The Age of Knowledge
There is a parallel between wealth of knowledge and the riches of this world, such as money, lands, houses, and other temporal possessions.
The possession of great earthly riches has always presented grave danger to the soul. We are warned, “But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.” (1 Timothy 6:9) We see from this scripture and the context about it that ambition to be rich is to be avoided at all costs. The spiritual standard is presented as “godliness with contentment is great gain.” (1 Timothy 6:6) “And having food and raiment, let us be therewith content.” (1 Timothy 6:8) Note the absence of houses and lands (to say nothing of comfortable retirements) from this short list of necessities. Finally, we are told, “But thou, O man of God, flee these things.” (1 Timothy 6:11) I beg of you to consider the force and the extreme warning of that word: flee. Don’t just casually and reluctantly decide that the desire to be rich and the things that come with that desire are probably not the best way to live, but flee. Flee urgently. Flee hurriedly. Flee in a headlong rush. Run for your life. The ambition to be rich is deadly; it has slain many. Flee as did Joseph from Potiphar’s wife, even sacrificing your garment, so to speak. You cannot afford to give place in your life to something that has ruined many, pierced them through with many sorrows, and will cause you, too, to err from the faith and end up meeting God in that condition. Yea, “Better is the poor that walketh in his uprightness, than he that is perverse in his ways, though he be rich.” (Proverbs 28:6)
It is necessary to consecrate to be poor to live for God. Our Lord met this temptation and surmounted it. “For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich [in heaven, before He was begotten in bodily form], yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.” (2 Corinthians 8:9) “And Jesus saith unto him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.” (Matthew 8:20)
When we are willing to be stripped as Jesus told the rich young ruler (Luke 18:18-25), then we find that God has appointed a great blessing for those who are poor for love to Him. “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3) I would to God I could emblazon this wonderful truth on your heart until your entire life was one exultant cry: “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for [O glory!] theirs is the kingdom of heaven!” “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 2:9-10) When we have made the consecration and died to all other ambition but to know only what God would have us know, no more and no less, we began to realize that the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God, and we began to perceive the nature of its foolishness, as God reveals it to us by teaching us the wisdom that comes from above.
You cannot name me a single child of God that has prospered in this world by setting his heart on the things of this life. There are children of God who have been entrusted with a great abundance of earthly possessions, but a close examination of the record shows that their heart was not on the things over which they were steward. In the case of one who was entrusted with much wealth (Job), we are told how careful he was, how frequently and diligently he gave it away in every worthy direction he could find, what a burden he carried for his children (under such circumstances, especially), and how horribly his wife failed to hold the consecration that he did. We are told of another man who pitched his tents toward Sodom. He was determined to be all he could be. His wife became a pillar of salt; his children were all corrupted and ruined. The psalmist was nearly gone; he said that his steps almost slipped, as he was severely tempted to be envious of the wealthy. Time would fail us to speak of Balaam and Judas and many others. If this is all true of earthly possessions, then just how slippery is the slope of earthly knowledge and understanding? In every case that did not turn out disastrously, the stewardship of great earthly possessions was attended with gigantic trials and temptations, all necessary for the spiritual survival of the child of God. Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were entrused by God with great knowledge and understanding. We are told that they were ten times more skillful in wisdom, more cunning in knowledge, and more understanding of science than the best educated that the then ruler of the known world had in his whole government. The latter three were thrown into a fiery furnace, and Daniel was left in a den of hungry lions overnight. They went into these severe trials uncorrupted by the learning that God had entrusted them with, and they emerged from those trials to continue to serve God in the way He had appointed for them. Well did one say, “For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow.” (Ecclesiastes 1:18)
The key to handling knowledge or earthly possessions is not in some formula or creed that says, “You can have this much, and no more.” Or, “You can study this much, and no more.” That is not it. None of this touches on the heart of the matter. What is that? Lord, I do not want to know more than You want me to know. I want to know just how much You want me to know, no more and no less. Or, Lord, I do not want any more possessions than you want me to have. I want to have just how much You want me to have, no more and no less; and I want to use it just as You would have it used, at all times and in all ways. So how do we know if we are doing it right—just as God would have us do? That’s easy. The blessing, it makes rich, with no sorrow added. The blessing, in our God-appointed trials and temptations, reveals the grace from God and help from Him that manifests that our works are approved of Him. Whenever you see someone behaving as Job, or Daniel, or Shadrach, or Meshach, or Abednego, under load, in their extremities, then you can pretty well tell by their fruit that God is approving of them and blessing them. And if there is no spiritual fruit… then that fact speaks loudly, deafeningly; and you had better pay attention and conclude accordingly. You will not be able to accurately evaluate the fruit if you have not made the consecration.
