“For we know in part . . .”
~ 1 Corinthians 13:9
When I was in my early 20s, I was active in serving the Lord. I was a serious student of the Scriptures and people would often ask me questions about various issues.
Like many 20-somethings, I fell into a particular trap that I see many others who preach and teach fall into today. It’s the pressure to have an answer for every question posed to you.
There’s an idea that somehow got into the evangelical Christian mind. That idea is that if you teach the Scriptures, you are obligated to have a conviction on every issue that the Bible addresses, let alone mentions.
I don’t know who invented this idea, but it’s just plain wrong. And it leads to all sorts of problems.
On the one hand, certainty is overrated. On the other hand, the idea that we can’t be certain about anything doesn’t square with the New Testament (nor with reality).
Paul said “we know in part” (certainty cannot be attained in everything).
But he didn’t say “we know nothing” (certainty can be attained for some things). Read my post “On Certainty” where I expand on this paradox.
My point today is very simple.
If you are a believer, especially someone who preaches and teaches, you don’t have to know the answer to every question brought to you. In fact, I’d be scared if you did.
Taking a position and pontificating on it when you’ve not done the necessary home work to come to a thoughtful conclusion, or before you’ve received insight from the Holy Spirit on a matter, is just plain reckless. And bluffing (which young men are especially prone to do) is never a wise thing.
So don’t buy into the lie. Just because you may be in ministry doesn’t mean that you have to know all things under the sun or form a conclusion on every topic under heaven (or in the pages between the black leather cover.)
Forgive the personal example, but my ministry is laser focused on a few themes. I’ve immersed myself in those themes all my life. And God has so ordered my circumstances and experiences to bring me into a deeper apprehension of them. (I’m still learning, of course. But I can speak with confidence on these themes.)
Yet there are many subjects that fall outside of those themes in which others are much more knowledgeable and gifted than I am. And when I’m asked about those subjects, my standard response is, “I used to know the answer to that question” and then I defer to those people.
Consider Paul’s words:
“We, however, will not boast beyond proper limits, but will confine our boasting to the field God has assigned to us, a field that reaches even to you” (2 Corinthians 10:13).
In short, stay within your calling. Keep within the ministry that God has given you, and don’t extend beyond it.
When people look to you for answers in areas that extend beyond your calling, gifting, knowledge, or study, refer them to others.
And nevah evah be afraid to say, “I don’t know.”
Simply saying, “I don’t know” is not only honest, but I have a notion that some of the angels in heaven will rejoice (and perhaps fall over while they do) by hearing you utter those words.