Samuel Johnson made a wise observation when he said, “Between falsehood and useless truth there is little difference. As gold which he cannot spend will make no man rich, so knowledge which he cannot apply will make no man wise.”
There is so much useless information that people can find out about every subject imaginable. Why are so many people interested in acquiring such great amounts of knowledge about things that have no value? One man memorized the county seat of every county in his state. Some people know the batting averages of major league baseball players; others keep track of hockey or basketball statistics. There are experts on old movies, pop culture, and TV shows. One man started at volume one and read every volume of the Encyclopedia Britannica.
Since there are only so many hours in a day, why spend so much time reading and learning about things that have no spiritual or beneficial value? Jesus tells us to seek first the kingdom of God. We are to walk in the spirit, putting aside fleshly interests, setting our minds on things from above. God’s ways are so much higher than our ways, His thoughts are not our thoughts, and if we want to develop a godly mind we must work to fill it with the knowledge of God.
Samuel Johnson compared the knowledge of trivia to having gold that cannot be spent. What good is it? Why would we want to fill our minds with all this information that we know will not help us to get into the kingdom? It is amazing how popular it is to watch contestants answer questions about obscure topics on game shows, or how many people enjoy playing the game of Trivial Pursuit. People think that it is wonderful to be able to rattle off the answers to questions about useless truths.
Solomon told us that of the making of books there is no end, and he said it long before the printing press was invented. We can go to the library and look at thousands of books lining the shelves each full of obscure information. Some of the books there even contain fantasy. How can these books, the product of human thinking, be profitable to those of us who are trying to fill our minds with the things of the spirit?
Paul gives us a list of subjects to think about, and he starts out by saying to think about things that are “true.” So it is better to think about true things than false things, facts and not fiction. But Paul does not stop there, for not all things that are true are profitable, and we need to limit our thinking to things that are. Sam Johnson’s point is that there is useless truth. Paul wants us to think about true things that we can use in our lives, which Samuel Johnson compares to accumulating gold that we can spend.
There is much injustice, crime and corruption in this world of ours, but do we need to delve into it all? Paul tells us to think about things that are just, and then he adds pure and lovely and of good report. He tells us to think on these things to fill our minds with good thoughts, and not the seamy side of life that makes the headlines in our daily papers and magazines.
What do we think about when we can think about anything we want to think about? We all have a stream of consciousness that flows through our brains. These thoughts need to be trained; otherwise we can spend our time thinking about the wrong kinds of things.
King David, as an old man, gave good advice to his young son, Solomon, when he said, “And thou, Solomon my son, know thou the God of thy father, and serve him with a perfect heart and with a willing mind: for the LORD searcheth all hearts, and understandeth all the imaginations of the thoughts: if thou seek him, he will be found of thee; but if thou forsake him, he will cast thee off for ever.”
Solomon later wrote saying, “The thoughts of the righteous are right,” and “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he.” Emerson tells us that “a man is what he thinks about all day long.” What kind of person do our thoughts reveal us to be?
We do not have time to fill our minds with falsehoods or useless truths. Let us put our time to good use, redeeming the time because the days are evil, by centering our minds upon “the holy scriptures, which are able to make us wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.”
Robert J. Lloyd