438) On Knowing What is Most Important

 A philosopher was being ferried across a big river in a small boat.  He asked the boatman, “Do you know any philosophy?”

The boatman replied, “No, I do not.”

“That is most unfortunate,” said the philosopher, “for that means you are missing out on a third of your life.”  Then said the philosopher, “Do you know any literature?”

“No, sir,” said the boatman, “I do not even know how to read.”

“That is most unfortunate,” said the philosopher, “for that means you are missing out on two-thirds of your life.”

Just then, the boat hit a large rock and started to sink.  “Do you know how to swim?,” the boatman asked the philosopher.

“No,” replied the philosopher.

“That is most unfortunate,” said the boatman, “for that means you are going to miss out on all of the rest of your life.”

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     Knowledge is to be valued according to its usefulness.  It is ten thousand times more desirable to know how to order our hearts and lives, how to walk with God, and how to obtain everlasting life, than to know how to get riches and pleasures and vain glory in the present world.

     What good does it do a worldly and ungodly soul that will be lost forever to be able to discourse on “Cartesius’s Materia Subtilis,” or look at the planets through Galileo’s telescope; while he casts away all his hopes of heaven by his unbelief, preferring the pleasures of his flesh?  Will it comfort a man who is cast out of God’s presence and condemned to utter darkness to remember that he was once a good mathematician or musician, or that he had the wit to get riches and privileges in the world, or was able to climb to the height of honor and dominion?  It is a pitiful thing to see a man take pride in his wit and position, while he insanely rejects his only chance at true happiness; forsaking God, esteeming vanity, and damning his soul.  May the Lord deliver us from such wit and learning.

–Richard Baxter (1615-1691) (paraphrased)

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Luke 10:38-42  —  Now it came to pass, as they went, that he (Jesus) entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house.  And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word.

But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, “Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone?  Bid her therefore that she help me.”

And Jesus answered and said unto her, “Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things:  But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”   

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1 Corinthians 1:18-29  —  For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.  For it is written:

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;
    the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”

     Where is the wise person?  Where is the teacher of the law?  Where is the philosopher of this age?  Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?...  Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.  For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

     Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called.  Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth.  But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.  God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.

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My Lord and my God, take from me all that keeps me from you.

My Lord and my God, grant me all that leads me to you.

–Nicholas of Flue 

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