“Every man naturally desires knowledge; but what good is knowledge without fear of God? Indeed a humble rustic who serves God is better than a proud intellectual who neglects his soul to study the course of the stars.” — Thomas à Kempis
I am currently attending a conference for work to learn from others in my field about the business we are in. In part, I want to learn from the mistakes and successes of others. But I also want to share my own mistakes and successes so that others may benefit from what I know. We all desire more knowledge to help us do our jobs more efficiently, successfully, and with greater joy and satisfaction.
Today I attended a session on leadership. The speaker has been in our business for 28 years and is very well-known within the organization that is holding the conference. I’ve talked to him at conferences before and seen him speak, so I knew I would learn something useful at this session.
One of the points he shared impressed me as being of utmost importance not only for the business we are in and the jobs we are trying to accomplishing for our employers, but for life in general. He said that in our business we must deal with complex and interconnected relationships because we rely on volunteers to do much of the work that allows us to be successful. In dealing with those volunteers, a humble, earnest, and sincere plea for help is essential. We must admit that we do not have the expertise to do what our volunteers do; we must have an “I can’t do this without you” attitude towards our volunteers.
It seems to me that all of life is a bit like that. In American society we like to think we can be independent and do it all ourselves. And I suppose with a great deal of effort and sacrifice we might be able to. We could chop down trees to build our own log cabin, grow our own vegetables, hunt for our meat, and live without many of the modern conveniences that we are used to. It could be done. But would the resulting life be what we really want? Would we consider it success or failure?
Most of us would not be happy with this situation. Instead, we must rely on our relationships with the grocer, who has a relationship with the supplier, who has a relationship with the manufacturer or packager, who has a relationship with the farmer or rancher, who has a relationship with the farm supply seller, who has a relationship with . . . well, I think you get the picture. In dealing with the person closest to us in the relationship chain, we really should have an “I can’t do this without you” attitude and treat them with courtesy and respect. Imagine how much better the world would be if we did that.
Now, you might be wondering what all this has to do with the Thomas à Kempis quote at the beginning of this post. Well, it seems to me that this knowledge, learned in a session at my conference, can only take me so far on its own. Without fear and reverence for God, I will not consider how this knowledge impacts “the big picture” of my existence. But if I move beyond the application of this knowledge to my job and my relationship with the other people I rely on and consider how the idea of an “I can’t do this without you” attitude relates to my relationship with God, then I really see “the big picture.”
When I apply this idea to my relationship with God I am reminded that I can’t earn my own salvation, I can’t pay for my own way into Heaven. I must have an “I can’t do this without you” attitude towards Christ. It is not enough to believe Jesus existed in history, or even that God (in whatever form He might take) exists somewhere. Just as it doesn’t help fill my stomach to know that the grocer is just up the street unless I develop a relationship with him through which I can obtain groceries, it doesn’t help to just know that Jesus or God exists unless I develop a relationship with Him through which I can obtain the gift of redemption and grace that I need.
To reach this point requires a humble, earnest, and sincere plea for help. 2 Samuel 22:28 says of God, “You save the humble, but your eyes are on the haughty to bring them low.” In Luke 1, Mary’s Song is recorded in which she said of God, “He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble.” Luke 1:52.
I desire knowledge, just as all humans do, but hope that I always remember to use it with humility and sincerity with a healthy reverence for God. As Thomas à Kempis such is better than being a proud intellectual.