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I recently asked one of our younger children to do a job that required some detailed clean-up. In the course of explaining the job as well as the steps to complete the job, I was interrupted. “I know. Dad, I know.” Everything I said was punctuated with “I know.” It was like a Baptist church hitting you with Amen’s after everything. Then I let them do it. It was a disaster. Things didn’t get put away, they actually got misplaced. Instead of the table being cleaned the floor became messy. Upon coming back to check on the situation I asked, “What happened here?” The answer, not surprisingly, “I don’t know how to do that.”

In the church we have a lot of impediments to growth in godliness. We live in a sinful world, have imperfect preachers, have trials and tribulations, and a relentless enemy who endeavors to be the stick in our spokes at every turn. But there is one great impediment to growth, this is the impediment of thinking that we already know everything. Let’s call this person “Mr Know-it-All”.

Mr Know-it-All does not really think that they have to learn anything. They are already there. They are, in effect, unteachable.

When you put a word like “unteachable” next to this I am sure you can see the problem. Christians, when thinking biblically, operate out of the realization that they actually do not know everything that they need to know. We have things to learn both intellectually and empircally. The design of the church is to provide a context where we can grow in godliness or Christian maturity. Consider Ephesians 4:

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,” (Ephesians 4:11-15)

Some quick observations on these verses: a) God provides teachers, b) teachers are to teach Scripture, c) saints need to be equipped to serve so the church is built up, d) this must go on until we all grow into Christlikeness, e) maturity is the goal that we are after.

In light of clarity of the goal (Christian Maturity), the specificity of what this is (Christlikenss), and the means by which it is attained (hearing, learning, & applying the Bible) we all (everyone, every single Christian this side of heaven) need to hear and heed the Bible.

See, what Mr Know it all doesn’t know, is that he doesn’t know it all. And this is a big problem–for him and the church where he fellowships.

Why is this such a problem? Well, in short he is not going to benefit from the ministry of the word and he is going to, by his obvious attitude, diminish its prominence in the life of the church.

In my 10 years of full-time pastoral ministry I have met Mr Know-it-all many times. I have seen him in the pulpit as well as the pew. He has different faces but he acts and looks the same. Here are some of the characteristics and consequences of an unteachable person:

  • They are critical rather than constructive. It is almost like they thrive in finding out someone’s “wrong view” about something. Instead of seeing the church as a place to grow they see it as a place to show what they know. Mr Know-it-All excels in pointing out others wrongs while doing a very poor job at (ever) pointing out what is right.
  • They are often short-tempered rather than long-suffering. Grace is ethereal. Because they are right and know everything they have little patience with others. You won’t often see this guy in a discipling relationship with others because they simply do not have the patience for people who are not like them. Further, when they do correct others they are harsh, belittling, and lacking gentleness.
  • Talk a lot and don’t listen very much. This would make sense–why not talk (if you know it all) and why listen (if they don’t)?
  • They like to fight and squabble about little things. Because they have moved into the center the gospel gets relocated to the periphery. They will squabble with people about all kinds of things that would seem to be of secondary (or even lesser) importance.
  • They are unsympathetic. Having no perceived weakness of their own they cannot relate to others who are weak and struggling. Often times they devolve into harshness or disengagement with the weak.
  • They like to talk about people. This is divisive to unity in the body. Instead of prizing unity, Christlikeness, maturity and fame of Christ they delight in knocking others down, disrupting unity, and building themselves up. As a result, their conversations with other Christians devolve into stories of how much they know and how much others do not.
  • They don’t value preaching. Unaware of any need to grow, the sermon becomes a formality. Tragically unmoved by the ministry of the word he is likely gathering bullets to shoot at leaders. He sits quietly during the sermons and teachings only to pick apart everything like a Monday morning quarterback. Sermons become the fodder for “gnat-straining” to find something to impugn the pastor with.
  • They won’t listen to the Bible. When confronted with an ungodly attitude and string of selfishness they simply will not listen. It is impossible for them to be wrong. It is a startling thing to see someone who seems mature refuse to respond to what God’s Word says.

Ironically, Mr Know-it-all only seems to have a lot of biblical knowledge. He can drop the 30 lb. words and effectively argue his point. Very often he is quite involved and appears to have things together. However, the fact that he is unteachable makes him dangerous in the local church and a detriment to his own spiritual health.

In contrast to Mr Know-it-all are those who realize that they don’t know everything. They are humble and hungry. They need God’s Word and God’s church. They may not have the ability to lift the 50 lb theological words, but they will. It’s ironic that these spiritual neophytes actually know much more and, in the long run will lap Mr Know-it-all if he/she does not repent (thankfully, I have seen such repentance on several occasions).

Perhaps you’re not a full-fledged Mr Know-it-All, but if you find attitudes and actions reflected above, you may may working on a degree program that you were not aware of. It’s a good time for all of us to return to the threshold of the church and look in the mirror. We don’t know everything–and won’t this side of glory.

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11 thoughts on “What Mr “Know it All” Doesn’t Know”

  1. Chuckt says:


    I think I’ve tried to ask people to consider what certain beliefs mean and they wouldn’t consider the evidence I gave them so I think I gave up trying to help people until some come to the end of themselves.

