“The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints...” (Eph 1:18).
The statement that “we live in changing times” has become somewhat a cliché in recent years. The dynamics of the Middle east conflict, the increase in countries that claim to have nuclear weapons capabilities, the global economy, all have changed dramatically in the last few months. So much change has occurred in such a short period of time that one hardly knows how to respond. While the average person has little ability to influence world events, we somehow feel compelled to “stay informed.” In response to this need to know, “information sources” flood our lives with facts and observations with the intent that we “stay informed.” Accumulating information seems to be the world’s way to cope with change that they cannot control.
Admittedly, information fills a place in our lives. The weather monitor informs us that there is a high probability of rain today. The road sign informs us that the road narrows ahead. In these cases, information is valuable to us because it allows us to respond properly. Take your umbrella, slow down and merge left… What do we do when the news media announces that bank failure rates are nearing an all time high? Our ability to influence the economic health of banks is limited. We struggle determining what our response to such information should include. Some people feel compelled to gather more information to better understand the magnitude of the issue. Too often this only intensifies the confusion. An airport billboard summarized our plight. The picture displayed a lab-coated technician, clipboard in hand, standing before seemingly endless banks of computer servers with thousands of cables running in various directions. The expression on the technician’s face echoed the statement on the bottom of the billboard; “Never before has man had access to so much information, never before has mankind been so utterly confused.”
What are we to do when information no longer meets our needs? How can we choose a safe course when the information obtained only produces a greater need for more information? Perhaps the first step is to recognize the difference between information and enlightenment. While enlightenment will always require some degree of information, information will not necessarily produce any measure of enlightenment. enlightenment differs from information in that it implies some measure of comprehension or understanding. Knowledge requires that we become informed. Wisdom requires that we become enlightened.
Fallen man seeks to accumulate knowledge in an effort to “stay informed.” The Christian seeks enlightenment to the intent that he may become wise. When the choice is made to seek enlightenment over information, we are forced to abandon “information sources” and seek enlightenment from God, the source of all wisdom. Enlightenment will not come from conservative political commentators. Enlightenment will not be gleaned out of the pages of so-called conservative Christian news magazines. While these sources may have the facts correct, they can undermine the faith needed to interpret the newly acquired information in a truly Christian context. Will more information on bank failures across the country help me respond in a manner consistent with a Christian profession? How can this information be of practical use to the follower of Christ?
The Apostle Peter recognized both the need for wisdom and the place of knowledge in the life of a believer. He opens his second epistle with the words, “Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge” (2 Pe 1:2-5).
Wisdom is the product of faith, virtue, and knowledge; each in its’ proper order and measure. Only when faith is combined with virtue can knowledge be used in a manner that allows us to be partakers of the divine nature. The economic stresses of our times, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and the political turmoil both in the United States and abroad, all cry unto us for a response. Will the best response come as a result of accumulated information or increased enlightenment? Should we seek the mind of those who claim to understand the Middle East turmoil or the mind of the One who says that Israel will be to Him as “clay in the potter’s hand?” Should we hire the latest business advisor, who claims to have a program for financial success, or would we be better served remembering that the Lord God “giveth thee power to get wealth?” In the frantic clamor to “stay informed,” could we be neglecting the faith and virtue that allows us to be enlightened? The times in which we live require that God’s people make proper responses. As we observe the changes around us, perhaps our first response should be to choose to be enlightened by the Word and Spirit of God, and let the informed stage fit into that mental context.