Don’t be Stupid

Philippians 1:9-10 reads, “And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ” (ESV).

I think there are several important messages to be taken from this exhortation from Paul to the church at Philippi. First, notice that Paul is not reprimanding or chastising his readers for any areas of weakness as he does in some of his other letters. Still, he writes that their love should abound more and more, which is evidence to me that as believers we never “make it.” We can never reach a point where we can say, “I have completed the course. I have mastered the Christian life. There is nothing more for me to learn.” On the contrary, there is always room for improvement, for growth, for “more and more.”

Second, Paul instructs his readers that their love should grow “with knowledge” (ESV) or “in knowledge” (NKJV). Love for God is something that grows out of our knowledge of Him. We grow in knowledge of Him in the same way that we grow in knowledge of any person with whom we may have a relationship–by spending time with Him. We need to read His word, to spend time in prayer, to attend church and spend time with other believers.

Third, our knowledge of God should influence our actions. Paul follows “knowledge” with “all discernment.” Having head knowledge is not enough; we must know how to use that knowledge and apply it in our lives in order to live it out. There are many people who have an extensive knowledge of the Bible in a historical or academic sense, but have no idea what it is really about–or, more accurately Who it is really about–and how the Bible should influence their lives. Knowledge is really only beneficial when it is accompanied by discernment, which is the wisdom to apply the knowledge.

When I was in college my sister Marianne, who is twelve years younger than me, asked me once what the difference is between ignorant and stupid. I thought for a minute before responding, then told her that ignorant is lacking intelligence, while stupid is refusing to use the intelligence that you have. So, using that definition, Paul is telling the church at Philippi, and by extension is telling you and me, “Don’t be stupid!” We must not refuse to use the intelligence–the knowledge–that we have.

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