Ignorance is Bliss?
s ignorance really bliss? That common thought dates back to the 18th Century with Thomas Gray’s poem “Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College.” He wrote:
Where ignorance is bliss
‘tis folly to be wise.
In Matt. 16:5–12, we see a story where Jesus mentions the “leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees” (v. 6). The disciples didn’t understand. They interpreted Jesus’ statement as a condemnation of them not having any bread. Jesus response is what is interesting:
“Do you not yet perceive? Do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? How is it that you fail to understand that I did not speak about bread? Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” Then they understood that he did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”
Jesus points out they had experienced more than one sign where He provided bread for the hungry. They failed to understand his statement. They were ignorant. Despite all the signs they had witnessed in person, they failed to understand He wasn’t concerned with physical bread. They were ignorant. Once Jesus rebukes them, then the understood. But their ignorance stood in their way.
Ignorance is not bliss at all. It is an enemy. Consider a couple of ways ignorance gets in the way of our faith and discipleship:
Ignorance is an enemy of faith. Faith is knowledge gained from the Word (Rom. 10:17). But if we are ignorant of the Word, there can be no faith. And that’s what Satan wants. In Matt. 13:19, when Jesus explains the parable of the sower we see that the seed along the path are those that Satan comes and snatches the Word away. He works hard at keeping the majority of the world ignorant so they cannot develop true faith.
Ignorance keeps us from submitting to God. In Rom. 10:1–3, Paul wrote that the Jews had zeal but no knowledge. Another way to describe that would be “ignorant.” The result of their ignorance was they couldn’t submit to God’s righteousness. We often fail to remember that faith isn’t just about knowledge. It is also about action. If you cannot fully believe in God, you cannot fully act in a way that pleases Him. You will fail to submit to Him.
There is only one antidote for the problem of ignorance. That’s faith. Not knowledge. Faith.
Faith is deeper than knowledge. It is more than just knowledge. The greatest disservice we have done to faith is to define it as simply “belief.” It is belief that acts.
In James 2:14–26, what separates the believing demons from disciples who have true faith? Action. Works. In v. 24 he says, “You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.” It is faith and works—Or a better way to describe it would be “a working faith”—that justifies.
Ignorance is not bliss. Seek more knowledge and more faith so you can be pleasing to God today.