Knowledge and Zeal

Zeal and knowledge;  a powerful combination if in the proper order. One without the other can be admirable but not very effective.  

“For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.” – Romans 10:2

These words were spoken by the Apostle Paul regarding his own countrymen. The Jewish people were the biggest promoters of Jehovah but totally missed the point. They were ignorant of what the God they claimed as theirs really desired and of what He was doing. 

They were zealous to defend their God to the point they persecuted and killed the very men their God sent to them.  

Zeal is a good thing. 

“But it is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing, and not only when I am present with you.” – Galatians 4:18

Paul had hoped that the believes in Galatia would not lose their zeal in his absence. Zeal is a good thing, if you have knowledge enough to truly understand what you’re zealous about. 

Many who have zeal are so caught up in it that they have not engaged their mind with their emotion. They can be irrational, impossible to reason with, and usually jump to conclusions about others who they don’t find as openly zealous as themselves. 

A zealous person can be dangerous. 

On the other hand, knowledge alone doesn’t get the job done. Knowing something and doing something are two different things.  

Though zeal might occasionally cause someone to seek knowledge, the best order is to start with knowledge and allow that knowledge to temper, not squelch, your zeal.  Zeal needs a governor, and that is knowledge.  Zeal, without something to limit it, can cause regrettable damage. 

Zealots often criticize the seemingly less zealous. The less zealous, due to their knowledge tempering their zeal, prefer not to fight the zealous – for one it could become dangerous – mainly because they don’t fault zeal itself. The knowledgeable person doesn’t want to pour water on anyone’s fire, but he doesn’t want the zealous person to light him on fire either. 

I love working with youth because they have zeal. If they will accept knowledge and learn how to use that zeal without causing unnecessary damage – what a powerful force they can be for God and for good.  I don’t want to discourage zeal – but I do feel, that if we do not focus equally on instilling knowledge and understanding – we will have the same feeling toward what they become as Paul did toward his own countrymen — burdened.