I’m not a seminary-trained theologian. Everything I’ve learned about Scripture is the result of deep personal interest inspired by a desire to get closer to the One behind the Scripture. That’s why, as a young man just out of college (with a degree in radio, TV, and film production), I spent countless hours with a cassette-based course learning Koine Greek. (Anybody remember cassettes?)
Some might say that I shouldn’t be so theological in my commentary because I don’t have the official stamp of approval from an institution that grants degrees in religion. I prefer C. S. Lewis’s perspective when he noted, “One is sometimes (not often) glad not to be a great theologian; one might so easily mistake it for being a good Christian.”
Knowledge about theology is not the same as knowledge of God. Lewis details the temptations that can come to those who feel they have attained some type of exalted status:
The temptations to which a great philologist or a great chemist is exposed are trivial in comparison. When the subject is sacred, proud and clever men may come to think that the outsiders who don’t know it are not merely inferior to them in skill but lower in God’s eyes; as the priests said (John 7:49), “All that rabble who are not experts in the Torah are accursed.”
How ironic that devotion to learning about the God of love and unrivaled humility should lead us to the opposite end of the spectrum. Lewis notes that “as this pride increases, the ‘subject’ or study which confers such privilege will grow more and more complicated.” He goes on:
The list of things forbidden will increase, till to get through a single day without supposed sin becomes like an elaborate step-dance, and this horrible network breeds self-righteousness in some and haunting anxiety in others.
Those who consider themselves the elite theologians, like the Pharisees of Jesus’ time, will burden people down with externals, ignoring the essence of the faith. Lewis concludes:
Meanwhile the “weightier matters of the Law,” righteousness itself, shrinks into insignificance under this vast overgrowth, so that the legalists strain at a gnat and swallow a camel.
We do this gnat-straining and camel-swallowing in other areas of life as well, such as in politics. I see it all the time in that realm. To avoid that, we need to look at ourselves and make sure we are putting first things first, being careful to make loving God and mirroring His character our primary goal.