Knowledge Can Deceive Us

library of old books
When I find out that I’ve been deceived by someone, I feel angry, gullible and foolish. This reaction pales in comparison to when I realize I’ve deceived myself. Ouch—that stings!

James warns us “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says” (James 1:22).

If we read the Word, study the Word, or even memorize the whole book, but we don’t follow what it says then we’re deceived.

All memorizers know it’s much easier to LEARN a passage than to LIVE it.

I ask myself, what is it about memorizing the Bible that deceives me into thinking that’s enough? A few thoughts:

•I think I’ve done my part because I KNOW the answer.
•I lean on my own understanding without acknowledging God in all my ways.
•Where the Bible is not specific, I do what is right in my own eyes.
•I do not forget the Word, but I forget my dependence on God.
•I speak before I consider.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus compares two types of people: those who hear the Word of God and put it into practice, and, those who hear the Word of God but do not put it into practice. The first he calls a wise man, and the second, a fool (Matthew 7:24-27). A subtle temptation pops into my head to change the description of the fool to those who don’t take the time to know the Word of God. But that’s not what Jesus said.

Matthew further records, “Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: ‘The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach’” (Matthew 23:3).

I can’t think anything more scathing for Jesus to say about me. Yikes!

James exhorts us not to stop short of the intent of God’s Word. The goal should be to know it so that we can obey it. I can hear the late Howard Hendricks saying, “The purpose of the Bible is not to make us smarter sinners.”

May we, as memorizers, strive to be doers of the Word, and not merely hearers who deceive ourselves.

I’d love to hear why you think knowledge has the power to deceive us.

9 comments to Knowledge Can Deceive Us

  • Kathryn Ludrick

    Is my desire limited to merely head knowledge, to know more stuff? Or to know and love God, and to understand and do those things which please Him? Am I hearing and doing, regardless of whether or not I am memorizing Scripture? Paul in 1 Corinthians writes that knowledge puffs up but love edifies. Do I have a big head or a large heart? Often my heart feels like a tiny shriveled, hardened stump. I thank God that He loves me.

    • Kathryn, Thank you for your comment. For me knowledge can be addicting, and I always assume it is a good addiction. But around every corner lies the temptation to believe it is an end in itself. I need and welcome the rebukes in Scripture just as much as the truths themselves. I need the sharp piercing of the sword, and a holy kick in the pants.

  • Lise Anderson Brocious

    Janet,thanks for these encouraging and convicting words. I definitely don’t want to be a “smarter sinner.” I pray that by memorizing chapters in the Bible I come to a greater knowledge of our awesome God and thereby am changed to be more obedient, trusting, and faithful. In that way I hope that I won’t use knowledge God has given me to deceive myself, but will instead use it as a guide for my words and actions.

    • Well said Lise. It is my relationship with God, my growing love for him that makes me want to obey. “This is love for God, to obey his commands, and his commands are not burdensome.” 1 John 5:3

  • Tony Pintcke

    As I have sighted before to other friends of mine “If you love me you will keep my commandments.” John 14:15. When we have trusted Christ with our life, we will understand this passage as meaning “If you love me (Jesus), it will be a desire to keep His commandments. Not a chore, or a burden.” This being said, as Paul so eloquently puts it “For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do–this I keep on doing.” Romans 7:19. Praise be to God for loving us in spite of our weaknesses. Paul is probably my hero in this aspect. Not because he through God is a good convict-or, but rather because he was such a horrible pharisee before God hit him with being His mouth-piece to us, the gentiles. Being such, he can say “hey, as with Christ Himself, I’ve been there, done that. We now know better because of our sins and struggles. Let’s not forget, but put the bad behind us and do good for the glory of God.!!”

  • Sue Bond

    Ouch. This was a convicting message and sometimes I have been lulled into believing I am doing “my part” by memorizing. Thank you for the exhortation to not, ever, ever be deceived by that!!

    • One of the benefits of this community is reminding each other, pointing out truth and sharing in the human struggle to live what we know to be true. And I should add, reminding each other that it IS possible to live God-honoring obedient lives. We’ve been given God’s Word and God’s Spirit, and everything we need for life and godliness.

  • Lisa Austin

    Very convicting – thank you for this post and for your talk this past weekend. God is calling me to a deeper relationship with Him through His word – not just knowing it and applying it (when I feel like it) – but a deep desire to be transformed by it. I am excited to see what He will do as He and I begin the journey of hiding His word in my heart!

    • Lisa, It was such a joy to speak at your retreat. The women were so attentive and teachable. May we all strive to put into practice what we learned.