Good Morning Everyone,
Our theme for this month: “Being a virtuous person”
Our Bible verse for today: “Now about food sacrificed to idols: We know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. If anyone thinks he knows anything, he does not yet know it as he ought to know it. But if anyone loves God, he is known by him.” 1 Corinthians 8:1-3 (CSB)
Our thought for today: “There’s a difference between knowledge and virtue.”
Knowledge by itself does not make us virtuous. The greatest modern proof of this would be Germany under Hitler. Throughout the 1930s and for the first half of the 1940s Germany may have been the most advanced nation in the world. They led the world in most fields of art, science, medicine and intellect. Some of the best universities in the world were in Germany. They had great artists, brilliant composers, and world-class musicians. Medical breakthroughs were common, German scientists were renowned, and in the early to mid 1930s German industry was recovering from World War I at an astounding pace.
Germans were smart, industrious, and cultured. And yet, they gave us the horror of the holocaust. Six million Jews incarcerated and exterminated in brutal conditions that boggle the mind with the extent of the cruelty and depravity.
Clearly knowledge by itself does not make one virtuous. It’s not enough to just learn about virtue, we must also have a change of heart and behavior. A knowledgeable person can easily recite long lists of virtues from memory while still living like a little Hitler. But a person who is truly virtuous will have had a change of heart that led to a change in behavior. Rather than just living a refined and cultured life, a virtuous person lives a life of moral excellence.
This is what Paul was writing about in 1 Corinthians 8:1-3. There were Christians in that early church who were still struggling with the concept of living by grace. They were still caught-up in Old Testament rule-keeping. Many of them were very smart, but they attempted to use their knowledge and their powers of persuasion to control others. They were convinced that they had advanced knowledge of right and wrong and anyone who disagreed with them was uninformed and unspiritual. They had rules about food and about lots of other things as well, and they dogmatically insisted that everyone else needed to follow their rules. In some respects some of the worst of them were being religious Nazis. Paul told them in this passage that what they really needed was a change of heart.
Knowledge without moral excellence can be a dangerous thing. Smart people are admired for their knowledge. Persuasive people are often followed even when they are wrong. Great knowledge without a pure heart often produces holocaust type tragedies. We’re all familiar with stories of the mad scientist or the diabolical genius.
It’s sadly common in our day to encounter Christians who have Biblical knowledge without a Biblical heart. They can recite scripture until you have to tell them to stop, but they are rigid and shrill, cold and hard. They have knowledge without virtue.
As we continue our study of being a virtuous person, rather than simply learning about Biblical virtues let’s be praying that the virtues transform our hearts.