Growing in Grace and Knowledge: What This Means
by Tara Lang Chapman
The apostle Paul admonished the saints to "grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ (2 Pet. 3:18). Do you realize that one must grow in grace as he or she grows in knowledge? How many read over these words without ever giving this deeper thought? We know what it says, that we should grow both in grace and knowledge, but I've come to discover that as I grow in knowledge, I require more grace.
I'm thinking of something wise Solomon said, his quoted words of which line my current email signature, long due for an update. He said, "For in much wisdom is grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow" (Ecc. 1:18). I understand this all too well, because I've experienced it. There's that other phrase that's probably much better known by most people that says basically the same thing in the opposite way: "Ignorance is bliss." Ironically enough, though I agree with the former, I mostly disagree with the latter. I will explain.
While the former is true, namely that in wisdom there's grief and increased knowledge increases sorrow, the scriptures also teach against those who are willingly ignorant (2 Pet. 3:5) and despise knowledge (Prov. 1:7). Besides that, being one who loves to gain wisdom and knowledge, despite the grief and sorrow it often brings, I don't believe ignorance is bliss.
It's true, ignorance may be perceived as bliss by those who despise knowledge, but this is because they have little to no desire to correct any wrongs of which they're guilty and little to no desire to better themselves and others.
I do not think ignorance is bliss, because many times possessing knowledge prevents and protects against grief and sorrow. However, it's been my observation over a good while that those ignorant of something seem to have protection to an extent, moreso than those not ignorant, from harm resulting from transgressions. For example, one person may be ignorant about good diet, and another is knowledgeable. The one who is ignorant is likely to have less of an effect from the bad things he eats than the one who knows the truth about the bad things he decides to eat. So in this limited way, ignorance may be be considered bliss, simply because one who does or doesn't do something he knows he should or shouldn't do is much more likely to suffer negative consequences, whether it may be direct punishment by God or another authority/god (such as an earthly parent) or whether the person condemns himself in mind, since the mind is quite powerful and can actually cause things to happen. But besides this phenomenon, ignorance is not bliss.
I think rather than ignorance being a protective factor—a lessened risk—against negative consequences for a destructive action, choosing a destructive action while having foreknowledge of the possible negative consequences is a condemning factor—a heightened risk—for negative consequences. So ignorance only seems to have a protective factor against negative realizations and consequences but in fact is not bliss. To say is has a protective factor is like the deceptive sayings that breastfeeding (as opposed to formula-feeding) lessens the risk of allergies, diabetes, cancer, and a host of other ills and that not using smoked tobacco lessens the risk of lung cancer; when in fact the reality is that formula-feeding heightens the risk of those various ills and abusing smoked tobacco heightens the risk of lung cancer;. Sometimes the biggest deceptions are found in the way people convey their messages.
The reason wisdom brings grief is because the world despises wisdom. The message Solomon reiterates in another of his literary works—the Proverbs of Solomon—is that it does no good, and is often even dangerous, to speak words of wisdom and reproof into the ears of fools (of which the world has many). They will hate you, because fools delight in their folly and don't want to be told they're wrong. It's also true, as I've well observed myself over a number of years, that those few who are wise are made out by the foolish masses to be foolish, and the latter lift themselves up as the ones making intelligent decisions and holding correct beliefs, even though the fruit of their doings says it all. The foolish have power in numbers. Folly and evil are repetitively made synonymous in the scriptures, as are wisdom and righteousness.
The scriptures speak of those putting sweet for bitter, bitter for sweet, etc. (Ex.: abortion, homosexuality, vaccines, dangerous drugs vs. safe herbs, keeping God's law vs. not keeping, war, and many more).
For those who love wisdom and knowledge, it becomes both frustrating and horrific to live in the world amongst blinded and foolish people. It's especially difficult when they are persecuted.
The reason why one needs more grace as he increases in knowledge is because as the person realizes more and more what's right and wrong and more about the deceptions and dangers in the world, it becomes increasingly difficult to walk in perfection. One may walk perfectly in spirit, wanting to do everything the right way, but it may be physically impossible. There is so much wrong with the way we live, and people are stuck. However, there is a bright side. When the person shows to God his desire to change a certain thing in his life, He is pretty faithful to make a way—in His timing—for the person to obey. This has been true, at least, in my life.
Knowing all these things, the question one must ask him or herself is: Do I want to grow more knowledgeable? Do you want to study to grow in knowledge and wisdom? Do you seek God for understanding? Salvation (Jesus/Yeshua) grew in favor (grace) of God and man and was filled with wisdom (Luke 2:52). Or do you deliberately shun knowledge and wisdom? Do you prefer to spend the bulk of your time delighting in foolish entertainment? (Note: This is not to say that we are never to enjoy a wholesome variety of entertaining activities, for those who love to twist words and/or miss the point). Are you one of those who are "willfully ignorant," so you can make excuse to continue in folly?
Jesus Christ of Nazareth grew in wisdom and favor. He was taught by His Father. He learned, and then he taught.
Do you hunger and thirst after righteousness? Are YOU seeking to grow in grace and knowledge?