What You Don’t Know CAN Hurt You

yellow and black caution sign

There’s an old idiom: “What you don’t know can’t hurt you.” It’s intended to suggest that ignorance is bliss. In other words, the less we know about troublesome things the better off (and presumably safer) we are. Many people live with intentional ignorance, but is this the safest way to live?

As parents, we know that we need to teach our children from birth how to be safe. We “baby proof” houses until a child is old enough to understand how to safely navigate through the house without getting hurt or dying. It takes constant reinforcement to train them to stay away from boiling water, hot stoves, electrical outlets, sharp objects, etc. There are two basic ways that we learn how to avoid dangerous situations–one is by people who warn us and the other is to experience pain ourselves. If we aren’t told that certain things are dangerous or if we luck out and avoid pain for a while, eventually we will succumb to serious injury or death.

What we don’t know can hurt us. This is why Jesus spent a significant part of his ministry warning people about wolves. In fact, John records Jesus’ important words after he warns them about destructive people: “I have said all these things to keep you from falling away. They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God” (John 16:1-2). Had Jesus not warned his followers, they would have been completely blindsided and left high and dry. Instead, they knew exactly what was coming, they knew the signs, and they could at least stand a fighting chance of surviving the grip of wicked people. What we don’t know can definitely hurt us.

Jesus’ Ministry of Warning

red and white traffic cone on road

Everything in life is about balance. There is good and evil, rich and poor, blessings and curses, and so forth. If all we ever did was tell people about the good in the world, they would have no idea that bad exists. Conversely, if all we did was talk about the bad we would get the feeling that there is no good. Jesus certainly did good and preached about good in his ministry. But he also spent a lot of time warning people.

Jesus warned of hell. He also warned about evil people. One of the most life-changing passages for me has been the Jesus’ discussion on false prophets. Jesus said, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?” (Matthew 7:15-16 ESV). Jesus goes on to say that bad trees will be cut down and thrown into the fire.

It’s important to realize that Jesus isn’t warning people about some “slippery slope” to avoid. Rather, he’s warning the saints about people who are already ravenous wolves. These people will devour innocent people and the best bet for staying both physically and spiritually alive is to recognize these people and avoid them. In the next few weeks we will be looking at very distinct ways to recognize deceivers and wicked people who pretend to be sheep.