. In contrast to the Bereans, who were called ‘noble’ for their diligence in checking Paul himself against Scripture (Acts 17:11), we just listened and believed without consideration, a course justifiable only when the source is inerrant or infallible (as with the Bible).
Now that we’ve tried two wrong answers, let’s try for a Biblical one. As hinted above, the Biblical path is one of discretion, of listening carefully and analyzing what you hear. This command, particularly true of theological matters, means that we should take care to understand the authority, the logic, and the results of what we’re hearing, as well as tease those three out from the emotions attached.
First, the authority. Is it the Word of God? If so, then we may extend trust without question as to authority, taking care that we understand but not questioning the value of what we seek to understand. Is it the word of a man? What are his motives, background, knowledge, and relationship, both with you and the topic at hand?
Second, the logic. We must take care that we understand what the speaker is saying, and then we must analyze it in light of what we already know to be true. Information we trust more than the new knowledge can be used to over-rule it; information we trust less may be over-ruled in turn.
Third, the applications. What does this new understanding mean? Does it change how we act, think, or speak? Maybe all it does is give you a moment of enjoyment or the pleasure of knowing some odd bit of historical trivia, like the name of one of the pioneers of mass advertising via free samples (Wrigley’s, for those who are curious). Regardless, knowing the information is only half the battle; you must also know what to do with it.
A word of caution must be had. Emotions are a powerful tool indeed, one that lies often ride in with unnoticed. Thus, feeling must submit to reason, must be directed (though not extinguished) by right understanding, or lies will creep in among our thoughts and poison our lives.
The most important place to apply this process, though, is to the word of God, which is, understood according to its intent and context, truly without error or failure, perfect and sufficient for every good deed by the blessing of the Holy Spirit (2 Tim. 3:16-17; 1 Cor. 2:14). The Word of God, being His Word, is perfect in authority; once, by the grace of God, it is seen, it may be trusted without reservation, as more trustworthy than even our own hearts even could be (Gen. 8:21). Through it man may have true assurance, in Christ, of eternal life before Him.
Sanctuary Functional Medicine, under the direction of Dr Eric Potter, IFMCP MD, provides functional medicine services to Nashville, Middle Tennessee and beyond. We frequently treat patients from Kentucky, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Ohio, Indiana, and more... offering the hope of healthier more abundant lives to those with chronic illness.