My people are destroyed for a lack of knowledge (Hosea 4:6).
The above statement is a section of a popular text in both the Jewish and Christian Scriptures. The full verse reads thus: “my people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you from being a priest to me. And since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children”. It implies that knowledge is priceless, and that lack of it is at one’s own peril and doom. And as the English philosopher and statesman, Francis Bacon would assert, ‘knowledge is power’. In other words, Knowledge is key to everything in life, including growth and development. Not just that, as Robert Boyce once claimed, “when knowledge is shared, power is multiplied.” The bottom line is that knowledge remains the pathway to God, self, and nature’s discovery and awareness.
The online Catholic Encyclopedia defines Knowledge as “essentially the consciousness of an object, that is, of anything, fact, or principle belonging to the physical, mental, or metaphysical order, that may in any manner be reached by cognitive faculties”. In other words, knowledge is the desire to be conscious of oneself, nature, and God. It includes every human effort aimed at grasping and explaining reality both in the supernatural and natural realms of existence. I would not want to go into any epistemological analysis of the concept of knowledge, but however, let me say that the moment people cease to seek knowledge, the moment they start deteriorating and retrogressing.
Both the Christian Scriptures (Isaiah 11:2-4) and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, CCC. 1831, recognize knowledge as one of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. The Gift of Knowledge enables a person to know God, oneself, and grow perfect in the science of the saints. It allows a person to understand the meaning and purpose God has for him and to live up to this meaning. It differs from wisdom in that it is an action, not just a desire to live up to the ways of God. It differs from Understanding in that it is not just ability, it is a knowing.
Humans by nature are knowing beings, very inquisitive, who desire to know and ask questions, to seek clarifications and be better informed. Therefore, people must seek knowledge to be well educated, formed, and informed. To be knowledgeable is to be fully conscious of oneself, God, and environment. Knowledge helps one to be adequately aware of what is happening both within and without. Education, therefore, becomes one of the significant agencies through which knowledge is shared and transmitted from one person to another. This gives credence to the above claim that knowledge shared is power multiplied. And I cannot agree less.
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That being the case, education as an instrument, becomes a viable means of acquiring useful and impactful knowledge for self-development and formation. Education, in this sense, as reiterated in the Catholic Church Policy on Education in Nigeria, (Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria, [CBCN.], 2015), ‘should be directed towards the formation of the human person in view of his [her] end and in the duties of which, he [she] will, as an adult, have a share’. When it is well planned and articulated, the knowledge disseminated should be intended for a holistic and integral formation of the person. This includes spiritual, physical, moral, and intellectual development.
Knowledge, when properly acquired, harnessed, and expressed, can promote mutual coexistence, respect, tolerance, reconciliation, healing, and understanding. It can build bridges and destroy fences. It can foil the culture of religious extremism and intolerance, hatred, bigotry, terrorism, and ruthless aggression that destroys the spirit of fraternity among fellow humans. It can enable human beings appreciate the highest good and values of life. It can engender a culture of simplicity, honesty, faithfulness, loyalty, truthfulness, gentleness, holiness of life, hard work, and prayerfulness. It can bring about the establishment of a system of justice, fairness, and equity.
Nowadays, when one hears young people claiming that education is a scam, and that going to school has not helped anyone, this calls for a serious concern. How did we get here and what sort of a mentality is this? The immediate consequence of such assertion is seen in the kind of lifestyle now predominantly embraced by some young people and even those who should be their role models and mentors in the society. There is now an inordinate and scandalous quest for power and money. The question is, what is money without knowledge? And what is power without knowledge? The fact remains that money or power acquired without the requisite knowledge on how to utilize them can be lethal and destructive. It can be oppressive and demonic.
What people sometimes fail to understand is that, when knowledge is painstakingly and prayerfully pursued, it makes one very powerful, influential, and wealthy. Thomas Aquinas would say “wonder is the desire of knowledge.” So long as people wonder, the desire to know never quenches. Little wonder then that knowledge breeds both power and wealth. A surgeon who deals with spinal cord issues, by virtue of his specialized knowledge, is a ‘saviour’ to those who have related problems. He makes a lot of money through his surgeries and is ipso facto, a ‘powerful person’. In this context, he did not just start pursuing money or power but based on the specialized knowledge and skills he has acquired over time, he makes his money and enjoys his influence simultaneously.
Such acquired knowledge and skills can take a person to places, and enable one to become wealthy, in as much as the person knows how and where to apply it. That is why, rather than pursue power or wealth in themselves, it is always better to pursue knowledge. The more knowledge one seeks, the more powerful one becomes. And if such knowledge is intended for gains in a healthy manner, it yields immeasurable profits. Knowledge can make one both powerful and wealthy. Power alone without knowledge, can make one a despot and a brute. Wealth alone without knowledge can turn one into a fool and moron. The time people ignorantly expend on vain pursuit of power and wealth, if channelled to acquisition of qualitative education and transformative knowledge and skills, is more enriching.
However, let me quickly state here also that I am not utterly against the desire and quest for power and wealth, since in themselves, they are not evil. It is simply the extent people go and the inhumane manner, that sometimes, some people adopt in their pursuit, that I find repulsive, unacceptable, and condemnable. On this basis, the biblical dictum remains ever true, “my people perish for lack of knowledge.” And on the final analysis, the appeal is; seek knowledge not power.
Fr. Valentine Anaweokhai