A lot of people have gone too far; they have strayed into entanglement (2 Timothy 2:4). Some are entangled in possessions and the labor and care that go with earthly possessions; others are entangled in things of the intellect (secular and religious); some are entangled in both. Maybe they used to be in the blessing zone, but they have gotten near the edge, gone past the edge. Their experience with God is stale and stagnant. Ask God to give you vivid and flavorful tastes of the lives whom the Word of God recommends in these things. “Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright: for the end of that man is peace.” (Psalm 37:37) Ask God to help you to discern between the fat and juicy and those who are wilted and receiving no heavenly sap. Most of all, ask God to make of you what you ought to be. His promise to you is, “And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.” (Luke 11:9-10)
Now the Bible tells us that men have sought out “many inventions.” (Ecclesiastes 7:29) Not just a few. Many. In the ages of history before The Age of Knowledge—to us now, people seem so limited. They appear so limited in their transportation, their housing, their vocations, their communications, even their perceptions. The whole picture seems to be a narrow-minded, resistant-to-change, slow-to-improve scene. By comparison now, they seem to have been limited then. The pride of man is greatly inflated by the wealthiness of his temporal knowledge now. It seems that he can go anywhere he chooses to go and become whatever catches his interest and seems important to him. Choices that were open only to the wealthy or to the privileged in previous times are now open to the average person.
But exercising these options is a far cry from the words of Brother David, “LORD, my heart is not haughty, nor mine eyes lofty: neither do I exercise myself in great matters, or in things too high for me. Surely I have behaved and quieted myself, as a child that is weaned of his mother: my soul is even as a weaned child. Let Israel hope in the LORD from henceforth and for ever.” (Psalm 131:1-3) In the face of all this affluence and wealth of options it is more important than ever to be led of God.
Reader, can you say that you dwell in the place where God would have you dwell? Do you have the kind of income that God is pleased for you to have? Is your manner of life, your lifestyle, such that God finds it acceptable? Does it truly glorify Him? How much a part does sacrifice, real sacrifice, find in your life? Is your life a feasting or a fasting? Do you fare “sumptuously every day” (Luke 16:19)?
The reality is that the comparatively simple ways of life of former ages were not so simplistic, after all, any more than the correct path for us is simple and discoverable on our own. There has always been choices that exclude other choices. If one does certain things, then other things are not done and cannot be done. It never was possible for a man to direct his own steps, nor is it possible now; “It is not in man that walketh to direct his steps.” (Jeremiah 10:23)
Let us suppose that you were informed that your income would now be one billion dollars each month ($1,000,000,000 every month). Your necessary expenses to live (food, shelter, clothing, transportation, etc.) were, with careful management, about one thousand dollars every month ($1,000 every month). You realize at once that the possibility of you not having the funds necessary for ordinary living is no longer a concern. You will not have to labor for the bare requirements for human existence. Even if the income stopped, the very first month’s revenue would cover over 83 thousand years of subsistence living. You would have a ridiculous amount of money, vastly more than you would ever need, flooding into your hands. And you would be wise to consider this astounding truth: “For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.” (Romans 14:11-12) This amount of money would be placed in your hands for you to use and give account of the using. The question is, and what a question it is: What should I do?
This is more than just an imaginary thought; it is in the Bible. “For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods. And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey.” (Matthew 25:14-15) A talent stood roughly in place (conceptually) of the billion dollars mentioned above. The ordinary laborer earned about a penny a day at the time. I want to call your attention to the phrase, “to every man according to his several ability.” This parable is about the possession and development of spiritual riches, even the personal enduing of the grace of God (which is capable of almost infinite development in the heart of a child of God), and Jesus tells us of two who made a success and one who made a terrible failure. But this story deals with God giving out “to every man according to his several ability.” Whereas the account above of the billion-a-month does not involve God measuring out the wealth, but the simple reality of it being on hand whether we have the ability to wisely deal with it or not.
We are not told about the beginning of the influx of wealth to Job. The account simply reads, “His substance also was seven thousand sheep, and three thousand camels, and five hundred yoke of oxen, and five hundred she asses, and a very great household; so that this man was the greatest of all the men of the east.” (Job 1:3) Unless he inherited it, there was a time of increase (abounding), and the outstanding characteristic of the man is that he did not set his heart on what God had put in his hand (Job 2:10). And we are given some detail as to how he avoided getting his heart set on his wealth. “Because I delivered the poor that cried, and the fatherless, and him that had none to help him. The blessing of him that was ready to perish came upon me: and I caused the widow’s heart to sing for joy. I put on righteousness, and it clothed me: my judgment was as a robe and a diadem. I was eyes to the blind, and feet was I to the lame. I was a father to the poor: and the cause which I knew not I searched out. And I brake the jaws of the wicked, and plucked the spoil out of his teeth.” (Job 29:12-17) (See also 30:25; 31:13-23.) “If I have made gold my hope, or have said to the fine gold, Thou art my confidence; If I rejoiced because my wealth was great, and because mine hand had gotten much….” (Job 31:24-25)
Enough is said of Job’s life before his enormous trial to reveal to us a dedicated man with the fear of God upon him, who took the responsibility of his wealth very seriously indeed, and labored endlessly to give it away as fast as he responsibly could. His confidence was in God, not in what God gave him or allowed him; and he did not rejoice in the greatness of his wealth or the success of his business efforts. All of this was revealed by it being taken away. Reader, we ask of you in the fear of God, what would be revealed in your life if you were stripped of material possessions or if your mind was reduced to the utmost simplicity? As the poet said,
“What will become of all your fortune and land,
Silver and gold, riches untold?
