Knowledge Beget Humility…

3 May

…and the daughter consumed the mother.

This is a play on words from a quotation by Cotton Mather, who said, “Faithfulness beget prosperity and the daughter consumed the mother.”

Yet, when I read Scripture, and think through the purposes of knowledge and understanding, I think the phrase is accurate: Knowledge beget humility and the daughter consumed the mother.  As we read and study Scripture and the doctrines which flow out from it, the knowledge we gain should birth humility within us.

As James writes, “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you…Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.”  As we seek knowledge and understanding, we are inevitably led to draw near to the Lord, and upon gaining knowledge and understanding, we are led to humble ourselves before Him.

Why? Because we come to recognize the fact that He is the one who has given us such knowledge and understanding.  Proverbs says that God is the giver of wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding (Pr. 2:6). We are dependent upon the Holy Spirit’s illumination.  Not only this, but the knowledge we gain from the study of God and His Word is a knowledge of His nature and character, our sinfulness and rebellion against God, and His dealings with us throughout history, culminating in the gracious giving of His Son for the redemption of man.  Such knowledge should floor us, and cause humility to flow forth in our thoughts, words and deeds.

The criticism which often comes is that the intense study of Scripture and its doctrine merely serves to “puff up” a person with knowledge.  The superiority complex sets in, or a lack of active involvement in ministering to others.  Once again, James saw this and wrote to curb such behavior: Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves (James 1:22).  Yet, the answer is not in forsaking such rigorous study of the Word and the God who speaks through it.  Rather, we must pray that God would use our study of Him and His Word, as well as the knowledge and understanding gained from it, to humble us and that out of this condition of humility, we would serve those around us for the good of the church, the witness of Christ to unbelievers, and for the glory of God.


*Painting by Brigid Ganley (1909-2002)



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