    This brings up a good range of questions. I went to a Bible Institute in a Church turning emergent and one of the pastors asked me what I was there for. I said, “To learn” and he said that he wasn’t going to teach me anything because “knowledge puffeth up”.

    What are we supposed to know?

    What things or topics are we supposed to know? I’m building a list.

    These veres imply we should know:

    Luke 19:44 And shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation.

    Matthew 16:3 And in the morning, [It will be] foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowring. O [ye] hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not [discern] the signs of the times?

    How can we be without excuse if we’re not supposed to know?

    Romans 1:20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, [even] his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:

    Romans 15:14 ¶ And I myself also am persuaded of you, my brethren, that ye also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another.

    1 Corinthians 1:5 That in every thing ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and [in] all knowledge;

    2 Corinthians 2:14 Now thanks [be] unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place.

    2 Corinthians 4:6 For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to [give] the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

    2 Corinthians 6:6 By pureness, by (approving ourselves, v.4) knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned,

    2 Corinthians 8:7 Therefore, as ye abound in every [thing, in] faith, and utterance, and knowledge, and [in] all diligence, and [in] your love to us, [see] that ye abound in this grace also.

    2 Corinthians 10:5 Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;

    2 Corinthians 10:5 sounds like they are “puffed up” to me…

    Ephesians 1:17 That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him:

    Ephesians 3:4 Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)

    Ephesians 4:13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:

    1 Peter 3:7 ¶ Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with [them] according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.

    Philippians 1:9 And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and [in] all judgment;

    Philippians 3:8 Yea doubtless, and I count all things [but] loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them [but] dung, that I may win Christ,

    Colossians 1:9 ¶ For this cause we also, since the day we heard [it], do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding;

    Colossians 1:10 That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God;

    Colossians 2:3 In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

    Colossians 3:10 And have put on the new [man], which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him:

    1 Timothy 2:4 Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.

    2 Timothy 3:7 Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.

    How can we be blamed for not knowing if we aren’t supposed to know?

    James 3:13 ¶ Who [is] a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom.

    2 Peter 1:2 Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord,

    2 Peter 1:3 According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that [pertain] unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:

    2 Peter 1:5 ¶ And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge;

    2 Peter 1:6 And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness;

    2 Peter 1:8 For if these things be in you, and abound, they make [you that ye shall] neither [be] barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

    2 Peter 2:20 For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning.

    2 Peter 3:18 But grow in grace, and [in] the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him [be] glory both now and for ever. Amen.

  2. Layne Stanford says:

    Who’s not guilty at some level of being a know it all? I guess you’d have to know the motivation. Is it pride or at times concern. If you have a concern do you bring it up? I hope at least most would be willing to listen and ask questions. Sometimes we all talk twice as much as we should be listening.

  3. Melissa Hovendick says:

    Thank you so much for the great reminder!

  4. steve says:

    Often times the biggest know-it-alls are the Pastors themselves. It’s more about the “church vision” and “everyone being on board”. While we are to honor our teachers that doesn’t mean we put them on a pedestal and never challenge anything they ever say. A doctorate doesn’t make you right (look at how many apostate professors of divinity there are). We are all responsible to test every spirit at the Bereans did, not confrontationally or pridefully but with love correcting others.

    What is the solution? MORE BIBLE STUDY. When brothers sit down for hours and come prepared and with their hearts open to learning then the Word and the Spirit lead us to the truth. When we default to titles, authority, vision and calling then we have contention and lording over others like the gentiles.

  5. Ouch. That convicted me. Thank you.

  6. AJM says:

    While what you say is true it is without balance.
    Someone could come away with the following erroneous ideas: humility is ignorance; polemics is always critcism/destructive; disagreeing with a persons beliefs is talking about people;

  7. Ben Coleman says:

    Paul pretty well covers this in I Cor 8:1-3.

    In verse 1, yes, “love puffs up” – knowledge in and of itself tends to make us proud of the knowledge we have. But “Love constructs” – love takes that same knowledge, and uses it constructively. It’s not that love opposes knowledge – far from it: as Paul acknowledges, “we all have knowledge”. It’s what love does with that knowledge that makes a difference.

    Verse 2: “if anyone thinks he knows anything, he has not yet known as he ought to know”. The guy (the know-it-all) who is utterly confident of his own knowledge is actually lacking in some really basic knowledge. I believe part of that “basic knowledge” is acknowledgement of how how easily one fails to know correctly. The person who is utterly confident of his own knowledge won’t listen and isn’t teachable. The person who acknowledges that he is capable of making mistakes, even if he doesn’t think that he has, will listen and learn even from people who are wrong. There is a rather delicate balance here, and those expressing it seem inevitably to express it as a paradox, as Paul has done here. Another example is G. K. Chesterton’s “It is not bigotry to be certain we are right; but it is bigotry to be unable to imagine how we might possibly have gone wrong”.

    Finally, verse 3. If we’re going to focus on knowledge, let’s focus not on our own knowledge, but on God’s – “if anyone loves God, he is known by Him”. The question is not “How much do I know?”, but “does God know me?”.

    1. Ben Coleman says:

      Oops, that second paragraph should start ‘In verse 1, yes, “knowledge puffs up”’.

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Erik Raymond

Erik Raymond is senior pastor of Emmaus Bible Church in Omaha, Ne. He and his wife Christie have six children. You can follow him on Twitter.

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