How Practical Is Your Knowledge?
HIS brain, more than anything else, distinguishes man from the lower animals. This superiority of man is in keeping with the fact that he alone was created in the likeness of his Creator, Jehovah God. Evolutionists are prone to slight this difference. As one of America’s leading anthropologists once confessed: “We have been so busy tracing the tangible aspects of evolution in the forms of animals that our heads, the little globes which hold the midnight sky and the shining invisible universes of thought, have been taken about as much for granted as the growth of a yellow pumpkin in the fall.”—Gen. 1:27.
The brain of man, which may be likened to a sponge, has a keen affinity and an infinite capacity for knowledge. Very early in life man manifests this hunger for knowledge by his curiosity regarding all about him. Gradually he builds up a memory, a mind, a personality that distinguishes each one from all other humans. This innate curiosity makes the acquiring of knowledge enjoyable.
However, the Creator did not intend man to take in knowledge solely for the pleasure of doing so. As one historian well observed: “Intellectual pleasures give only a brief satisfaction, unless directed to a practical end. . . . Never should we stimulate the intellect merely to feed upon itself. Unless intellectual culture is directed to what is useful, especially to the necessities or improvement of others, it is a delusion and a snare.”—Beacon Lights of History, Lord, Vol. 5, p. 299.
To take in knowledge merely for the pleasure of it is like living to eat instead of eating to live. It calls to mind the ancient Epicureans, who gorged themselves and then took emetics to vomit out all they ate so they could again enjoy the pleasure of eating. Taking in knowledge merely for the pleasure of it is but little better. When such a one dies, that marks the end of his knowledge; it has neither profited others nor brought joy to them, nor does it continue on. All prone to be captivated by knowledge per se should take note of the apostle Paul’s words that “knowledge puffs up.” One who does not translate into action the knowledge he takes in ‘is deceiving himself by false reasoning.’—1 Cor. 8:1; Jas. 1:22.
Incidentally, even worse than taking in knowledge for its own sake is taking in degrading, depraved knowledge. Scandal sheets, pornographic magazines, sexy best sellers, whether “classical” or popular, and pseudoscientific works, such as the Kinsey reports on the supposed sex habits of certain men and women in the United States, all pander to a depraved craving for knowledge. Even as a good book is like a good friend, so bad books are like “bad associations [that] spoil useful habits.” Wise Christians will avoid all such.—1 Cor. 15:33; Jas. 3:15.
There actually are only two sound reasons for taking in knowledge. What they are Ezra, the postexilic scribe of Israel, tells: “For Ezra himself had prepared his heart to consult the law of Jehovah and to do [it] and to teach in Israel regulation and justice.” Yes, all our taking in of knowledge should be for the practical application of it in our own lives and/or for the purpose of instructing others.—Ezra 7:10.
There are many different kinds of knowledge the purposeful acquiring of which can make us more profitable to ourselves and more useful to others. Among such is the knowledge regarding physics, medicine, electronics and the arts. By the practical application of such knowledge man can use and enjoy the things around him.
However, because of imperfection and sin man can enjoy the fruits of such knowledge for only a few years. Nor has such knowledge brought man freedom from war with himself and with his fellow man, as seen by the mounting national and international tensions, and the increase in crime and immorality. Emphasizing the limited value of such knowledge, Jesus once asked: “For what benefit will it be to a man if he gains the whole world but forfeits his life? or what will a man give in exchange for his life?” The practical value of all human knowledge is indeed limited.—Matt. 16:26, margin.
What else is needed? Man must orient his knowledge and his striving in relation to his Creator and his Creator’s purpose for man. That is the knowledge that is of the greatest importance. It is the most practical of all and is to be found only in the Bible, God’s Word. The Son of God when on earth set a good example for us in this regard. Like Ezra, he concentrated on the most important knowledge, that relating to Jehovah, and he made practical use of it, living by it and teaching it to others.—Matt. 4:17; John 17:4, 6.
Fulfillment of Bible prophecy indicates that we are living in days like those of Noah. (Matt. 24:37-39) Because of this fact the most urgent and most practical knowledge we can possibly acquire at this time concerns itself with how we may survive the end of this old world or wicked system of things. Concerning this kind of knowledge we are told: “For wisdom is for a protection the same as money is for a protection; but the advantage of knowledge is that wisdom itself preserves alive its owners.” Wisdom, of course, is the applying of right knowledge in line with God’s will. And that means, in the words of the prophet, to seek Jehovah, to seek righteousness and to seek meekness.—Eccl. 7:12; Zeph. 2:3, AS.
Because man was created in God’s image he delights in taking in knowledge. The taking in of knowledge for its own sake is vain, while the acquiring of degraded or depraved knowledge is sheer folly. And though many kinds of knowledge may serve many practical purposes, most practical of all is the purposeful taking in of knowledge of Jehovah God and his will for us. Of it Jesus said: “This means everlasting life, their taking in knowledge of you, the only true God, and of the one whom you sent forth, Jesus Christ.”—John 17:3.