Information to Transformation

"But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves" - Jas 1:22 ESV.

I don't have an actual degree in Education, but my calling involves educating people. And so I try to learn as much as I can on how to do it well. Listening to actual educators, I learned that in school there are subjects which are oriented more toward content like history and science and there are ones that are more toward skills like math and language. Butt I also learned that this is not an either or proposition. Because even content subjects like history need skills to learn. And even math involves some contents too, not just calculations.

Learning hasn't changed much since the beginning of time. It follows a certain sequence. David Brooks says, “The cathedrals of knowledge and wisdom are based on the foundations of factual acquisition and cultural literacy.”  Soft skills, he concludes, have to be taught “alongside factual literacy. The stairway from information to knowledge to wisdom has not changed."

Information or the acquisition of it is the first thing that happens in learning. But after this, we need to gain knowledge out of this information. We need to tie them together, to organize them to make them usable. But it's not the end in itself. After organizing them, we need to find a way to use or practice them. Unless we get to that point where information has produced transformation, all the knowledge that we have gathered is useless.

The bible is even more emphatic when it comes to this. James 1:22  tells us, "But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. And in verse 25 it says, "... the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. Even God insists that as soon as we get the information from His word, we should put it to practice right away in order to be blessed.

The blessing is a result of a transformed life when the word that one hears is put into practice. This is the power of the word of God. Though it tells us a lot of beautiful things, it's power isn't in learning of its content but doing them, in putting them to good use. When it tells us that the Lord can be trusted, that's content or knowledge. But when it tells us to trust the Lord and we do it, that's where the blessing comes. The blessing is in the doing, not so much in the hearing or accumulating information.

When we think that we have learned something because we have the information, the bible tells us that we are just deceiving ourselves. It's like a person who learned that a certain drug can kill the Covid-19 virus but doesn't take the drug itself. What good will that knowledge do to him? Nothing. He is merely deceiving himself that his knowledge has improved his life. Life improvement is the only place where we can measure the effect of any learning. Anything that doesn't result to that improvement must be deemed useless. 

This also puts learning into perspective. If we don't want to fill our homes with clutter because we don't have a use for them on a daily basis, filling our minds and memories with unused information is like filling it with clutter too. Remember that clutter need not be useless stuff. It's just that we don't ever get to use them and until they are useful, they remain as clutter, even as junk. We need as little of this as possible. Or better yet, we avoid it altogether.

I remember the time when Israel was in the wilderness and the Lord sent manna from heaven every morning for food. The manna was fresh every morning and the people were instructed to gather only as much as they can eat for the day because it will again come the next day. Most of them put the instruction to good use and gathered only enough for the day. But there were a few who, despite the knowledge from the instruction, took more than what they needed. Their unused manna turned out spoiled and full of worms the next day. This is in some way similar to that useless piece of knowledge that we have that we didn't put to use. They don't result to transformation. Not to the individual who holds it and much less to the society which would have been transformed had it been put to good use.

You can be a doctor with several degrees in medicine. But unless that knowledge and skill is put into practice, all you are is a storehouse of rotting information, just like a book gathering just in a corner.

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