How Biblical Knowledge Can Puff Up Christians

by Jack Wellman · Print Print · Email Email

It’s good to have biblical knowledge as we’re told to grow in the knowledge of God’s grace, but what is the danger of knowing much about the Scriptures

Toxic Inflatables

Blowfish are part of the family of Tetraodontidae, which are closely related to the Porcupine fish and Puffer fish. Looking at these fish I am lead to believe they are analytical to the idea that biblical knowledge that comes without love can be toxic and puffs a person up (makes them prideful). These fish are the second most poisonous vertebrate in the known world and are especially deadly to humans. Their unique and distinctive natural defenses give them the ability to rapidly inflate, while producing a powerful neurotoxin called tetrodotixon in their internal organs. This makes them unpleasant, and even lethal, so what’s the analogy with Blowfish and biblical knowledge?

The Tetraodontidae – Public Domain

Knowledge Puffs Up

First Corinthians 8:1 is a popular verse within Evangelical Christianity, particularly the proverbial portion of the verse which says “knowledge puffs up.” Maybe you’ve heard this before in the corridors of your church. Normally, the proverb is spoken as a subtle rebuke of a believer seemingly falls in love with learning and loves to correct or even chastise those who know less than they do. There is a clear and present danger (for us too!) that more learning will bring forth more biblical knowledge (and that’s good!) but knowledge can also bring forth arrogance and pride. According to many who voice this proverb, some learning is necessary, but the sole objective of study is the application of that which is learned, not flaunting our knowledge before others. Our goal as Christians is to not only know more about God, but to know more about how to be like God.

Love and Knowledge

We know far more about the Bible (we imagine) than we can possibly obey, and so our focus must shift from that of impractical, pride-feeding knowledge to application in our daily walk with Christ. If knowledge does not build up our brother or sister, and it is not coupled with love (8:1b), then it is all for nothing. Knowledge devoid of love serves only to build up a person’s ego while tearing down others and it demonstrates that person’s selfishness. The Apostle Paul wrote, “[if I have] all knowledge . . . but do not have love, I am nothing” (1 Cor 13:2). Atheists and agnostics are also made in the image of God, so to respond with knowledge without love is sin and that sin is pride.

Love Others

Paul says that we should esteem others better than ourselves…in or out of the faith…saints and aint’s…but having a lot of biblical knowledge can make us esteem ourselves better than others. If we know more than others, it’s easy to see ourselves as superior, but there is no love in this at all. Christ said that they would be able to recognize us by our love one another (John 13:35). It is by our loving one another and loving our enemies (Luke 6:28-29) that people will know who Jesus’ disciples are. Jesus’ disciples will not be known by having all the biblical answers, but by their love for others. We can disagree with others but still be agreeable; agreeing to disagree. When a Christian is not using his knowledge to build up his brother or sister and also those outside of the faith, then this knowledge is not coupled with love. That means we’re nothing more than a Bible concordance. If love is not the foundation and at the root of our knowledge, Paul says this knowledge is totally worthless (1 Cor 13:2).

Being Agreeable

Paul is not trying to discourage us from learning but encouraging us to grow in knowledge and love. One without the other makes both useless. In fact it is better to have no knowledge at all than to have all knowledge with no love. If I only pass on knowledge without love, my children and grandchildren will use that knowledge; but not in love. They may use their biblical knowledge to “brow beat” others who don’t have the same knowledge. They will become pride-filled Christians that no one wants to have anything to do with. I have been a Christian for a very long time and have learned a lot of “meat” from my studies, but if I do not show love, then all of this knowledge will help no one! We should never treat those who disagree with us as the enemy. What must unbeliever think when they see other Christians criticizing each other about what are frequently considered non-essentials? I believe it is true: The main thing is the plain thing, and that is Jesus Christ and Him crucified (1 Cor 2:2).


Jesus tells us we are to Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,  bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you” (Luke 6:27-28), even if they know very little about God or the Bible, so here’s the analogy. Porcupine fish and Puffer fish puff up when threatened. Knowledge without love, like these fish, can be most poisonous. What message to non-believers are we sending when we act like we have all the answers? Knowledge without love can also be highly toxic to humans. Knowledge by itself can puff up a person and overly inflate their egos and even their own natural defenses make them inflate rather rapidly. Just like the powerful neurotoxins of these Blowfish, we too can be lethal Christians, but we have no excuse. Paul warned that “if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another” (Gal 5:15). I too have been guilty of this. God forgive for me for this and God forbid that it happens again. Let me (and you) resolve today to love others and esteem them better than ourselves, regardless of how much biblical knowledge we have. It doesn’t matter…only love matters.

Here is some related reading for you: The Hidden Danger of Biblical Knowledge

Resource – Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), Crossway Bibles. (2007). ESV: Study Bible: English standard version. Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Bibles. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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