When you have made it all your purpose and aim
To gain all this world, then lose your soul.”*
Job chose to handle all his wealth as God wanted him to handle it. God approved of how the man went about his stewardship. And therein is the secret of how we should approach the enormous wealth of temporal knowledge that is continually around us. To the child of God, this is not given for self-gratification; God has a purpose—a design—in mind. Job found that purpose and settled down to it.
How well we are dealing with the wealth of knowledge that has increased so in these last days will be revealed when it is lost. Some might feel that the benefits of a good education in temporal wisdom is never lost, but it can be. The mind can go and the previously intelligent human being can be reduced to the level of an imbecile. Or things can shift so that recognized degrees of learning and mastery become unrecognized. Many an immigrant from another land has discovered that what was highly regarded in the place of origin is not respected or valued at all in the new place. It is quite possible for sudden developments to render obsolete or no longer relevant certain lines of study, leaving the masters of that material with a great loss. Those who have approached former conditions with the attitude of Job’s wife can see no hope, but all things work together for good to them that love God.
“I know God is; I know His Word
Unfailing meets each test.
I calmly face a hostile world
With soul and mind at rest.”*
There is One who goes before me and winnows my pathway. He will keep me in the surging billows and deadly rip currents of the age of knowledge, just as He has kept His children all through the years. No matter what happens, He will make a way for me.
Now, beyond any doubt, there are things that you should not be studying in school. Some things should never be studied by anyone; they are not edifying at all. Other things should be studied by some, but it would be better for others if they did not delve into things that God would not have them to study. Some things are a waste of time and resources. God is going to lead you to fields of usefulness and sacrifice where those things will prove to be of little value. Simply pursuing those things out of curiosity is not edifying, and you will miss the blessing that God has for you. If you pursue them anyway (your Ishmael), then you will find that they exact a penalty, and you will have spiritual damage. These things fall outside the consecration: Lord, I just want to know what You would have me to know, no more and no less.
Who is in charge in your life? Who runs things? You say, “My will. God will not usurp my authority to choose.” You are correct in saying that God will not usurp your right to choose. He waits for you to voluntarily lay down your will and wait for His direction. He waits for you to say, of your own volition, “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.” (Luke 22:42) God waits for you to relinquish to Him your right to choose, over and over in an ongoing way. He waits to bless you.
But there is one who is interested in dominating you. That is your enemy, your adversary, even the great roaring lion who walks about and devours human beings. He is infinitely smarter than you are, smarter even than all mankind together. When we are not under the guidance and protection of the Holy Ghost, we become a prey. Satan misses no opportunity to hinder and corrupt your soul. Most of the inventions that men have sought out so eagerly and avidly are the result of hellish engineering and design, tailored to appeal to you and others as the bait of the snares of hell. When you turn away from God and figure you are on your own and utilizing your liberty, you play into the hands of him who hates you and labors endlessly for your utter destruction. I beg of you to consider the words of Brother Peter:
“While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage. For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them.” (2 Peter 2:19-21)
This should make the hairs of your head prickle and goosebumps form on your skin. Satan has entangled many souls who were once delivered and had escaped from the pollutions of the world. They became “entangled” again, and “the latter end is worse with them than the beginning.” When it is time to pass over into your long home (even eternity), it would have been better to have never been saved than to be saved and have lost it. And all this effectual, fervent effort of the devil against you occurs while you promise yourself liberty—while you are engaged in the exhilarating business of “being all that you can be.” If you do not have grace in life to be a overcomer, then it is an absolute certainty that you will be overcome. “For of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage.” Yes, “Whosoever committeth sin is the servant [slave] of sin.” (John 8:34)
If we are not led by the Holy Ghost, we are certainly going to be led by something.
My dear readers, we are between two great forces, one of right and the other of wrong. The prince of the power of the air, the god of this world, flatters us into believing that there is another choice than choosing God or choosing Satan. The devil would have you believe that you can choose your own way. But, in actuality, in refusing to choose God and His perfect will for you, you choose the only other option and become ensnared.
How much God loves you! How much He wants you to choose Him, that He may lead you down the true path of life, that leads to an eternity of joy and satisfaction. Will you not humble yourself? Will you not confess that you really are not capable of directing yourself? Will you not come to terms with the reality of your existence? Will you not acknowledge that you are in over your head? Will you not surrender yourself, voluntarily, to Him who died on the cross for you?
“I trust in God, no matter come what may,
For life eternal is in His hand.
He holds the key that opens up the way
That will lead me to the promised land.”1
[W. Elmo Mercer; “Each Step I Take”]