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.