by Kris Emerson
Is it possible to have too much knowledge? I’m not talking about meaningless information, like the lyrics to every Taylor Swift song. I’m asking about true wisdom. Is it possible to know too much about life under the sun? Can one simply have too much understanding about God? It seems the answer should be, “No way!” Wouldn’t all the shortcomings in our daily lives be minimized if we just knew more? After all, the more you know, the further you go.
Certainly there is a strong argument to be made for reading the Word of God daily and surrounding yourself with wise, godly people who can educate you as to how to live. But if knowledge is the ultimate key to success, then what about Solomon?
You remember the story of Solomon, right? In 1 Kings 3, God offered to grant the new king anything he asked. Solomon sought wisdom from God, and he was given “an understanding heart to … discern good and evil” (3:9). Many of us have heard the story about the two mothers recorded later in the same chapter, how Solomon demonstrated his wisdom to determine which of the two was the mother of the baby.
The Bible says, “when all Israel heard of the judgment which the king had handed down, they feared the king, for they saw that the wisdom of God was in him to administer justice” (3:28).
In fact, people travelled from great distances just to hear Solomon speak. He wrote many incredibly profound things in Proverbs. The book of Ecclesiastes closes with this testament to Solomon’s wisdom: “In addition to being a wise man, the Preacher also taught the people knowledge; and he pondered, searched out and arranged many proverbs. The Preacher sought to find delightful words and to write words of truth correctly” (12:9-10). No one can deny the immense depth of Solomon’s knowledge.
If knowing is all that’s needed, Solomon should have been the most godly man who ever lived, right? But how can we explain this record from the end of his life? ”Now King Solomon loved many foreign women … from the nations concerning which the LORD had said to the sons of Israel, ‘You shall not associate with them…’ He had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines, and his wives turned his heart away. For when Solomon was old, his wives turned his heart away after other gods, and his heart was not wholly devoted to the LORD his God” (1 Kings 11:2-4).
How can this be? How can a man who knew so much about life under the sun and the God who made it all choose the wrong path and follow it deep into idolatry? Well, I can’t answer that. But it might cue us in on something about knowledge. Wisdom is powerful and helpful, but pleasing our Creator is about so much more than the accumulation of facts. The knowledge of amazing truths can’t make up for a lack of genuine, personal faith.
Interestingly, in the book of Ecclesiastes, this man of incredible wisdom kept his conclusion quite concise: “The words of the wise are like goads, and masters of these collections are like well-driven nails; they are given by one Shepherd. But beyond this, my son, be warned: the writing of many books is endless, and excessive devotion to books is wearying to the body. The conclusion, when all has been heard is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person” (12:11-13).
We are hopeful that this was written at the very end of Solomon’s life, after he turned back to faithfulness to God. Perhaps it’s unfair to say he was a “man who knew too much.” It wasn’t knowledge that led him from God. But we must also acknowledge that knowing things will never be a substitute for believing things. Knowing about life will never be enough to replace adopting and fulfilling life’s purpose. Knowing about God and His will for my life will never make up for failing to submit to God and keep His commandments.
By all means, let’s learn, grow, and know. Let’s study the Bible as often as possible. But let’s also be sure to use that knowledge to fuel our faith and lead us humbly to the God of all knowledge, lest we “know too much” and believe too little. We are saved by what He offers us, not by how much we know about it. Our learning should bring us to tears, to our knees, and to His throne of grace every single day. May God bless us with all the knowledge we need to faithfully seek His mercy and find Him every time.