EVERY man naturally desires knowledge; but what good is knowledge without
fear of God? Indeed a humble rustic who serves God is better than a proud intellectual
who neglects his soul to study the course of the stars. He who knows himself well
becomes mean in his own eyes and is not happy when praised by men.
If I knew all things in the world and had not charity, what would it profit me
before God Who will judge me by my deeds?
Shun too great a desire for knowledge, for in it there is much fretting and
delusion. Intellectuals like to appear learned and to be called wise. Yet there are many
things the knowledge of which does little or no good to the soul, and he who concerns
himself about other things than those which lead to salvation is very unwise.
Many words do not satisfy the soul; but a good life eases the mind and a clean
conscience inspires great trust in God.
The more you know and the better you understand, the more severely will you
be judged, unless your life is also the more holy. Do not be proud, therefore, because of
your learning or skill. Rather, fear because of the talent given you. If you think you
know many things and understand them well enough, realize at the same time that
there is much you do not know. Hence, do not affect wisdom, but admit your
ignorance. Why prefer yourself to anyone else when many are more learned, more
cultured than you?
If you wish to learn and appreciate something worth while, then love to be
unknown and considered as nothing. Truly to know and despise self is the best and
most perfect counsel. To think of oneself as nothing, and always to think well and
highly of others is the best and most perfect wisdom. Wherefore, if you see another sin
openly or commit a serious crime, do not consider yourself better, for you do not know
how long you can remain in good estate. All men are frail, but you must admit that
none is more frail than yourself.
THOMAS À KEMPIS